December 1, 2023

Vampire Literature

This is an article I have been wanting to write for a long time, but I’ve really needed time to gather my thoughts into one coherent post. Obviously from the title, this is an article about Vampire novels. Many of us have read the iconic Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire and Queen of the Damned, and of course The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. While these books have served as the blueprint for many vampire novels, I tend to gravitate toward those that break the mold. Here, I have decided to chronicle my journey into my favorite “vampire” works. 

Lost Souls

I remember reading The Twilight Saga early on in middle and high school, just like everyone else. While these vampires were physically hot, and like every other high school girl I wished I was Bella Swan, there was always that nagging feeling that what I was reading had no depth, and the characters were hiding from me. Almost like they were being fake. A few years later I stumbled upon Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.

Lost Souls was written by Poppy Z. Brite in 1992. Here is the plot synopsis from Goodreads:

“At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.
Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds – Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.
They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself…”

I first read Lost Souls after I found it at a used book store. I was enraptured by it immediately. The characters were angsty, emotional, decadent, shameless. The New Orleans setting was rich, and lush. Brite’s writing was transgressive, and with an abundance of gender-fluid, queer characters, I had never read something like it. The intrigue of where these characters would finally end up kept me reading late into the night. One wouldn’t think that my 2008-ballerina self could relate to these grungy, sweaty, underground teens of the 90’s, but you would be wrong. With ballet, I was used to looking for poetry in movement, bringing classic literature to life. This was the first time I found art within the written word. Beneath all of the degenerate, grotesque imagery Brite was writing, was a hidden beauty. I wanted to read something honest, and something that was written from a real place. I got that with Lost Souls, and I wouldn’t read something that compared for a very long time.

Beguiled By Night: A Vampire Tale

My next book I would like to highlight is Beguiled By Night: A Vampire Tale by Nicole Eigener. Eigener is a vampire expert. She is well-versed in all that is vampyre, and it shows in Beguiled By Night. Here is the plot synopsis from Goodreads:

“Louis de Vauquelin is an ancient French vampire created in 1668 and now living in present-day Los Angeles. His life in self-imposed exile has become peaceful and relatively carefree until time suddenly begins to unravel, forcing him to navigate the already chartered waters of his past.
Vauquelin fumbles his way through history in reverse, ripping the scabs off of old wounds and mourning the loss of his futurepast joys, while attempting to keep certain skeletons firmly locked in their closets where they belong.

But the past has a way of making its presence known, especially when one is reliving it. Vauquelin’s mundane modern existence is systematically erased, compelling him to confront all his missteps over the last three centuries and acknowledge his defeats.

As he regresses through time, he surrenders to his brutal nature and faces an unexpected choice that could alter his life completely, and in turn, extinguish the only true happiness he ever knew.
BEGUILED BY NIGHT is a complex tapestry of time, horror, and beauty deftly woven with gore and redemption, returning the vampire genre to its proper roots of elegant violence.”

Sometimes in a novel, I want true love, romance, and a meaningful journey to get there. But make no mistake about Eigener’s Vauquelin. He is ruthless, self-serving, vain, and ravenous. But like any well-written character, the depths of his emotions are endless. He is seductive, pining, needy, timeless. His love interest is powerful in her own way. Maeve is an independent woman, straightforward, and honest. Also, she’s from Pittsburgh. Traveling through time and reliving your past to find love, I mean can it get any more romantic than that? This really is such an epic work. Centuries of people, fashion, and settings are written so in depth, that you feel like you are there on this journey of self-discovery. Eigener makes me want to move to LA and ride in Vauquelin’s classic cars through the night, and never come back. For people who want to fall in love with language and opulence, read Beguiled By Night. I mean the book even has its own playlist.

Until The Sun

My last entry into this post is Until The Sun by Chandler Morrison. When I said earlier that it would be a long time before I would read something that would give me the same emotions as Lost Souls, I was talking about Until The Sun. The plot synopsis is as follows:

If you could liberate yourself of these burdens, would any cost be too great?
On a hot August night, a troubled fifteen-year-old boy with a tragic past wakes to find his tyrannical foster parents murdered by a trio of nocturnal, blood-drinking heathens. The killers give him the opportunity for a new life, one where he can be relieved of traditional hardships, vanquish his enemies, and attain a sense of true belonging…at the cost of what little remains of his humanity. The life he is offered is one of eternal darkness, but the promise of undying acceptance, freedom, and power gives it an appeal that his current dreaded existence is lacking.
Fraught with resentment over his catastrophic adolescence and confronted by ambiguous notions of good and evil, he is forced to explore a dark world on the fringe between bliss and oblivion. As he edges ever closer to a climactic encounter with the demons that plague his soul, he discovers just how dangerous it is to be young and alienated in modern society.”

Every so often you read a book that is so good you know it’s going to be a while before you read anything like it again. With Lost Souls, I went through high school, college, and my twenties without reaching the same level of emotional turmoil from any book since that reading. That’s not to say I haven’t read incredible work since, and gained new favorites, but some stories and characters always stay with you.

When I began reading Until The Sun, I recognized that the second person point of view was going to pull me in right away, which it did. You journey through this story as the main character, Casanova. Not only are you reliving your teen years with him, but you are experiencing all those raw emotions and feelings for the first time again. Falling in love, losing yourself in someone else; reading in second person requires one to let go of your current time and place, and allow your heart to break. The book is divided into three parts, with an interlude of Casanova’s past and his life-altering time in Los Angeles in the middle (my favorite). Of course, Morrison’s characters are bewitching, teasing, and rich. I won’t spend much time describing the “vampires” as to not ruin anyone’s reading, but if you know Morrison’s writing or if you don’t, expect beautiful prose mixed with a plot from the depths of literary darkness. I would also suggest reading the rest of Morrison’s work because he writes all of his characters and settings into the same universe. My close second is Along the Path of Torment followed by Hate to Feel. If you are a fan of Lost Souls, Until The Sun would be one you place right beside it. They belong together.

So, if you feel like going on an emotional journey I would suggest reading all of these.

Vampire literature, when written from the heart, has a way of draining you of your whole essence, while at the same time, giving you life. I hope everyone finds their perfect story, and their Vauquelin.

Happy Reading

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