I love vampires. Don’t everyone faint at once, haha! Since I was about two, I have been obsessed with the creatures, but the stories can become monotonous, or take away the horror element.
That being said, I want to thank Malena PR for sending me David Dean’s novel The Thirteenth Child. It is not a vampire novel of modern years (the monster can’t even be called a vampire, per se), but something from a truly unique mind. I haven’t read about an undead creature so innovative since Darren Shan’s creatures in his Cirque Du Freak series.
The Native Americans in New England called him the “snow boy” in in the 1700′s. He’d come in late fall and hunt their children as they would hunt deer. After a few children were found wandering aimlessly in the cemetery, they were executed as vampires, but they didn’t know that the cause of their children appearing like that would remain among them for more than 300 years…
Preston Howard is a drunken, disgraced professor who has only his beloved books and his daughter to keep him sane. Sometimes, when he is too drunk to walk, he sleeps in a shack in the woods. It is there that he encounters a strange boy who is older than time. He is who killed a child who had been missing for seven years, and who kidnapped three kids in a week this year.
But who would believe a sane man, let alone a drunk, who tells the police this kind of story?
Can Cheif Nick Catesby solve these inexplicable crimes when all signs point to the perp being preston…and Nick is in live with Preston’s daughter, Fanny?
I am not speaking as a reviewer but as a fan when I say that this novel is a joy for longtime vampire fans to read especially of they want something that brings a whole new atmosphere to the creatures), and fans who might be new to the genre as well. It is not overly frightening, but has an eerie vibe that climbs steadily as the book goes on to a climatic end.You will find a little Jonathan Harker in Nick, and I can’t forget to mention the priest, Father Gregory, who was a bigger part in this than he seemed to be in the beginning. I enjoyed the way that the Catholic Church is portrayed here, as victims and as a sanctuary, rather than the popular opinion of making them either jokes or villains.
Great storytelling, a unique view, many interesting characters and a story that takes horror and crime genres to a new level is a must read for anyone and everyone!
“The Horror! The Horror!”
When the renegade and terrifying Kurtz, of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” utters the famous words I’ve borrowed as a title to this piece, we are left pondering his true meaning. Is he speaking of the unpredictable nature of the world, the sudden and bewildering twists and turns that transform us against our will? Or is he, instead, bewailing the weak nature of man, that despite his best intentions, is so easily warped and corrupted, reveling in evil for its own sake, exalting his own black heart while sinking ever lower into the pit? Though his classic tale of slavery, madness, and power is a far cry from the traditional horror story, Conrad has crystalized for us the existential horror that haunts us all, as well as having utilized a literary convention that very many horror stories contain regardless of the setting, time, or place—the seduction of terror.
In that granddaddy of horror literature, “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley’s optimistic hero discovers (with all best intentions) the secret to creating life from death. A young scientist born to a world at the cusp of the industrial age, an age of enlightenment and science, he is unable to resist following his intellect to its logical goal—a new, and therefore, better man—Prometheus unbound!
Of course, everyone remotely interested in the horror genre knows what follows. Even if you’ve not read the book, you can hardly have escaped the numerous retellings in both literature and film. Poor Frankenstein unleashes a monster that preys not so much on the greater world as on Frankenstein himself. And in the end, after having lost his reputation, wife, and home, he pursues the shambling horror to the vast Artic reaches where he also sacrifices his life to rid the world, and himself, of his creation.
In that other touchstone of horror, “Dracula,” we find that it is the supernatural being at the heart of the novel that provides the seduction. Though the title character is anything but attractive in Bram Stoker’s description of him, he nonetheless exercises a fascination on all that he encounters. The hapless Jonathan Harker falls into his clutches through a financial arrangement brought on, in part, by his own desire for advancement within his firm—the seduction of success and money. Later, the beautiful heiress, Lucy Westenra, succumbs to what one senses is a far more carnal desire during Dracula’s secret visits to her bedchambers. Even the lunatic, Renfield, responds to Dracula’s siren call, with its promise of overwhelming power and terror for all those opposed to his will, and by implication, all those that would confine and restrain Renfield—vengeance and justification!
And yet what temptations do the protagonists of today’s horror literature and film scene face? Confronted by hordes of decomposing corpses intent only on making a meal of them, and not much else in the way of conversation happening, what, other than fleeing, would they be tempted by? The same thing poor Robert Neville, Richard Matheson’s hapless hero of his ground-breaking sci-fi novel, “I Am Legend,” faces day after lonely day—the temptation to cease the endless, and soul-crushing, fight against these creatures that were once his fellow human beings, and simply join them.
