As promised last week, I’m going to take a hot minute to list my top five vampire books. Mind you, these are novels, so I’m not including vampire movies or comics or television shows. I read these books once every couple of years and I’m always finding different reasons to love them. I think readers are hard pressed to find better bloodsucker fiction out there. The five listed here have influenced my love of vampires and still do, and since I want you to read them (if you haven’t), I’m going to give a very brief “this is why I loved it” paragraph about each one and I’m going to list them in reverse order, from 5 to 1.
5. Vampire$ by John Steakley
Where do I start here? Vampire hunters who work for the church and are paid well for it. Deals well with the religious aspect of vampirism (being on hallowed ground hurts, which speaks to the existence of God), as well as the toll hunting the undead might take on a person. They kill hard, drink hard, and die hard. The vampires are mean, they have an agenda, and this novel is good on so many levels it’d take two or three blog posts to cover them all. If you’ve only seen John Carpenter’s film based on the book, do your brain a favor and get the real deal. Read the book.
4. Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson
F. Paul Wilson is one of my favorite authors. With this book, Wilson also deals with religion in vampirism, but he does it differently than Steakley does. You see, the main character is a rabbi and he doesn’t like the implications of vampires fearing the cross and holy water sizzling on their skin. Along with that, we have an interesting cast of characters, which stick out to me still for their diversity: the rabbi, a drunked out and blacklisted priest, a lesbian, and a nun. Plus, the vampires are mean as hell, and it’s one of the first books I remember reading where vampires have human lackeys working for them. The last battle for these characters takes place in the church of the blacklisted priest, and it’s a fight that will restore hope to the human race. If the humans can win, that is.
3. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
I’m not sure if this book even needs more words written about it, as it’s a classic in every sense of the word. However, like any book, it’s impact on readers vary and I’m not excluded from that. I’m sure what I loved about it, another person may have hated. For me, it was always Neville’s loneliness, and how he took to Cortman in the novel. It didn’t humanize the vampires (as a whole) that showed up at Neville’s door, but it illustrated how a man can humanize a single entity in the group, can empathize and have sympathy for something that’s perceived evil. This book is one of the main reasons why I believe reading makes us better humans, better able to relate to people who aren’t quite like us. If you’re that rare vampire fan (meaning you’re probably very young) who hasn’t read this book, then do it. Today.
2. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Another classic vampire tale that doesn’t need an in depth discussion from the likes of me. I’ll cut right to the chase and what made this book stand out for me was King’s willingness to turn kids into vampires. It was one of the first books I’d read that killed kids without really a second thought. That, of course leads into King’s quiet destruction of the entire town, where even good people end up dying and, really, for what? There’s a certain amount of hope that’s stripped out of the world when you read this book at a young age, simply because King shows us that small and tranquil doesn’t mean shit-all for safety. Everything (and everybody) hides something from the world, and usually that something is heinous.
1. They Thirst by Robert McCammon
And we’re to my top vampire novel. The reason is simple, which is that They Thirst encapsulates the best elements of the other books on my list. McCammon’s novel is a larger version of King’s novel, insofar as the vampires are after Los Angeles as opposed to a small town in Maine. McCammon addresses the religious aspect of vampirism, but takes it to the next level, he pits an odd mix of humans against the seemingly unstoppable force of vampires, and there’s a sense of isolation despite the large L.A. setting. And beyond that, there was something beautiful about McCammon’s descriptions in this book that turned L.A. into a character, and this is the first book where I really noticed the setting as character. They Thirst, in my opinion, stands as one of the seminal vampire novels of the last 50 years. There you have it, my top five vampire novels.
Next week, I’ll range into my top five vampire movies…
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