Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Rating: 
4

It would be easy to dismiss "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" as a novelty. The title sounds more like a comedy sketch than a compelling read, and author Seth Grahame-Smith was responsible for last year's good-natured Jane Austen sendup, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

But his second book outweighs the kitsch, and, freed from the constraints of updating a revered literary gem, he delivers a well-constructed, surprisingly satisfying narrative that straight-faces its absurd premise: Honest Abe, 16th U.S. president, led a secret life slaying the fanged undead.

The book opens with a prologue in which a mysterious Henry unexpectedly leaves a package and a strange letter with a character named Seth Grahame-Smith. A once aspiring writer who has settled into a cashier's job at a five-and-dime, Grahame-Smith finds himself in possession of 10 leather-bound volumes penned by Lincoln with instructions from Henry to adapt them into a manuscript.

The story that follows recasts Lincoln's life, from his boyhood through his assassination, in a supernatural light. The death of his mother at the hands of a vampire drives Lincoln to eradicate the creatures, and he pursues his goal for decades, first striking out at night with his trusty ax to dispatch the ghouls, then using his skills as an orator and politician to end slavery, which, here, is a horror perpetuated by plantation owners in league with the undead.

The setup works brilliantly. Rather than having to write solely in Lincoln's voice, Grahame-Smith can work from an omniscient third-person perspective and quote specific lines or paragraphs from the journals to flesh out an anecdote or add resonance to a passage. The story moves along at a swift pace with welcome flourishes of period detail.

Grahame-Smith serves up moments of real poignancy within a B-horror movie here, and a writer who can transform the greatest figure from 19th century American history into the star of an original vampire tale with humor, heart and bite is a rare find indeed.

Review by Gina Mcintyre

Fanged Films

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USA, 2011
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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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