Of course, in Matheson’s classic tale from the 1950’s, the threat was a world populated by vampires, not zombies, but vampires entirely unlike the intelligent, and actively malevolent, Dracula. These horrors were once neighbors, family, and friends, now somehow resurrected by the same mysterious plague that has killed them; resurrected and sent forth in a restless nightly search for the blood of any left living; failing that they turn on the weak amongst themselves.
George Romero’s seminal zombie film, “The Night of the Living Dead,” owes much to the first film version of Matheson’s novel titled “The Last Man on Earth,” a movie that still remains the best of the three films made of it, in my opinion. Romero’s contribution was to turn the shamblers in the darkness into gory, rotting, cannibals, more suited perhaps to an age in which savage serial killers were edging their way into the public’s awareness and nightmares.
Their staying power suggests they continue to occupy a psychic niche. In the current era of terrorism and suicide bombers, zombies are not such a far cry from the hordes of fanatics willing to stagger into the midst of shopping malls and village bazaars in order to slaughter perfectly innocent men, women, and even children, though it cost them their own lives—that’s a truly ravenous appetite for blood and flesh.
Another temptation that the living dead and their ilk provide is to respond in kind, trading violence for violence, blow for bloody blow; a downwardly spiraling cycle that risks one of the greatest horrors—becoming that which you fear and loathe the most—a killing machine much like your entrails-eating enemies. Yet to acquiesce is to become one of them—to join their ranks. The balance between maintaining one’s humanity, while at the same time surviving the maelstrom, becomes the ultimate challenge, and a metaphor for man’s brief and brutal time on this earth.
In my own book, “The Thirteenth Child,” which Kelly was kind enough to review, the horror of temptation is also a theme. In this case, Preston Howard, a former professor of English literature and now the arrogant, if intellectual, town drunk, is tempted by the creature he has chanced upon in the autumn woods of Wessex Township. “Gabriel,” as he has dubbed him, is neither zombie, supernatural, or man-created, but a product of millions of years of evolution—a predatory counter-point to man himself. The last of a line of hominids that have shadowed man since his earliest days, preying on him and snatching his children. Just human-looking enough to pass for man in the dim light of dusk, he is able to close and strike; he is the source of dozens of legends and myths around the world, a hundred fairy tales. He is the troll under the bridge, the brownie who snatches the baby, the pied piper of Hamlin; Rumpelstiltskin. He is the reality of that faint ancestral memory shared by peoples and cultures around the world—a shadowy figure at the edge of the campfire that, at first, we mistake for one of us.
Gabriel possesses no supernatural powers—he cannot fly, change shape, or walk through walls. He is, however, uniquely adapted to his purpose—his own continued existence and survival at the expense of man.
Preston’s greatest desire is to redeem his broken, shattered status within the community by revealing, and “owning,” the mystery and revelation that is Gabriel. As in most horror stories, this is not to be; Gabriel has his own plans, and exposure is certainly not one them. Though he lacks the more developed reasoning of a fully human being, he senses Preston’s weakness very keenly and uses his pride to blind him to Gabriel’s own plans for the children of Wessex Township.
It is only after a heart-wrenching encounter with Gabriel’s handiwork that Preston is able to slough off the blinders he has placed on himself, and begin to rediscover his own humanity, an epiphany shared by most of us at one time or another, though hopefully, under less horrific conditions.
1.When did you decide to become a writer?
Writing found me—I was thirty-four and taking a mandatory arts appreciation class at a local community college (I was trying to get a degree in criminal justice). As our final, each student had to come up with some kind of artistic endeavor. I had always been a great reader, and thought, “I know…I’ll write a short story!” So I did. Not surprisingly, it was about a young patrolman in a race to apprehend an increasingly violent (but as yet unidentified) burglar. My professor liked it and recommended I submit it for publication, which I did. Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine published it and I caught writing fever.
2.What authors influenced you growing up? What authors do you enjoy today?
My earliest influences were Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and Edgar Allan Poe. I couldn’t get enough. Later, I would discover H.P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, Flannery O’Connor, Ruth Rendell, and Graham Greene. It was their writing, as well as that of many, many others, that got me to reading in the first place. Without that I would never have progressed to writing. Some authors I like today are Cormac McCarthy, Madison Smart Bell, and Robert Ghiradi.
3.You were a former policeman, and that influenced The Thirteenth Child. Will you continue to use your past as a theme in future books?
Yes, though not, strictly speaking, in an autobiographical sense. I’ve been around a while, done a lot of things, and been a lot places. Like most writers, I write what I know.
4.You were featured in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Readers Award. Can you tell the readers about the story that won you the award and how it felt to be the recipient of it?
