One Foot in the Grave

One Foot in the Grave
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 1-Jan-1997

A version of this review will appear in "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt 14 (Fall 1996).

Wm. Mark Simmons. One Foot in the Grave. Baen, 1996; $5.99/$7.99; ISBN 0-671-87721-6. [Yes, "Wm." is how the name appears on the book's cover and title page.]

Protagonist Chris Csejthe (pronounced "chey-tay") feels "Like I've got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel." An allergy to sunlight has forced him to quit his teaching job and switch to graveyard shift at a radio station in Pittsburg, Kansas. Lab work on his blood attracts the attention of Dr. Taj Mooncloud. In the process of rescuing Chris from a radio station besieged by supernatural creatures, Mooncloud kidnaps him and, with the aid of one Lup'e [that's e with an acute accent] Garou, introduces him to a world of creatures generally thought to be the stuff of folklore: Werewolves, elves, boggarts, and, of course ... vampires.

Chris learns that the U.S. is a system of vampire demesnes, each ruled by a Doman. Mooncloud works for the Doman of Seattle, who wants Chris for research. Chris's long and uncharacteristically drawn-out transitional phase between human and vampire may be the missing link in Dr. Mooncloud's research, and in any case, all vampires belong to *some* demesne ... it's that or be hunted down as a rogue. Agents of the New York demesne are already after Chris, apparently with something more ... *permanent* than research in mind.

The restrictions of being a Doman's subject chafe on Chris, a thread that runs through the length of the book -- as do the New York agents' continuing activities. Even after Chris is long gone from Kansas, they stay in the area, obviously looking for something else -- and making sloppy kills that endanger the secrecy necessary for the vampire world's survival. When Chris inadvertently hitches a ride with Mooncloud and Garou on their mission to "retrieve" (read: destroy) a rogue vampire, he learns that the New York vampires are using the rogue in their own deadly game against the vampire who holds the key to Chris's odd condition -- and perhaps to his freedom as well.

At first I was put off my this book's gimmickiness. A werewolf named Lup'e Garou; a domain of vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, boggarts, and various sorts of elves; an Elvira clone -- Chris initially lands in a situation a little too much like the Munsters to work for me. But once out of the Doman's castle and on the road, One Foot in the Grave relentlessly combines thought and action in a plot where crossbows, holy water, and tanna (or tanis) leaves are the weapons against a seemingly unstoppable dead thing. On the way, our heroes gain the backing of a most unusual and unexpected ally whose abrasiveness pushes Chris into a battle of telepath against telepath -- and into the discovery of his own powers, which enable him to get a little of his own back and win a victory on more fronts than he had anticipated.

Gimmickiness aside, it's overall a fun book with only a few hard-to-swallow bits, such as Chris's research into bookish vampire lore and the twelve-step meeting he attends (been done to death). Chris's sense of humor and cynicism show again and again that not being in Kansas anymore doesn't slow him down. And how many vampire novels dare to blame a villain's downfall on his heart not being in the right place?

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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