Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 22-Apr-1994

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

Anne Billson. Suckers. Atheneum, 1993; $20.00.

Like the flap copy says, Suckers is a "frothy black comedy" (_The Times_). In fact, I'm tempted to just refer you to the jacket copy instead of reviewing this one at all. Once in a while the publishers don't have to exaggerate, distort, or indulge in hype to make a book seem worth buying, or at least worth looking at. This is one of those times. "The narrative ... erupts into a pacy, gleeful tale of vanity, megalomania and vampire revenge," says The Independent on Sunday. "Dark, sharp, chic and very funny," comments Time Out magazine. And the inside front flap begins, "Set at the end of the greed-is-good Eighties...."

Narrator Dora makes a living as a "creative consultant" to a string of interchangeable fashion magazines: "I took the 'creative' part of my job description literally," she tells us. "Most of the information I provided was completely fictitious." Dora lacks the top joint of her little finger ("All he best villains have the top joint of their little finger missing," she tells a nosy friend), souvenir of an escapade thirteen years in the past, when she and "just friend" Duncan put an ... *interesting* ... end to the woman who had stolen Duncan from her. It involved staking (during which the stakee laughed and sang), dismemberment, and scattering of the resultant bits -- one of them to as far away as the Smithsonian.

The woman that Dora knew as Violet Westron has now, however impossibly, resurfaced. Rose Murasaki is editor of the new fashion magazine Bellini, the one with those ghastly Night People photos and captions to fit: "Smart vamps only come out at night in the slinkiest fabrics, but stakes are high when the claret begins to flow and the chips are down." Duncan (now married to somebody else) is convinced that *she* has returned. Dora decides to find out by arranging a face-to-face meeting with this editor, in her role as freelance creative consultant. She makes the trek to Bellini offices in Multiglom Tower, where the receptionist tells her she'll have to wait a week to see Ms. Murasaki next Tuesday ... at nine. Nine *P* *M*.

In the interval, Dora does some sleuthing and some socializing. The seeming return of her old nemesis nearly draws Dora's attention away from other aspects of the strange as they make subtle inroads on every part of her social surroundings. Duncan's wife Lulu vanishes to take a modelling job. Within days, Lulu's image begins to appear on TV, in papers, *everywhere* -- more than can be said for Lulu herself. Ruth Weinstein holds a party at which she informs Dora that "people are *changing*...." and from another guest Dora learns (over the general party ruckus) that Dragosh is taking over the world ... Dragosh, of which Multiglom is the media arm.

Multiglom. As in Multiglom Tower. Lulu's homecoming is a kind of messiness that Dora and Duncan have handled before -- though not for thirteen years. In a last-ditch attempt to call attention to what looks like a more than financial takeover by vampires, Dora and Duncan send a letter to every newspaper they can think of (a plausible one about plastic fangs and sadomasochistic pursuits). One rag actually prints their fears.

The rest have Multiglom editorial offices.

Billson keeps adding details and building suspense right to the end. The novel actually gets better with a second reading that will let you savor the details as they come together. The characters aren't people that you'd want for neighbors; nobody here is meant to be endearing. It's all about the plot, a bit about the society we live in, and even a little bit about ... vampires.

Fanged Films

USA, 1916

Great Britain, 1976
Sex Express / Gefangenen Express

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?