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Blood Rush in a New Vein
on January 1, 2006
That Charlie Huston is on the edge was evident in his debut, the unconventional "Caught Stealing" and its equally offbeat sequel, "Six Bad Things". In both, Huston writes with a hip and irreverent flair that is all his own, brutal tales of the seamy underbelly of life that are at the same time darkly and cynically humorous.
In "Already Dead", Huston applies his uncommon talents to a very common but wholly unexpected theme: vampires. The result could be described as the abominable offspring of a marriage of JR Tolkien and Quentin Tarrantino, a bizarre but refreshingly unique tale of the undead set in contemporary New York City. This is no Bram Stoker. Huston's vampires, or "vampyres", have neither fangs nor Transylvanian accents, and sleep in Manhattan apartments rather than coffins. Huston's ghouls are victims of the vampyre "vyrus", an infection that instills an irresistible craving for new blood, while at the same time cleansing the blood of all impurities. Thus explaining the legendary strength and immortally of the Vampire myth.
Joe Pitt is one that is "already dead", a forty-five year old New Yorker who looks twenty-five. Pitt and his ilk live, work, eat, and play among us, a virtual parallel universe of vampyre cults and clans that mirror New York's more conventional society. There is the "Coalition", the largest clan, corporate and business-like, suit-and-tie vampires ruling midtown from north of 14th Street up to Harlem. The "Society" inhabits the East Village. Progressive liberals, they are committed to diversity and the day when vampires are accepted in society - simply another minority like gays or the disabled. The "Enclave", the smallest but most feared, is a cult of extremists - a band of Zen Buddhist-like ghouls who hang out in a lower west side meat market warehouse starving themselves to an imagined spiritual passage to the another realm of blood lust depravity. And then there are biker-vampyres, homeys, Chinese and Italian vampire mobs, all controlling their own turf with varying degrees of influence and power. Filling out Huston's nightmare version of a Tolkien "Middle Earth" fantasy world are flesh eating zombies ("shamblers", or, in the politically correct jargon of the "Society", "Victims of Zombification") and a mysterious wraith. Like author Charlie Huston, Joe Pitt is ever the maverick, the rogue vamp refusing to align with any of the clans, living in Society territory while carrying out hits and dirty deeds for the highest bidder. When called upon by the Coalition's boss to help track down the runaway daughter of a Manhattan socialite, Pitt finds himself caught in the middle of warring clans of the undead while also questioning his own "life" and love choices, at least to the degree a vampyre chooses such things.
With tongue firmly in cheek, Huston spins this cleverly original yarn that is as rich in irony while every bit as raw and brutal as his first two efforts. At first the blood lust may leave the reader a bit squeamish, but you'll soon be pulling for Joe and forgetting about his rather nasty but uncontrollable habits. As evident in his other novels, the eccentric and sordid Charlie Huston isn't for everybody. But the brilliance of "Already Dead" will undoubtedly add new converts to his own growing cult of followers.