Vampires Anonymous - Jeffrey McMahan

Ladymol's Review

This story really grew on me as I read it, to the extent that it was playing in mind most of the day at work and I couldn’t wait to get home to find out what happened. And this despite a rather odd, off-putting style of writing. Basically, the plot is pretty flawless. Andrew is a vampire with a taste for the finer things of life, including pretty young men (and no one here is going to call him on that!). Before the story starts, he has attracted the notice of a young policeman, Eddie, whom he encouraged to come out of the closet. Eddie doesn’t know Andrew’s a vampire until he becomes entangled with Stephen, a half-insane ex-college boy who has seen Andrew’s true face and is obsessed with killing him.

So, our story begins with Andrew and his lover Pablo running from Eddie and Stephen. Pablo, who is never really fleshed out in the story, becomes involved with a cult called Vampires Anonymous – Vampires who try to revert to human habits and give up blood and killing. It’s all very annoying to Andrew who rather liked Pablo the way he was.

Vampires Anonymous can be taken as a spoof of groups who try to persuade gay people to renounce their way of life and “see the light”.  And there are a lot of similarities in this book between the “fun” vampires and gays and the “bad” vampires and straight people. Andrew and his ilk have all the style and attitude and live the lives they were meant to live.

There isn’t a great deal of gay sex in the novel, but it’s got pretty graphic violence. The writing style is annoying, switching between first and third person continually, but there proves to be a good reason for this and once you get it, it doesn’t seem so intrusive.

I really hope they’ll be a sequel to this book as I don’t want to leave the characters now. Lots of nice, novel ideas on vampires and a cracking story. Highly recommended.

Cerisaye's Review

At last.  A gay vampire story I loved and want to recommend most heartily.  Andrew the Benign Vampire- actually he’s not so easy going when those he loves are endangered- is a great character: funny, sarcastic, sexy, romantic, generally a nice guy, for one of the undead.

Andrew has been a vamp for 8 years. Two years earlier he met Pablo, a tall black-haired college boy, a Latino with crystal-blue eyes.  He made Pablo his companion in death, an eternal love kind of deal.  All was going well (sort of) until Steven, another college boy, developed an insane obsession with tracking Andrew- known to the media as The Sleepy Hollow Killer, a serial murderer who decapitates victims- down.  Steve has a partner in this relentless pursuit, Eddie, a handsome cop who only recently found courage to come out.  Actually Eddie owes this newfound freedom to Andrew, which leads to some pretty conflicted emotions, especially if you factor in that Eddie’s in love with the vamp even though he’s with an increasingly unbalanced Steven.

Meanwhile as though being on the run from a deranged barman wasn’t enough to contend with, Andrew has another problem. Pablo has fallen into the clutches of Vampires Anonymous (VA), an organisation dedicated to weaning the undead off the bloodlust that makes humans hate and fear them.  Pablo is the tortured kind of vampire, like Angel with his soul or Anne Rice’s Louis.  Andrew has no time for VA though he goes along to meetings to support Pablo.  He doesn’t like what he sees and hears one bit.  In fact he’s very suspicious of the whole thing and curious about the outfit’s mysterious leader and his motives.

It IS complicated; but somehow all hangs together to make an exciting story.  McMahan’s vampires are thoroughly modern creatures just trying to get along in a human-centric world either indifferent or intolerant of their existence- yes, there’s a metaphor at work here, a subtle linking of vampire & gay experience but this is lightly done and what with the 12 Step AA kind of VA programme which equates to the ex-gay movement it’s wickedly funny too!

Andrew’s initially annoying habit of referring to himself in the 3rd person actually masks self-doubt and deep insecurity- he’s a vampire, one of a reviled species, AND he’s gay, so a double burden of guilt.  VA regards vamps like Andrew as perverts which only goes to show the undead are capable of the same prejudice as men like Steven.

All Andrew wants is to live his death in campy contentment with Pablo, drinking strawberry margheritas; however, with dark forces ranged against them that’s just not going to happen.  Andrew meets a rival group of vamps with a mysterious leader of their own, but he’s not prepared to join their battle until it becomes very personal.  Andrew is a vampire with a man’s emotions and capacity for love.  He’s a survivor who kills without remorse yet out of compassion adopts a rather scary 4 year-old vampire called Ryan, abandoned by his mother to fend for himself in the city.

I read the novel in one go, thoroughly captivated- the best vampire book I’ve read in ages.  Developed from a short story in McMahan’s earlier collection SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT, it reads like the set-up for a series but there have been no more, sadly.  Vampire novels don’t come much better.  Maybe the prose isn’t as lush as Anne Rice or Poppy Z Brite but I loved Andrew and his matter-of-fact way with words- somehow it makes the whole thing more believable and fresh. He’s such a softie, an incurable romantic who needs to love and be loved.  His misadventures kept me turning pages to the end desperate to know how it all worked out, especially for Eddie the cop, struggling to come to terms with being gay, looking for a love of his own. 

It’d make a wonderful movie.  Don’t miss, especially if vampire stories are your thing.