The second and third most-common phrases people google which direct them to me here at Sweet are, respectively, “What should I read after Joe Hill?” and “What should I read after NOS4A2?”* If you’re one of those googlin’ folks rather than a regular Sweet Reader, welcome to Sweet with Fall and Fish; take a moment to breath in that crisp, lakeside fall air. Second, pick up a copy of Christopher Buehlman’s The Lesser Dead.
Since Bram Stoker gave us the modern incarnation of the vampire with Dracula in 1897, there have been fifty-two kajillion vampire novels, movies, and TV series. In this era of Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, and Twilight, it’s hard to remember that vampires are supposed to be horrifying. Remember ‘Salem’s Lot? Damn, that was some scary shit. It’s also coming up on forty years old, and while there have been plenty of cool vampire stories in those forty years, few – if any – leave you afraid to get out of bed at night to use the bathroom.
Christopher Buehlman’s The Lesser Dead scared me. Coming from someone who watched Halloween in the theater when he was six years old and read Christine when he was eleven, that’s saying something. More impressive, The Lesser Dead does what an author is supposed to do when tackling a tired genre – it makes the reader see it fresh.
Joey Peacock’s restless, rapid-fire narrative makes the perfect guide to Buehlman’s world; we think we’re just being entertained by his dark charm when really, he’s teaching us about vampires. It’s a deft trick to pull off, and Buehlman succeeds because he knows his character down to the bone.
Unfolding in chapters so strong and contained they read like short stories, Peacock takes us through the subways and sewers of 1970s New York City, and through his own mortal life at the turn of the century. He presents us with grotesque tableaus, black humor, and fun cultural references of the time. Somehow it all hangs together, with the mystery of the children vampires and the charm of Joey Peacock to pull the reader forward. Soon your cool vampire story starts to get really damn creepy. Then you realize that Buehlman hasn’t been telling you a story, he’s been strapping you in. And once you’re good and tight, the book blasts off. The Gotta kicks in hard, and you’ll be burning through the pages to see how it all ends.
The beauty of all this goes beyond just one good book, it’s in finding a new voice. Beuhlman hasn’t had his breakout yet but his cult following has just increased by one. Thankfully, I’ve got some catching up to do.