Near Death

Rating: 
5
Near Death
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 13-Sep-1994

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #10

Review by Cathy Krusberg

Nancy Kilpatrick. Near Death. Pocket, 1994; $5.50/$6.99.

Who sends a vampire killer with instructions to attack after dark?

The question forces David Lyle Hardwick to emerge from a state resembling peace: not life, not death, unmoving and unfed by choice. A strange would-be vampire slayer has invaded his isolated house: Kathleen Stevens, age 25, who soon learns that courage fueled with heroine and cocaine do not make her a match for a vampire. David finds Zero (as she calls herself) a conundrum: too doped up to be hypnotized, but with knowledge that makes her too valuable to kill.

A few days tied to a bed and undergoing withdrawal make Zero much more informative: David learns what motivated a New York hooker to cross the Atlantic with stake in hand. The ultimate cause of Zero's actions remains an open question, however, so that David still needs her: now to track the being who tried to bring about his end in such a bizarre way.

On Zero's turf in New York, David keeps his native guide drug-free during his days' rest by tying her up and gagging her. Zero isn't keen on bondage but begins to enjoy staying clean, especially when David mixes it with gentle lovemaking. David is astonished at how loveable she *is*, with innocence and gentleness just beneath her streetwise ways; to him she is not Zero nor even Kathleen, but Kathy, who snuggles against him as he reads poetry to her. Between Kathy's resourcefulness and his own, they work their way step by step past pimps and pushers, into ever-stranger and more harrowing adventures. Throughout, David is haunted by the memory of a strange old flame, a vampire named Ariel who held his existence -- his soul, if he has one -- in her hands, years ago. He thought he had escaped her -- but Kathy has Ariel's face.

Kathy proves herself more than a pretty face and strung-out junkie: when David walks into a trap, she pulls him out and treks across Canada to take him to the one source of help he can depend on, a close-knit vampire coterie, part of the past David has not quite left behind. Zero is overjoyed; not only can these people help David, but with them she has found something like a family. David's reunion with his old friends, however, is in fact the very step his pursuer has been waiting for, a step that will spring a trap set by a vampire hell-bent on using an innocent as part of a plan for world dominion.

Near Death almost could have been marketed as romance rather than horror. I did say almost: the poetry-quoting vampire, yes; the street-smart heroine in a big city, probably not. There's a bit much nitty-gritty here, even for a romance market that is showing a higher and higher tolerance for horrific elements. But to describe Near Death as suspense or horror alone is to sell it short: David and Zero's adventures sometimes drive the plot, but the love that he and Kathy share holds the book together in a narrative that never flags.

Near Death has too much sex for my tastes; beware the strong streak of sadomasochism and bondage. There is violence, too, but pointed rather than gratuitous violence. David has always known he had the potential for it, always hated himself for it, always dreaded using it; but whether his hands or his teeth work the deed, it fits the circumstances, just enough for a vampire pushed beyond his limits.

I liked this book a lot. Kilpatrick has rounded out her story with an engaging cast of minor players who fit each other and their actions. David has a group of charming friends and a wonderful love who blossoms -- *credibly*, yet! -- before our eyes. The climax did not ring as perfectly true as I would have liked, but by then I was so engaged in the plot and the fascinating individuals playing it out, I didn't mind: I cared about them. Action and character development are interwoven in a way that makes me want to give a joyous cry of: "It *works*! It *works*!" And it does. Near Death is not for the faint of heart or stomach, but neither is it gut-wrenching in its violence. The tone and presentation are simply real, coming together in a sometimes rich and often rewarding read that I was delighted to experience.

Fanged Films

West Germany, 1961

USA, 2005
Vampire Bats

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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