Fangs ain’t what they used to be … Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the 1931 film version
“Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and work only at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes,” writes Stephen King in the introduction to his move into original comic book writing, American Vampire. “What should they be? Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red. Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.”
King has clearly got a bit of a thing against the waves of romantically inclined vampires that have been proving so popular in recent years – in the past, he’s hit out particularly at Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and the yearning teen romance that fills them. "Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good," he said last year.
If you could see my bookshelves, most of which include a King novel (only possibly outnumbered by my husband’s Terry Pratchetts – we were having a count-off the other night), you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I concur. I’ve read American Vampire (it’s out next month) and it’s great – a fresh take on the vampire myth, producing a particularly American version which isn’t bothered by sunlight, sports rattlesnake fangs, and kicks the arse out of its tired European creators. “It’s all about giving back the teeth that the current ‘sweetie-vamp’ craze has, by and large, stolen from the bloodsuckers. It’s about making them scary again,” writes King. “Skinner Sweet [his American vamp] really sucks, and man, that’s a good thing.”
It certainly is. And I’m also a big fan of Barlow, the magnificently creepy vampire of King’s Salem’s Lot. More recently I adored, as I’ve said, the “viral” vampires of Justin Cronin’s The Passage, deadly lost souls that they are, was won over by the gore of Eli in Let the Right One In, and charmed by the ridiculous Wampyr of Simon R Green’s Deathstalker world. All scary, all tough, not a dewy eye to be seen. Kevin Jackson provided us with a splendid top 10 of vampire novels here, but where else would you send bloodthirsty readers (well, me) in search of a scare?