Bitternest: A Novel

Review by Norm Goldman
May 28, 2007

Author: Alan Draven
ISBN: 978-0-595-43204-2

Alan Draven's debut novel Bitternest: A Novel will no doubt cause the adrenaline to flow with its chilling and macabre scenes where the inhabitants of Bitternest, a fictional town in Louisiana, face the risk of not only succumbing to the deathly avian influenza (H5N1 virus) but also to the real possibility of being decimated by creatures that are half-vampires and half humans.

Apparently, a sizeable slice of the population that had contacted the virus have been bitten by full blown vampires, thus resulting in a half-human and half vampire creature. The sun has no effect on them and they can walk in broad daylight without fear of being destroyed. Furthermore, their numbers are substantially increasing to the extent that they pose a real threat to the tiny number of authentic vampires that have settled in Bitternest for years.

Detectives Terry Graves and Miguel Vallejo are called to a crime scene where they discover naked bodies piled up with strange puncture wounds around their necks. Both are at a loss as to what exactly happened however they remember hearing about vampires that have been invading Bitternest. It is at the crime scene where they meet up with Kozo, a vampire, who takes them to the leader of the Vampire Circle, Cyrus, who lives in a catacomb below the old Nightingale Cemetery.

After preliminary introductions, Cyrus fills in the detectives as to what they are up against with these half-vampires and proposes an alliance between his circle of six vampires and the police in order to eradicate these blood mongers. What Cyrus wants in return is a vaccine that will fight the avian influenza and at the same time rid Bitternest of these half-vampires. Graves agrees to deliver blood samples that Cyrus will give to him in order that he can pass it unto his scientist friend Stephen Trask who will work on discovering such a vaccine.

At the same time this is transpiring, a notorious crime figure of Bitternest, Tezano Cortez has formed an alliance with these blood mongers and has summoned leaders of rival gangs to his mansion where he offers them a chance to join his group. His plan is to use these creatures to take over the town. When some of these criminals balk at his proposal, they are instantly killed with the exception of one of the leaders, Kamichi, who escapes.

We also learn that Cortez's mansion was once owned by an occultist and mystic. The house contained a rare one of a kind book of incantations that gives Cortez the power to summon uncommon demons and gods. Cortez uses the information to bring back to life through an old antique mirror someone from the very distant past, Lamia, who becomes his girlfriend and supposedly his partner in crime. As we later discover, Lamia is not exactly whom she appears to be and all hell breaks out when Cortez discovers her deception.

To add in a little more terror and absurdity to our story, Graves and Vallejo discover that they not only have to contend with the half-vampire blood mongers, but also a strange breed of children of the night that are led by a female demon that likewise prey on people ripping them apart.

The full blown vampires together with Graves and Vallejo, the half-human half vampires, the children of the night, Cortez and Lamia are the principal pegs on which Draven hangs his creepy and carefully crafted surreal tale wherein evil and macabre fascination are explored. With gusto and in the tradition of the genre, Draven adopts all the necessary ingredients of a spooky horror novel as he deftly choreographs his heroes and villains giving us a tale that amply satisfies. And although his evil characters get what is coming to them, the story even contains admirable villains who play an important role in defeating the really "bad guys."

In the end we have a far-fetched morbid tale, although I have to admit, quite compelling, where Draven manages to weave together a few outlandish plotlines, each with its own unexpected twists and turns with fully realized characters. And if you are up to a good scare and provided you are not too squeamish, you will find this horror novel filled with enough chilling events that will keep you spell bound until the last page. It certainly is a yarn you won't forget!

One word of advice, it would be advisable not to read this novel before you turn in for the night-some of the scenes are quite gory, as is the case with many novels of the same genre.

Fanged Films

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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