What vampire fan can resist such a title?
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is Grady Hendrix’s fifth book in the horror tradition. He’s also a screenwriter and has a slew of articles to his name. Fans of vampires and Southern fiction will rejoice that he’s turned his attention to the vampire.
In his preface, Hendrix writes about how he didn’t appreciate his Mom and the amount of work she did when he was a kid. As an adult, he’s come to realize that she was anything but lame. Being a horror writer, he’s honoring his mother by pitting her against Dracula. Certainly the best premise for a vampire novel that I’ve heard in ages. The result is a fabulous contribution to the long line of vampire novels that Bram Stoker kicked off in 1897 with Dracula.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires begins with a group of women in an exclusive historic neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1990s. They’ve started a book group to better themselves and will read Great Works of Literature. Not surprisingly, no one reads the assigned Great Work of Literature. In fact, some members turn to reading true crime books.
Patricia Campbell plays the roll of Hendrix’s Mom. She gave up her career as a nurse to marry a doctor and stay at home to raise the kids. She and her workaholic husband have two teenagers, a girl and a boy. Now that the kids are older, Patricia is feeling rather useless. When her mother-in-law has an odd reaction to the new neighbor, everyone chalks it up to Grandma Mary’s dementia. Except for Patricia. Are the true crime books getting to her or is something going on in the neighborhood?
The publisher is promoting the book as Steel Magnolias meets Dracula. The novel starts out like a delightfully humorous Southern novel in the tradition of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and then it gets dark. And then darker.
The most effective horror novels offer insightful social commentary, and Hendrix deftly uses sexism and racism to show how discrimination benefits not only certain groups of humans but vampires as well. Vampires always know how to prey upon the weak.
Reader beware: this is serious Southern-fried horror that includes some gore. There are intensely suspenseful scenes and humorous moments that help break the tension. This is a vampire novel with an evil villain that also has a lot of heart and soul. I highly recommend it.
Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: April 7, 2020
Source: Review copy via Edelweiss