Vampire Hunters, The

Rating: 
4
A version of this review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 18 (Fall 1998). The Vampire's Crypt web site is: http://members.aol.com/MLCVamp/vampcrpt.htm

William Hill. The Vampire Hunters. Doctors Inlet, Fla.: Otter Creek Press, September 1998. Trade paper ISBN 1-890611-02-6; $12.95/$14.95; hardcover ISBN 1-890611-05-0; $19.95/$24.95. Young Adult.

Literary recycling. If you've read VAMPIRE'S KISS by the same author, THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS will definitely give you a sense of deja vu. The names and some of the facts have been changed (to protect the author?), but the underlying story remains recognizable, and so does one key element -- it *does* contain a vampire.

Frankly, I was worried about that. It's so popular for YA books to end with a mundane explanation for supernatural events. Not this one. And don't let the resemblance to VAMPIRE'S KISS mislead you: common points notwithstanding, this one has a different set of twists.

While staying with his grandparents, fifteen-year-old Jonathan "Scooter" Keyshawn tries to join the Graveyard Armadillos, the nearest thing to a gang available in Gunstock, Texas. The Armadillos, an uneven assortment of some half-dozen local youths, have planned a novel first exploit for him: helping to prove that reclusive moviemaker Marcus Chandler is vampire. Chandler avoids the sun and is unnaturally pale; and in the words of ringleader Garrett Brashear: "Never seen a white African-American." But Chandler's explosive reaction when Scooter catches him in a Polaroid's flash sends the group scattering into the nighttime swamp ... and not quite all of them come out.

Scooter makes it home, but not free. "Judge Grandpa" has been waiting up for him and insists on hearing the whole story -- and on Scooter's apologizing to Marcus Chandler for the fuss. (He also recommends that Scooter pick his prospective friends a little more carefully.) To "Judge Grandpa" and Scooter's surprise, Chandler is more than forgiving. On learning that Scooter wants to write and draw comic books, Chandler lends him a couple of his screenplays to study: "Maybe they'll keep you occupied reading and thinking about writing so you won't get into any more trouble."

But it's not just the Armadillos making trouble in Gunstock. Several of the local youth have been found dead, and two of the Armadillos, BJ and CJ Mochrie, go missing when they try to run away. Unknown to the rest of the town, they encountered a beautiful woman in a graveyard....

Gunstock would like to find a scapegoat, and Marcus Chandler, with his reclusive habits and odd looks, would make a good one. But the would-be torchbearing peasantry aren't his only concern. Lucius Shade has followed the moviemaker from Los Angeles. It seems that Chandler and some friends have developed a method of filming that enables vampires to appear in movies. And while Shade has eternity to convince Chandler to cooperate with him in applying that technology, he really doesn't want to wait that long....

Soon Chandler, Scooter, and a few remnants of the Graveyard Armadillos find themselves forced into an impromptu vampire hunt. Shade's encounters with fire and water slow him down, but they don't stop him -- only tracking him to his island lair and destroying him before the day ends will make the town, and Marcus Chandler, safe again.

THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS occasionally lapses into the kind of stuff that Young Adults would rather leave to the Juveniles. Scooter's dog Flash reacts with insight that puts him only a few notches below Scooby-Doo on the anthropomorphism scale. Mr. Shade wants Chandler back in LA so that Shade can *star in* a movie about his (un)life. And then there are the (mercifully rare) "me adult author -- you kid reader" patronizing platitudes, such as Judge Grandpa's concluding "Maybe in dealing with Mr. Shade, we learned a few things about ourselves." Of course, sometimes the larger-than-life stuff works in spite of itself. Scooter's ingenious rescue of Kristie when the bad guys (human) hold her for questioning is so cool it doesn't *matter* that it's just a little too smooth to be real.

And most of the time, the focus is on plausible and engaging teenagers' perspectives. Between trying to become a Graveyard Armadillo and nearly becoming dinner for a vampire, Scooter pursues the beginning of a romance. Chandler's passing out at a critical moment en route to Shade's island hideout, although a little too convenient for the plot, makes room for the group of teen hunters to improvise convincingly against the vampire's defenses and powers. Even bad kids Garrett Brashear, the Mochrie brothers, and the Gunns manage to be three-dimensional for their brief times onstage.

In short, the slides toward the Young part of Young Adult are in general minor and tolerable, compensated for by interesting characters and well-paced, suspenseful storytelling. The abilities of the vampire himself offer a few interesting twists (he's quite the shapeshifter), but for the most part the appeal of THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS is not in gratuitous novelty but in a few kids' determination to overcome the odds and set things right.

Sounds good to me.

The Mad Bibliographer
Cathy Krusberg

Fanged Films

Italy, 1964
Castle of Blood / Edgar Allen Poe's Castle of Blood / Castle of Terror
USA, 1963
The Death of P'town

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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