Many years ago I was a fan of Anne Rice’s notorious vampire novels. They were a bit naughty and definitely eerie, and more than a little bit addicting. I read the entire series. Some of you probably saw the movies. They were really good and starred big movie stars like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. So I’m no novice at reading about the undead.
Then we had years of light and humorous stories featuring vampires. I got bored. Enough. Along comes Grady Hendrix with his new novel called THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES. It is being touted as “smart” horror, whatever that is. I gave the book not even a second glance when it first appeared. Southern Independent Booksellers began advertising it. After all, a Southern author wrote it. Still, I paid it no notice. Then one of my bookseller friends told me she loved it. And it began getting chatter about awards. So, I requested it from my library to take a peek. And the rest is history.
THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES takes place just outside Charleston, South Carolina, near Mt. Pleasant, not far from the islands. This is an area I know and love. It was easy to get right into this story. I found the characters quite engaging and immediately thought of people who might like this novel. The story is set up so that you believe that the community is quite normal. Normal people doing normal things. Don’t fret. That changes suddenly.
What seems fluffy at first suddenly takes a turn for the very unfluffy. The ladies in the book club read true crime novels, mostly. One of their husbands believes the club reads the bible. Oh my Lord. Such normal folk.
Then one night Patricia Campbell’s life forever changes when she is attacked by her elderly neighbor while taking out the trash. The scene that ensues almost made me put the book down. Let me rephrase that: I did put the book down. I had to regroup and decide whether or not to continue. Things quickly got back to normal and I read on. Then we meet the vicious neighbor’s nephew, James Harris. Just writing his name now makes my hackles stand straight up in the air.
This is a neighborhood filled with men who are very successful. Their wives are stay at home mom’s as was the case in South Carolina in the late eighties. It was so normal. The women were restless and bored. The men took them for granted. The kids were mostly spoiled. And then children from the other side of town began to go missing.
There are several scenes in this book that are very disturbing. Graphic. Sometimes hard to read. But the story is compelling as all get-out. I had to know how this was going to end. I just had to.
The writing is oh-so-good. It’s clever and yanks you in. It’s a bit erotic at times. It’s presented in a way that I found to be almost mesmerizing.
So what would you do if you knew there was a vampire in your midst and no one believed you.?Thought you were losing your mind. And we watch as “Jim” slowly and surely wins the trust of the community. Horrifying. And that is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
There are those of you who will not even crack this book open. I get that. But for those of you who want to step outside your reading comfort zone, perhaps are looking for something well-written yet totally unique, this is your novel. Smart Horror. Ha.
Copperfish Books has it in stock right now. And it’s 20% off.