Southern Blood: Vampire Stories from the American South

Southern Blood: Vampire Stories from the American South
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 21-May-1998

A version of this review appears in The Vampire's Crypt 17 (Spring 1998). The Vampire's Crypt web site is:

Southern Blood: Vampire Stories from the American South, ed. Lawrence Schimel and Martin H. Greenberg. (The American Vampire Series) Nashville: Cumberland House, 1997; ISBN 1-888952-49-0; $12.95/$17.95.

Cumberland House, recognizing the demand for ever more vampire fiction, has begun publishing its American Vampire Series of anthologies, each with a regional focus. SOUTHERN BLOOD contains twelve stories, mostly reprints, set in various Southern states. Although nominally unified by geographical setting, the stories are quite diverse in all other respects: Some are old and some are new; some feature the vampire as put-upon protagonist, others as ravening fiend. Original to this anthology is "The Scent of Magnolias" by Lawrence Schimel and Billie Sue Mosiman, a bizarre blend of gimmickry and a serial killer's beginning; the remainder are reprints of assorted vintage.

Although all the stories have Southern settings, their "Southern- ness" varies. James Kisner's "God-Less Men" speaks plainly of its Texas setting (though also smacking of the Old West); "The Carpetbagger" by Susan Shwartz and "Blood Kin" by Delia Sherman use their setting to good advantage. Shwartz's tale features a gentle Cajun reaching out to a victim of a carpetbagger vampire; "Blood Kin" is a traditional tale of innocence overcoming evil in a rich New Orleans setting. "The Cursed Damozel," Manly Wade Wellman's folklore-inspired tale of vampire-finding and vampire-slaying, features the uneasy cooperation of North and South during the American Civil War. And modern-day Florida lends itself admirably to Brian Hodge's iconoclastic "Like a Pilgrim to the Shrine," a wry and bittersweet story of old vampire meeting new.

Most of the stories, however, could have happened anywhere. Dan Simmons's suspenseful "Carrion Comfort," a tale of rivalry among creatures who feed on deaths, could as easily have been set in New England ... or, for that matter, New Delhi. There is more of generic rusticity than Southernness (much less the stamp of any part of the South) in William Tenn's "She Only Goes Out at Night," which is more gimmick than story. Tracy A. Knight's somewhat saccharine "Blessed by His Dying Tongue" is an Elvis story and only incidentally a Southern story. Including "The Silver Coffin" by Robert Barbour Johnson to represent Virginia in this collection was surely an act of desperation: the story, with its imprisoned vampire and doddering narrator, creaks with age.

The stories *as* stories are generally good, or at least adequate. Esther Friesner's cynical "Claim-Jumpin' Woman, You Got a Stake in My Heart" is a delightful tale of Ivy League meets country western tacky, and "The Flame" by Fred Chappell has a wonderful, if insufficiently developed, grace and sweetness. But none of this makes the stories, or their vampires, particularly Southern. And whatever the quality of its contents, SOUTHERN BLOOD, like other titles in the American Vampire Series, is a trifle thin (203 pages) for its $12.95 cover price. These books are for completists, or at least vampire aficionados, rather than more casual fans.

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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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