I am drawn to write vampire novels, despite the fact that there are already so many books of this genre. Is it possible to write vampire novels better than Dracula or I Am Legend? Yet we authors insist on having our go, on having our spin on the genre. These three novels are my attempt at trying to say something new about vampires.
The three novels which I wrote were The Vampyre; A Dish Best Served Cold and Hunt The Vampyre. They are not really a direct sequel for the long-out-of-copyright Varney the Vampire. That novel is long, and, frankly, not very good. No, instead, this is more a re-imagining than anything, as it presumes that Varnae had adventures in the past, but they do not really draw on the text of that other novel.
I wanted to do a vampire series where the main vampire is vicious and has no redeeming features. Varnae is not a nice guy. He is not noble. He is not trustworthy. He is more like a serial killer, although such a term would not mean anything to Varnae. He is at the top of the food chain, and all humans are prey, when he returns to the world as a disfigured freak, after a century and a half of regeneration. I had an image of a vampire like the one played by Max Schreck in F W Murnau’s Nosferatu, rather than anything resembling Christopher Lee’s Dracula. (Max Schreck, out of interest, is German for maximum terror. I suspect that it was not the actor’s real name.)
Visualising the main protagonist is always important to me when I write. I have to have a clear picture of all of my characters in my mind. How can I describe a character if they are not already fixed in my mind?
Even after Varnae I was not finished with vampires, as I am now working on The Shades trilogy…
Extract from Varnae Book One: The Vampyre
The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock… have failed to penetrate the lead-lined casket in the tomb, the thick lead surrounded by the crumbling wood of a coffin; the coffin surrounded by the stone of a coffer, this rough granite surrounded by the secondary stone of the crypt itself. Locks within locks, and not a key to be found. No keyhole for a key to enter, anyway.
For over one hundred and fifty years this tomb has been undisturbed by the hand of man. No creature has entered the tomb, not even the smallest of spiders. There were no cobwebs hanging inside it as funerary veils. It has been silent inside the tomb. Few people have even bothered to read the name on the door, for it was the most common of names: John Smith. There was no other legend to describe who slept inside, no indication as who had been entombed within, in the year of 1847. Not even that date graced the plain stonework of the tomb. Whereas the other tombs, and some of the gravestones, had fancy scrollwork, and epigrammatic legends of people’s love for their dear departed, this rough hewn oblong had none of that.
Outside, in the cold air, the twelfth toll of the bell has just sounded. Yet the toll competed for attention with the roll of not so distant thunder. The air almost crackled with electrical energy: it had that tangy feel to it, as though a person had received a static electric shock.
The storm would break, soon. It was about to pelt it down, the proverbial cats and dogs. Two silhouettes, outlined by a sudden crash of light, stumbled across the graveyard, a shortcut betwixt pub and bed. These were no Burke and Hares, only itinerant appreciators of the hop. And, with that crash of lightning, and the thunder but a second later, they were still sober enough to realise that this cut was not short enough.
“It’s gonna piss it down.” said one to the other. He did not want to get soaked, did this old soak. All that he wanted was a kebab, and then bed. Or just bed would do. Rain was definitely not supposed to be on the menu.
“Yeah.” his erstwhile drinking companion agreed. He was a little more sober, enough to have actually felt the first unwelcome droplets of rain. He looked around, to see if there was anywhere the two of them could shelter. But there were no trees in the graveyard. And this drunken sot suspected that the dark edifice of the church would be very well locked up. They had to find some other place to shelter. Somewhere close.
The dark edifice of the tomb loomed up before them. It loomed almost darker than anything else, as though it was not merely a black silhouette, but a colour beyond the visible spectrum, something so dark that it absorbed all light, a black hole of stone. But it would be dry inside.
“Oi, John.” the less drunk of the two said, having seen the dark tomb. “We’ll try in there.”
It was starting to rain now, the thunder right overhead. Another few seconds and the water would be coming down in sheets, a veritable deluge.
The drunker of the two did not demur. He wanted to get home, to his nice, warm bed. But, even more than that, he did not want to get wet. Bed could wait a little bit, if it meant that he could get there dry, as the two of them saw out what would hopefully not be a very long storm.
“Yeah, okay.” John replied. He was so drunk that the idea of breaking into some tomb did not really bother him, as long as he was not caught. He would probably have forgotten all about it come the morning, anyway. That was what usually tended to happen, unless he took some evidence home to remind him, like some traffic cone. Or a woman sleeping beside him with no name. He preferred to wake up next to the traffic cone – at least, that way, he did not have to search his memory for a name.
They reached the tomb just as the storm broke. The water came down in sheets, but at a slight angle, so that where they were, before the door, provided them with a little protection. But all that it would take would be a slight shift in the wind and they would be soaked to the skin.
John’s drinking buddy, a normally surly individual by the name of Dave, put the boot in, kicking at the door. At first he thought that it was going to be no use. But, slowly, in response to his urgent kicking, the stone door, unopened for a century and a half, or more, began to give. A crack appeared, the smell of musty air, a taste of something old. But these two were too drunk to notice, and too sloshed to care. They wanted shelter from the rain, nothing more than that.
The boot was put in again, and the crack widened, enough for both John and Dave to squeeze through. They did not need to open the door all the way; they did not want to open it all the way, in case the wind changed and the rain started to come through.
Dave went and sat on the stone coffer, on the plain flat slab on the top, not caring that the might be some sort of mummified corpse beneath him. In fact, as he sat there, listening to the rain piss it down, he drummed his heels on the stone sides of the coffer. He wanted the rain to stop, so that he could go home.
“I need a piss.” John said, standing in one corner. He had needed to go to the loo before leaving the pub. But he had not noticed that fact, until he had started walking home. That was not the first time that such a thing had happened – why was it that he only realised such natural needs after he had gone out of the pub?
“Can’t you wait?” Dave asked. But the sound of a zip being undone suggested that his friend could not. Then there was the sound of tinkling – well, it was something other than water.
Dave carried on drumming his heels. The rain was coming down worse than ever outside. Hopefully it was nothing but some cloudburst, and would soon be over, and these two could soon go on their merry way. His heels drummed.
Thump thump; thump thump.
The noise vibrated through the stone, the first noise to do so for more than a century and a half.
The Vampyre; A Dish Best Served Cold and Hunt The Vampyre are all available as e-books on the Amazon Kindle store.