Christopher Moore,
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
(Avon, 1995; Harper, 2004)

Christopher Moore didn't just write a funny horror book.

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story is certainly fun, and funny -- ranking up there with other modern humorists like Douglas Adams, Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett. But it's also serious, and at times even poignant.

The story begins with the hasty brutality of a mysterious vampire's attack on Jody, a San Francisco office drudge whose only real definition in life is her dependence on the men she lives with in rapid succession. Her assault, murder and reawakening have the makings of any of the grim vampire novels filling the bookshelves these days, but the simple hilarity of the pre-recorded menu of emergency options after she dials 911 establishes this as something out of Moore's fiendish imagination.

Moore also punctuates the novel with appearances of the Emperor, a character obviously based on Emperor Norton I, lifted from San Francisco's colorful 19th-century history. This modern monarch is, like Norton, down on his luck financially but still diligent in his municipal duties (as he perceives them, anyway), and is accompanied by Lazarus and Bummer, two faithful canine associates.

Jody, meanwhile, makes a break from her dorky boyfriend and then, in the true style of a serial monogamist, meets C. Thomas Flood, a would-be writer, turkey bowler and newcomer to the city from Indiana. Tommy, who is being courted by five illegal Chinese immigrant brothers, soon learns that living with a vampire is preferable, if not more relaxing. Soon he is indoctrinated into the wonders of vampire sex, plus the grim reality that, no matter how good it feels below the waist, it still hurts when she bites your neck.

It's not all blood and roses, however. As Tommy angrily tells the corpse in his freezer one evening, "It's not like I came to the city saying, 'Oh, I can't wait to find a woman whose only joy in life is sucking out my bodily fluids.' Okay, well, maybe I did, but I didn't mean this."

Daily trials aside, Jody and Tommy are soon both adapting to a vampiric lifestyle, sorting out the fact and fiction of vampire lore (Stoker and Rice both have it wrong, they learn), dealing with the older vampire who killed her and now appears to be stalking her, too, and suffering through the real horror of doing late-night laundry.

Then a string of murders start dogging their heels -- murders of the drained blood sort -- and then one morning Jody fails to come home ... and then Jody's mother calls and things get really scary.

Moore has peopled the book with an excellent supporting cast, particularly the Emperor, a pair of determined Frisco cops and the Animals, Tommy's night crew at the Safeway. Of them, Simon begins as little more than comic relief among comedians, but grows into a more dramatic part of the tale.

Bloodsucking Fiends is an excellent mix of humor with genuine horror and drama. This is a novel which, once started, demands to be read to its unexpected conclusion.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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