I was sent this book by a member of my former writers’ group (where we talked about anything but writing) who happens to have a story published in the anthology; he and a couple of the other writers, including one of the editors, are all residents of my home region. The book, however, was published by a small press located in Texas called 23 House, and is, as one may plainly see, the second volume of stories about vampires. Mr. Nailor and Ms. Salpeter are experienced editors and writers, and both have been published in other short-story anthologies. They have both been nominated for Eppie Awards, as well.
The stories in this volume include: “The Night Garden,” by Mark Onspaugh; “Debts,” by Amanda Pillar; “Under the Chocolate Tree,” by David E. Hilton; “Floaters,” by Michael S. Bumagin, M.D.; “Burden of Proof,” by Jennifer Graham; “A Rustle of Curtains,” by Henry Leon Lazarus; “Pas de Deux,” by Edward McKeown; “Defender,” by Garry Ward; “Expiration Date Not Required,” by A. D. Nailor; “Lazuli,” by Christine Rains; “1-800-VAMPYRE,” by Bob Nailor; “The Vampire Doll,” by Joette Razanski; “Days and Nights,” by Elyse Salpeter; “Down in the Cellar,” by Joe McKinney; “Barney,” by James R. Cain; “Tales of the Vampire,” by Mitchel Whitington; and “Give Until it Kills,” by Joe Sergi.
If anyone needed a grown-up antidote to that book, this is it. The stories range from comedic to horrific to historical to mysterious to weird. In no story is a vampire considered sexy, mysterious, and wonderful just for being a vampire, and in no story does a high school student decide to throw away the entire rest of her life just because the most mysterious boy in school decided to look at her. Yes, vampires are love interests in a few of the tales, and one that I can remember even has a happy ending, but overall these are not the sexy vampires that pervade YA and urban fantasy literature. These vampires have variety.
We have vampire hunters of a few different flavors; in the first story, a group of tough men have decided to form a vampire hunting company with hopes of turning it into a reality show. In another story, a young woman who had been bitten by a vampire as a child becomes a vampire slayer as an adult, and other stories involve underground organizations of vampire slayers. One is the Templars, back to save us again (that particular story, “Pas de Deux,” feels like a sequel to something that may even have been in the first volume and piqued my interest) and another is just a secular organization, but a fascinating one.
The second-to-last story in the book, “Tales of the Vampire,” is about a pair of vampires who long for the good old days, when they got to munch on people instead of ordering blood off the internet, and they attempt to recreate these times. Their results are horrific and hilarious at the same time, and it was one of my favorite tales. Another story stood out because of the twist at the end, but I hate to even tell what the title is because it would give too much away. Garry Ward’s straight-up historical tale was unique for the volume, and it very much felt like his characters were part of a much larger tapestry he has in his head. Overall, while some of the stories weren’t as polished as the tales in other collections and there were some interesting typos (the spine says “More Legend of the Vampire”), the volume shows a great variety of skills and imagination, and it’s certainly worth a look. 4/5 stars.