Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Best Vampire Book You've Never Read

I'm somewhat of a vampire connoisseur. I cut my eyeteeth, as it were, on Dracula and Anne Rice. I've gobbled up every conceivable type of vampire fiction, lore, and mythology I can get my little hands on. In high school, I was a lonely and pale bookworm who dressed all in black. I quickly got the label of "Meghan B, the Vampire Queen". In college, I wrote at least one paper a semester about vampires (my favorite being titled "Dracula: Or Why All These People Need Severe Psychotherapy". I got an A-). From Poppy Z Brite to Joss Whedon, I've read and watched them all. I even read freakin' Twilight. I'm still hugely obsessed with the anime Hellsing. If it has fangs and drinks blood, I am there!

Now that my credentials as vampire expert are in order, believe me when I say that the Vampire Files series by P.N. Elrod is the absolute best vampire book series you've never heard of. Why? I'll tell you why. P.N. Elrod has created one of the best vampires I've ever read short of Lestat de Lioncourt and a fabulously real world for him to exist in.

P.N. Elrod's vampire hero started out life as just a down on his luck journalist in 1920s era Chicago until he wakes up undead one night in a river with no idea how he got there or who killed him. His name is Jack Fleming and he's down on his luck more often than not. Being undead doesn't put too much of a kink in his life, it's the mobsters that want him to spill his secrets that really bother him.

Jack Fleming is a wonderful character. He's smart, snarky, clever and romantic. He's also slightly tormented, like all vampires are. Since his journalism career is cut short, he teams up with an adorably British actor-turned-detective, Charles Escott. Together, they try and navigate the seedy underworld of Prohibition Chicago, trying to find Jack's murderer and his maker. Escott and Jack combine forces and become private investigators for hire. Later on, Jack even finds a girlfriend; a beautiful and whip-smart bombshell of a nightclub singer named Bobbi Smythe. Strong female character? Hell yes please! Bobbi is no damsel in distress and it's glorious.

One of the best parts about the series is how believable it all sounds. P.N. Elrod writes about 1920s Chicago like she was actually there to experience it. From the way characters talk, to the way they drive their cars and wear their hats, it's all completely pitch perfect for the time period. I got sucked into the stories of mobsters, speakeasies and crime almost as much as I got sucked into the vampire plotlines. Even the mobsters seem real and no character is a Hollywood caricature of what a mob's moll or a hitman should be. It's entirely unique and I loved every illegal gin-drenched second of it.

The books have everything you could want. Vampire violence, mystery, romance and a few laughs along the way. Jack Fleming excels as both a vampire and a private eye. While his own mysteries may or may not be solved, you can beat he'll get to the bottom of whatever case he has. He looks dashing as he dashes away from tommy guns. He laughs heartily in the face of danger before running like hell (he's undead, not stupid).

The series is currently eleven books long, with various short stories and novellas scattered in anthologies or on her website. The single edition paperbacks are long out of print (which made finding them all an adventure in eBay and used book sales) but luckily for you, they've all been released as shiny, giant omnibus editions.

Do you like vampires? Are you tired of the Sookie Stackhouses and Bella Swans of the world stealing the thunder of actually awesome vampires? Do you just love a good adventure story? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to read The Vampire Files by P.N. Elrod.

Knock three times on the back alley door and tell 'em Meghan B, the Vampire Queen sent 'ya.
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  1. Oh man, I will have to check these out! I am also a big vampire expert and have been on the hunt for something new! I was actually considering reading some of my Rice novels again for the millionth time! They never seem to get old!

  2. I read these back in high school, before I discovered Anita Blake. They were so much fun.

    Every now and then I'll grab an anthology and find a short set in Fleming's world and it is a real treat. There's actually a good Bobbi short in the recent Chicks Kick Butt antho.

    I'm thinking that a PN Elrod re-read might be on the horizon...

  3. Nah, the best vampire book you've never read is Steve Brust's Agyar.

  4. Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice =Queen of Vampires

  5. I've read these! There's no way you can say I haven't read these.

    Now, if you've read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint Germain series, *that* would be something.

    1. I have! Not all of them, since some are out of print, but a few here and there. I was never hugely into them, I'd probably do better if I could read them in order.

  6. I tried reading these a while back and could never invest myself in the main character - he just wasn't all that interesting to me. I may have to try again now that I hear such good things though.

    Have you tried the Vampire Empire series from E. E. Knight? I haven't but wondered if you had so you could give your opinion on them.

    1. I tried the first one, but it didn't do very much for me. I was very eh over it.

      Definitely give Jack Fleming another try!

  7. Love this series! Very into pulp hero types and vampires with actual teeth, not disco balls or emo. I need a few more of the books to fill in the blanks so I'll be checking Powell's to see if they got more of the omnibus editions. I have a few of the original paperbacks too.