Gang Approval

Gang Approval
Review by Cathy Krusberg, submitted on 05-May-2002

A version of this review appears in The Vampire's Crypt 25 (Spring 2002). The Vampire's Crypt web site is:

Selina Rosen. Gang Approval. (The Host, Book Three) Alma, Ark.: Yard Dog Press, 1999; comb bound, digest format, 195 pp.; ISBN 1-893687-11-2; $7.00 + $2.00 PER ORDER shipping direct from Yard Dog Press, 710 W. Redbud Lane, Alma, AR 72921-7247. Check 'em out on the web at

When we last saw Tracy Cohen, lesbian Kabbalist adept rabbi, she was a special agent with IDL, the International Defense League, a top-secret organization devoted to kicking vampire butt. Now she's a family woman, raising a toddler named Sam with her domestic partner Jane Weston. Sometimes IDL work calls Tracy away from home for long periods of time, but in this book it's not the IDL but Tracy herself who finds the vampires. Jane had thought she was without surviving biological relatives until she learned of a half-sister in North Peak. When Jane goes to visit, Tracy and Sam have to come along -- and Tracy insists on bringing not only her golom Joseph but Liz Carver, one of the most delightfully foul-mouthed radicals ever to cuss out a parrot, rough up a male chauvinist, or kick vampire butt.

Tracy's intuition about needing Joseph and Liz was of course correct; this time the vampires are behind long-standing gang activity in North Peak, keeping the populace of the inner city in an emotional state of siege and doing pretty much the same to the police. Given the size and persistence of the local vampire population, even the servants of the Most High can use all the help they can get. In this case it comes from unlikely sources: Sandra herself -- or actually, Sandra not herself, as Tracy soon discovers -- and a freelance vampire hunter. David has made vampire hunting more than just a job: it's a way of life, the one way he can begin to atone for a past misdeed that involved not only the vampires but Tracy herself. And David's chosen profession notwithstanding, Tracy is looking for payback.

The vampires of Rosen's universe are not standard-issue bloodsuckers but "fright eaters," literally soulless creatures energized by human fear. We get an inside view of vampire gang dynamics as they fight over turf, plot anti-hunter strategy, and screw each other in the literal as well as the figurative sense. They are, to say the least, not nice people, but Rosen shows the gangs' attraction for the inner-city kids who are their "day-timers."

Although Tracy's powers make her the most kick-ass of the anti-vampire forces, she doesn't always get everything she wants, either in her IDL persona or in her everyday life as a rabbi. (Or, in her own words, "It would seem that the Holy One ... has given me the power to fight vampires, banish demons, and build a Golom, but I can't do a damn thing about the classism in Judaism.") Her very human failings offset -- somewhat -- the superhuman abilities she manifests as a matter of course in dealing with vampires and mystical miscellanea. (There is certainly a delicious irony to her having a more receptive audience in a prison cell than at the temple board where she is assistant rabbi.)

Like The Host and Fright Eater, the previous two books in the series, Gang Approval is about lesbians -- but lesbians as people with essentially prosaic lives who still have to make a living and arrange for child care like the rest of us. I've now read enough small press books that I've become somewhat inured to their mechanical errors; Gang Approval has as many typos, misspellings, and similar problems as its predecessors, but I'll let my commentary in reviews of the previous two books stand in for a rehash.

Unless typos, lesbians, or irredeemably evil vampires constitute an insurmountable obstacle to your enjoyment of a book, Gang Approval has plenty to make it a satisfying read. Tracy's fair-minded outspokenness, David's on-the-edge lifestyle, even the vampires' politicking and infighting make for an engaging narrative; it gives "the rest of the story" for events in previous books as well as providing plenty of events of its own.

If you've missed out on the books that tell what led up to this for Tracy, Jane, and the rest, The Host (ISBN 1-893687-00-7) and Fright Eater (ISBN 1-893687-01-5) are also available from Yard Dog Press for a cool $7.00 each (plus shipping). Or use the ISBNs to order them at a slightly higher price from your friendly neighborhood independent bookstore.

The Mad Bibliographer

Fanged Films

Spain, 1972
Blood Castle / Bloody Fiancée / The Blood Spattered Bride / Till Death Do Us Part
USA, 1983
The Keep

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  

Drawn to Vamps?