I’ll answer the second question first—it felt GREAT! The story was called, “Ibrahim’s Eyes,” and concerned a survivor of the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983. Currently a clerk at a convenience store, we follow his preparations for a confrontation with some particularly murderous robbers who specialize in leaving no witnesses alive. At the same time, we flash back to his tour of duty in Lebanon leading up to, and following, the bombing that cost 241 marines their lives.
5.Will you continue to publish your stories in EQMM?
So long as the editor will buy them. I have a pretty good track record with EQMM, which I hope to continue.
6.What are some of the anthologies your work has been featured in (to give readers more to enjoy from your mind)?
“A Salesman’s Tale” in The Deadliest Games published by Carroll and Graf 1993; also in The Haunted Hour published by Berkley Mystery 1995. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” in Law And Order, published by Berkley Mystery 1997. “Falling Boy” was in Supernatural Sleuths, published by ROC Fiction 1996. “Whistle” in Mystery-The Best Of 2001, published by ibooks 2002. “The Vengeance Of Kali” in The Interrogator (a collection) Cemetery Dance Publications 2013, and “Tomorrow’s Dead” (Nominated for Edgar and Derringer Awards) in The Detective Megapack: 30 Modern and Classic Tales of Mystery and Detection by Wildside Press.
7.What was the inspiration behind The Thirteenth Child?
The idea began as a short story I wrote (never published) that featured a child vampire. That story got me to thinking long and hard about the whole body of literature, from “Dracula” to “I Am Legend.” Then one day it just hit me—how about a vampire that is in no way supernatural, but at the same time not human? Once I fleshed out that concept, the novel began to write itself.
8.Why did you make Gabriel unlike most popular vampires? Why stray from the path?
It was such a worn path, and I was particularly put off by the current crop of glam-pires, for lack of a better term. They’re less frightening than Tinker Bell having a melt-down. Horror fans deserved better. On the http://thethirteenthchild.com/ site I go into a lot of detail regarding Gabriel’s history and background for those who might be interested.
9.Will readers get to enjoy any more stories featuring characters from The Thirteenth Child?
At the moment, I have no plans for that, though I have toyed with the idea of a prequel to TTC—Gabriel’s long history lays a lot of foundation. Father Gregory Savartha has actually already appeared in a number of mystery/suspense stories, though this is his first outing in a horror setting.
10. You set the story where you live, in New Jersey. Was it your familiarity with the area or something else that made you choose it as your setting?
Familiarity, certainly, but it is also uniquely suited as both the region’s history and geography serve the story well for atmosphere and background. If any of the readers are curious about what, to some, may appear as a peculiar location for the story, let me suggest my blog “Gabriel Land” at http://thethirteenthchild.com/. You may be surprised by what you learn about South Jersey.
11. Were any characters based on real people?
Only Father Gregory comes close. He is loosely based on a Catholic priest that I know, like, and respect very much. Nick Catesby, the police chief, is nothing like me—he’s too tall and good-looking, though I am smarter—I created him, after all, not the other way round.
12. The Catholic Church plays a part in the story. What does the Faith mean to you or is it a symbol/metaphor for something else in the story?
I am a Catholic and it plays a large role in my life, but the inclusion of the Father Gregory character was in order to provide a counter-point to Preston Howard and Gabriel. Preston is so intensely self-centered and arrogant that he is, at first, unable to see the real menace that Gabriel presents to the children of Wessex Township. He can only view him in terms of a discovery that will vault him back into prominence; vindicate him against his detractors. Without fully understanding what Preston is referring to, Father Gregory warns him, nonetheless, of the soul-threatening perils of pride and vanity; the importance of man’s role as protector of the weak and vulnerable.
13. Would you like to see The Thirteenth Child made into a movie? If yes, who would you like to play your characters?
Of course, but I have no idea who to cast. I do know that I don’t want Tom Cruise in the movie…or anywhere near my couch.
14. Do you have any new books in the works? If yes, can you please give us some insights to them?
Tumblar Press is publishing my novel, “The Purple Robe” [my review of that will be out in late December--KSR] next year. It concerns a young, and rather inept, Mexican priest who finds himself unwillingly assigned to investigate a cult in the Yucatan jungle. The ancient woman who heads this group claims she is in possession of a sacred relic capable of miracles. Even as the priest investigates, an American couple and a shady police captain are also trying to get their hands on it.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I’ll try. One: I’ve been married for thirty-five years which surprises me. I think it surprises my wife even more. Two: I was once a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Now I don’t even like to climb a ladder to clean the gutters. Three: I was a high school drop-out. Hopefully this will be a surprise to those who have read TTC (my greatest fear is that it won’t). I did get a GED, however, and a few years of college under my belt later. My advice—stay in school, kids!
Find David Dean online via:
Find Malena PR at:
Official site (has all social media links)