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Proves there's still much to be done with the mythos of the undead.

By Denise Dumars     December 29, 2000

Nancy Kilpatrick is one of a handful of horror authors who has made her reputation primarily in vampire fiction. In this collection, readers will find a sampling of the different types of vampire stories she has published over the years. The book begins with an introduction by one of the others on that short list of vampire authors, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro: 'This is haute cuisine, not barbecue...' says Yarbro of these tales, so you know these must be pretty classy stories. I started at the beginning, and read these straight on through.

At first I wasn't very impressed. The initial stories, in a section called 'Theatrical Vampires,' featured characters who had what I call Stupid Vampire Names, such as Nightshade and Aleron. Ho, hum, I thought: same old, same old vampire crap...stuff for Goth kids to drool over...I'm too old for this stuff...

But wait...holy catsuit, Batman, what was that! Yes, I'd gotten to the 'good parts.' Suffice to say that the Stupid Vampire Names didn't bother me much after that. Whew. Let's just say some of these stories are the literary equivalent of that 'She Bangs' video by Ricky Martin. Hot stuff. Guilty pleasures.

Nancy's vamps boink more than anyone else's vamps, methinks, but the sum of all this is more than just a coupla sections of titillating bloodsuckas. There are vampire stories of all sorts in this collection, making it perhaps more of a smorgasbord (to embroider on Yarbro's conceit). Besides Theatrical Vamps, the stories are divided by the following subheadings: Erotic Bloodsuckers, Mythological & Historical Revenants, Bats With Bite, and The Unquiet Undead. From erotic vamps to historical vamps to humorous vamps to vamps in other cultures, there's probably something here for every lover of vampire stories.

One tale of particular interest (if only peripherally a vampire story) is told from the point of view of Florence Balcombe Stoker, who had dated Oscar Wilde and later became Bram Stoker's wife. 'The Mountain Waits' takes vampires into a setting more fitting a traditional fantasy tale than a typical vampire story, and in 'Memories of El Dia de los Muertos' perhaps some of the dead who are visited on this day in Mexico are not truly dead. One of my faves was 'UV,' about a very different kind of spa in mystical Sedona, AZone which some of us wouldn't mind visiting, perhaps!

Lest we get too flippant and giggly, let me say that some of these are tales of pure psychological horror. 'Sustenance,' is one of this sort, a disturbing tale wherein a vampire is apparently keeping girls as feeding stock. And Kilpatrick proves she can push all kinds of buttons when it comes to vamps, whether you think they're sexy, scary, disturbing, or some combination of the above. She's also slyly funny when she wants to be, as if she knows all along just how silly this stuff really is. Another of my favorites is 'Teaserama,' a very well researched story in which a 1950s vampire lusts after photos of Betty Page and yearns to find and turn her into one of his own.

The publisher of this volume has done a great service, as now readers can become familiar with Kilpatrick's vampire stories and see just what a wide variety is to be found among them. Hopefully this will spur the reader to seek out Kilpatrick's vampire novels, as well as the latest anthology she edited, titled Graven Images.

This collection should be very enjoyable, even for fans who think there is nothing new that can be done with the vampire mythos. Oh yeah, and fellas? This is the book us gals are really reading between the covers of that latest Susan Faludi tome. Much more than a guilty pleasurethis one gets my highest recommendation.

The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick, Nancy Kilpatrick, 2000. 171 pages, Mosaic Press, $15, ISBN: 0-88962-726-6.


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