Pocket, $13.00, ISBN 0-7434-9666-3
Just when vampires are starting to morph into whiny, phoney crybabies with virgin fetishes and permanent erections thanks to my reading one too many vampire romances, here comes the anthology Dark Thirst, featuring mad, bad, mean vampires with nary an italicized mindspeak or soulmate whining in sight. This anthology isn’t a romance although two of the participating authors are popular romance authors. It’s instead a truly fun-packed read that will give Halloween the extra bite.
Monica Jackson starts off the party with the only comedic story, The Ultimate Diet. Vulgarly littered with NC-17 language, this naughty story deals with all two-hundred-twenty-five pounds of Keeshia getting the inspiration from her vampiress neighbor Sonia to lose weight in the most effective way possible – by becoming a vampiress! The road to being the new undead Halle Berry is fraught with uncertainties, however, especially that one huge stumbling block at the end that has me howling with laughter for fifteen minutes straight after I’ve finished the story. It’s the last sentence that did it, by the way. This story hits all the right notes with me – the author has Keeshia putting out a first-person narration in a deceptively rambling manner that manages to pack a mean punch when it comes to Ms Jackson’s trademark irreverent and sometimes too deliciously frank and blunt way with humor. Seriously, that last sentence is a killer in so many ways. I love it!
Angela C Allen’s story, Vamp Noir is next. Sheila, a vampire outcast, lives among humans and works as a representative for a member of a powerful Italian mafia. When courier boys show up dead (the money they carry is untouched, strangely enough), Sheila races against time to protect her employer’s reputation and stop the killer. This story fumbles in that the Mafia is too much like an over-the-top parody of The Godfather and Sheila’s characterization is too schizophrenic (one moment she helps people in need, then she’s all cold and ruthless).
Omar Tyree, writing as the Urban Griot, offers the memoirs of Martelli Daniel Sosa in Human Heat: The Confessions of an Addicted Vampire, where Martelli relates the story of how he, as a womanizing human, is turned into a vampire and becomes unwittingly addicted to what other vampires consider taboo: a virgin’s blood. Like “vampire memoirs” tend to be, this is a quickie erotica filled with lurid scenes of a horny old pervert seducing and killing teenaged virgin girls. Still, it’s all fun in a good-natured down and dirty way.
Linda Addison offers Whispers during Still Moments, a story too similar to Blade in the sense that a human gains powers after being infused with the blood of a vampire. In this case, Chun Zhang is accidentally turned into a human with abilities beyond normal when a vampire murders his wife and nearly killed him. Today he is a vampire hunter and his target is Adina, one of the powerful First vampires. This story is very intriguing because the author manages to create an entire new canon for her vampires in the space of her short story and I find myself wanting to read more. There’s a good chance for Chun and his vampire hunter girlfriend Nisi to get a series of their own by the end of the story. That’ll be something I’m interested to check out. Back to the story, the fast-paced scenes, the frenetic violence, and the way the author keeps the momentum rolling make this story feel complete and longer than it actually is.
Donna Hill’s The Touch is the only story I have to force myself to finish because it is too much like a silly vampire romance. The heroine Selena spends the whole story whining for love and moaning in guilt after killing yet another guy. After a while, I wish she’d go stake herself and end everybody’s misery already. I hate whiny vampires.
Kevin S Brockenbrough closes the anthology with a sucker punch in the gut with the bloody, gory, thrilling, and so-satisfying werewolf-vampire feud story The Family Business, turning an African-American suburban area into a warzone between the beasties. It starts simply enough: an enraged wife of a wife-beater, pushed to the limit when her husband shoots her son, turns to her werewolf family and asks to be granted the power to change (Mr Brockenbrough, like Ms Jackson and Ms Addison, creates a complete and new canon in his short story) so that she can really rip her husband to shreds. The husband is granted undeath by a powerful vampire who has a personal feud with the werewolves. When he returns to wreck havoc on his enemies, werewolves and vampires alike meet in a deadly showdown and bodies pile high like a barbecue that won’t end. This story is prime bloody entertainment: fast-paced, thrilling, and the villains are such monsters that I am at the edge of my seat as the entire neighborhood goes up in smoke. I can’t ask for a better way to close the anthology. This story howls at the moon and baby, it rocks!
Apart from Donna Hill’s novella, the other novellas are solid blood-soaked entertainment that never fails me in any way. While I won’t go as far as Ms Allen in her introduction when she says that this anthology will change the definition of “vampire”, I have the time of my life with Dark Thirst. When it’s so easy to turn to page one and start rereading one more time, that’s how entertaining this anthology is.