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A Retro Read: Vampyres of Hollywood (2008)

Want some camp with your vamps?  Look no further than Vampyres of Hollywood by horror film favorite Adrienne Barbeau, and co-writer Michael Scott.  Barbeau “fronts” this novel, which makes the jacket blurb by her ex-spouse, director John Carpenter, ever so delicious: “Sexy, funny, and gory—and that’s just the first chapter.  If I’d known she could write like this, I would’ve stuck around a little longer.”  Carpenter’s snarky drollery rather echoes the tone of the book itself.  Barbeau and Scott satirically dismantle Tinseltown’s triteness.  This sardonic dissection of the movie industry is a divertissement with bite.

Scream queen Ovsanna Moore is a mover and shaker in the film business.  She is a studio head and a head vampire.  Her kind is not at all unique in Hollywood, although they have not figuratively come out of the coffin to most humans. When a serial killer targets the sanguinary cinema A-list, Ovsanna is compelled to add amateur sleuth to her résumé.  Paralleling her secret internal affairs investigation, is a formal one conducted by Beverly Hills cop Peter King.  King is a hometown guy who revels in rubbing elbows with celebrities on his beat.  His mother is a movie memorabilia junkie, who has made significant cash on eBay by selling objects in her collection.  The exchanges between mom and son are delightful; reflecting their star-struck universe.

King’s path inevitably crosses Ovsanna’s, and predictable sparks ensue.  Both characters are wise-ass smart, and keenly self-aware.  Ovsanna finds King’s wry wit appealing; it’s a quality that eludes many of her brethren: “As a rule, vampyres don’t have a lot of humor in their lives.  Hundreds of years of watching humanity suffer at its own hands tends to diminish one’s capacity for fun.  It’s hard to stay in the moment when you’ve got an overview of nearly five hundred years of religious crusades, racial genocide, and garden-variety annihilation in your recent memory—even when it’s not your genus that’s been suffering.”

The narrative gets a bit meandering when personages from Hollywood’s heyday make appearances as part of a vampire council.  The board includes Rudolph Valentino, Orson Welles, James Whale, Peter Lorre, and the silver screen’s original self-proclaimed vamp, Theda Bara.  Though initially amusing, the novelty of incorporating them into the storyline eventually wears thin.

Thomas Dunne Books published Vampyres of Hollywood in 2008, and the novel is set during that time.  Reading it now highlights how certain things have changed in almost a decade.  One of the more notable references in the book is about Bill O’Reilly and Fox News.  How ironic that very recent events have rendered that citation archaic.

Gore galore, in-jokes, and daft mythology synthesize to make this wacky book a guilty pleasure of a read.  Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott concocted a riotous romp that vivisects showbiz, while simultaneously paying a warped tribute to it.

 

About Sheila M. Merritt

Sheila Merritt wrote book reviews for Mystery Scene Magazine. For several years, she had contributed reviews, articles and conducted interviews for the Hellnotes.com newsletter. She was friends with a British ghost hunter who happened to be the author of a biography of Boris Karloff. She’s had a brief and embarrassing conversation with Christopher Lee in a department store, but also had a much more relaxing exchange with director-writer Frank Darabont at a horror convention. She became enamored of horror films and dark fiction as a child. Mother didn't approve of them. The rest, as they say, is history.

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