Bloodwalk

Rating: 
4
Bloodwalk
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 28-Oct-1997

A version of this review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 17 (Spring 1998).

Lee Killough. BLOODWALK. Comprising BLOOD HUNT and BLOODLINKS. Decatur, Ga.: Meisha Merlin, 1997; ISBN 0-9658345-0-6; $14.00.

Let's hear it for Meisha Merlin Publishing! Thanks to this Georgia-based publisher, Lee Killough's excellent vampire detective stories, BLOOD HUNT and BLOODLINKS, are back in print after a hiatus of some ten years, in the omnibus edition BLOODWALK.

Before there was the movie Nick Knight, much less the TV series FOREVER KNIGHT; before P. N. Elrod's Jack Fleming and Charles Escott, or Tanya Huff's Vicki Nelson and Henry Fitzroy ... well, you get the picture. Lee Killough was there first, with BLOOD HUNT and BLOODLINKS, originally published by Tor in 1987 and 1988 respectively -- after some 23 other publishers had rejected BLOOD HUNT, saying, in essence, "It's a vampire novel that isn't a horror story, so we've got no marketing hook to hang it on." Tor marketed it as horror (with a cover that P. N. Elrod has described as "truly awful"), and readers loved it anyway. But the books soon went out of print, as books are wont to do. Killough's Foreword to BLOODWALK tells of numerous requests from fans for copies of these books ... that she could not supply.

And now -- they're ba-ack!

Following up on a bizarre homicide -- victim drained of blood before his throat was cut and neck broken -- Inspector Garreth Mikaelian's suspicions fall on Lane Barber, a nightclub singer in San Francisco's Embarcadero. She looks much younger than her ostensible 27 years ... and talks much older in her unguarded moments. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a monopoly on unguarded moments. When she realizes she can't shake Garreth from her trail, Lane pulls him into an alley and sinks her fangs into his neck. In the ensuing scuffle, Garreth bites her, swallowing some of her blood.

Waking up in the morgue is not fun, nor is the ensuing hospital stay, during which Garreth finds his senses growing preternaturally sharp and the metallic/salty scent of blood overwhelming. Garreth forcibly releases himself from the hospital and begins exploring his powers and limitations. Sunlight makes him uncomfortable, but he can tolerate it. His first attempt at drinking human blood is an embarrassing failure, but rat blood substitutes adequately and, with sodium citrate added, keeps well. A little hypnotism applied at the right places gets him back on duty without further medical or psychiatric evaluation. Garreth's inability to enter dwellings uninvited, however, nearly costs his partner his life at an armed suspect's hideout. Realizing the futility of staying on the force under such circumstances, Garreth turns in his badge.

Lane Barber has destroyed Garreth's life, taken away his job, alienated him from his friends (there's too much he can't explain to people) -- and Garreth decides to make her accountable for it. Her track takes him to Baumen, Kansas, where she was born Madeleine Bieber -- and her mother is still alive. When Garreth learns that Madeleine visits home occasionally, he decides to stay in town and wait her out. The Baumen police department has an opening, and Garreth takes the risk of joining. His hypnotic abilities and superhuman strength serve him well in the line of duty ... and remind him how much responsibility comes with the power to cloud human minds.

Mada/Madeleine/Lane (and she has used other names over the years) has exactly the opposite approach. When they finally meet, she tells him that "Our kind are beyond the nature of mere human laws," and she points out that he can't physically force her to go back to California for the administration of human justice. When Garreth refuses to be converted to her perspective on humanity, she says she'll grant his death wish -- a promise followed by an action-packed chase scene that includes some impressive archery on Mada's part. But Mada has a vampire-weakness that Garreth lacks: a fear of holy objects. Like a dyed-in-the-wool Van Helsing, Garreth uses a rosary against her, binding her to him in a car crash that he intends will incinerate her -- and him as well.

It doesn't work that way: Garreth's vampire powers kick in one more time and, at the end of BLOOD HUNT, save him from the blaze that destroys Mada. In BLOODLINKS existence, if not life, goes on. And a new wrinkle arises: Novelist Julian Graham Fowler comes to Baumen seeking Madeleine Bieber, ostensibly so he can base a novel on the story of her adventures in Europe during World War II. The man asks questions like a detective, a trait Garreth finds disconcerting -- he has things to hide, after all.

Garreth's former partner, Harry Takananda, calls to tell him that they've found Lane Barber's hideout. Garreth knows that "Lane" won't be back but returns to San Francisco to see what the search for her will turn up. To his annoyance, Julian Fowler follows, now interested in writing a book based on Garreth's life and his "return from the dead." Garreth and Fowler form a sometimes uneasy alliance to learn what they can about Lane Barber; someone is picking up her mail and paying for her apartment. Garreth's investigation leads him to the local vampire subculture -- vampires and the humans who help them. But Garreth's work is hampered by a series of deaths, murders of vampires and their supporters alike, by methods obviously intended to kill vampires. Suspicion for the killings of course falls on Garreth: people he has spoken with tend to be the victims. Is Garreth the object of a frame-up -- or will he be next on the "vampire killer's" list?

BLOODWALK is strong in both police procedure and character development, gaining particular depth as Garreth learns more about Lane -- her childhood as a social outcast that probably led her to embrace the power of being a vampire. Knowing her circumstances makes it harder for him to condemn her, but it doesn't stop him from pointing out the hypocrisy in her considering the human race disposable even as she continues regular visits to her mother (made up to look nearer her chronological age). In BLOODLINKS, Garreth's situation becomes more tense as he finds himself distanced both from the other vampires he at last encounters and the human friends with whom he cannot share the truth of his existence ... or can he? BLOODLINKS in fact ends with impressive (and almost fiendishly clever) human-vampire cooperation that vindicates Garreth's refusal to treat the human race as disposable blood containers.

Sometimes gritty and occasionally poignant, BLOODWALK's portrayal of vampirism balances only a few exceptional powers (hypnotism, moving through solid objects) with just enough limitations (extreme allergy to garlic, inability to enter a dwelling uninvited) to make the condition plausible. More important to plausibility is the balance of Garreth's innovative solutions to the difficulties of subsistence against his stickiest problem: no longer being able to live by rules of the human race, but being unable to explain why. BLOODWALK's final resolution is a testament to Killough's skill as a writer, as Garreth reconciles the "impossibility" of being a vampire and the unshakable loyalty of family and friends.

Meisha Merlin's web site is:

http://www.angelfire.com/biz/MeishaMerlin

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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