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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Summoning

By Bentley Little
Zebra Books, 541 pp, 1993

Rio Verde is a dusty little town in the Arizona desert that happens to contain a Chinese vampire.

That is the premise of The Summoning, an overly long horror novel that presents a more-than-slight variation to the vampire theme. This Chinese vampire laughs at crucifixes and garlic, but is repelled by jade and the willow tree. It can also change forms.

It’s an interesting idea, but Little doesn’t quite carry it off. Much of the novel is quite boring, actually. The vampire himself barely makes an appearance, except to a demented preacher who thinks the creature is Jesus. This preacher then goes about constructing a church for “Jesus” and acquiring humans for sacrifices.

The core group of characters – a newspaper editor, police chief, a 21-year-old Chinese lady and her wise grandmother – are likeable, but Little crams way too many secondary characters into the plot. For example, he spends ten pages introducing a character only to kill him off on the eleventh page. What’s the point?

The novel finally gets moving during the final third, but even then, it doesn’t move much. The end is fairly mundane and not very exciting. The novel isn’t very scary, either.

But it is well-written, and that’s why I finished it. I did enjoy Little’s style, and I will probably try at least one more of his books. I hope they’re better than this one.

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