By Simon Clark
Leisure Books, 434 pp, 2002
I must admit, I bought this book because of
its cover. And its cool title. The cover shows the head and shoulders of a
truly vicious looking Nosferatu-type vampire - the bald white head, long
nose, bushy eyebrows. But this head is wrinkled with prominent veins, and
every oversized tooth is razor-sharp and aged a gross yellow. The eyes
glint with a fiendish glee.
It's delightfully hideous.
But what about the novel itself? All show
and no go?
Luckily, the opposite is true. The book is
pretty good, with a twist on the vampire legend that remains true to
vampiric tradition. Not an easy trick.
David Leppington is a thirty-something
year-old doctor on holiday in the town that bears his name - Leppington.
He was born there, but his parents moved away when he was still a child,
so he remembers little of the town. He checks into the local hotel and
meets its intriguing owner, Electra, and a babe named Bernice, who lives
Bernice is haunted by a video she found in
the hotel's Dead Room, where Electra stores items that guests have left
behind. The video shows an American named Michael Stroud video-taping
strange goings-on in the hotel and in the room Bernice is living in. A
terrible thing happens to Stroud, all caught on tape, and Bernice is
determined to discover what that is.
David meets up with an old uncle who tells
him of the family history, how the Norse god Thor gave David's ancient
ancestors a directive to wipe out all of Christendom, which was
threatening Thor's turf. Thor supplied an army of 1,000 undead creatures,
available at the old Leppington's beck and call. But something happened
and Leppington never took control of this army. Perhaps it still exists in
the sewers and underground passages beneath the streets of Leppington?
Jack Black is a thuggish criminal with a
unique talent of reading minds. The gift comes and goes with no control,
but it sure comes in handy in the novel. Jack is a good character but the
mind-reading thing was a real stretch, a little device Clark would have
done well to leave out.
As you might suspect, there certainly is an
army under the streets, and other vampires who exist above ground. David,
Jack, Bernice, and Electra (who knows much more about everything than she
lets on) are forced to fight the vampire hordes or die trying.
It's a fun book, an entertaining read, with
some frightening moments. I liked the twist. Clark is a good writer with a
fine eye for detail and atmosphere, without letting his description slow
down the action. The characters are all engaging and well-rounded. My only
complaint, and it's a minor one, is that Clark sometimes intrudes on the
story, like telling us that so-and-so character is going to die tomorrow,
or some such contrived device to create phony suspense.
But he does that seldom enough that it
doesn't ruin the book. Horror fans should enjoy it.