The Austin Chronicle

A Bloody Good Read This Book Sucks

October 13, 1995, Arts

by Ed Ward

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

Simon & Schuster, $23 hard If this were a Hollywood meeting, and I had to give a high-concept description of Christopher Moore's third novel, I'd say something along the lines of "Slacker meets The Vampire Lestat, with touches of Story of My Life." It would be unfair to this hilarious, popular novel, but it would get me heard. Moore has always played his horror novels and tales of the supernatural for laughs, so the idea
of a naïve, young, would-be beatnik writer falling for an upwardly-mobile young woman who just happens to have become a vampire is right up his alley.

Jody is having a bad day: her hair is messed up totally, her pantyhose has a painful rip in it, and, to top things off, on her way home from her job at a San Francisco insurance company, she gets ambushed by a vampire and passes out. When she awakes, she notices that one of her hands is burned black, she's been put into a dumpster, and someone has stuffed about $100,000 in bills into her blouse. When it turns out she's been asleep for over 24 hours, she realizes she can't hack sunlight, hence the burned hand, and retires to a motel. As for C. Thomas Flood (Tommy, as he's known to one and all), his encounter with the Emperor, a San Francisco street character, gets him a job supervising the night crew at the Marina Safeway, where they spend the time bowling with frozen turkeys, ingesting various drugs, and occasionally stocking the shelves. When Jody walks in, it's lust at first sight.

Jody needs someone to deal with daytime for her, and Tommy... well, Tommy needs to get laid. It seems like a good deal all around, especially once they realize that they genuinely like each other, although like any new couple, there are rough edges. Like dead people who keep showing up, drained of blood. Jody's not doing it, of course: She doesn't want to draw attention to herself. No, it's the vampire that created her, hanging around, making trouble. They get a big freezer to stash a bum who was dumped right outside the door of their new place. Together, they try to figure out what's what with Jody, because, as she says, "I didn't exactly get an instruction manual."

Enter Al Rivera and Nick Cavuto, S.F. cops assigned to the vampire murders that have the city worried. Rivera is a former narc, Cavuto is the stereotypical tough cop, except that he's also gay. Their first break is when a body is found near Jody and Tommy's place, with Tommy's copy of On the Road clutched in its hands. This is not exactly the best time for a lovers' spat, but these things never happen when you want them to. Tommy makes a date with a new cashier at the Safeway, and Jody goes out for revenge on the bar circuit. Her evening is a mess: The vampire finds her and taunts her, and she heads home, willing to give Tommy another chance. But an ad in a free paper she's found interests her: a support group for recovering vampires. It turns out to be useless, but she's spotted by a Chinese grad student who says he has discovered that vampirism can be reversed, and he's willing to work with her. She decides to think about it, and returns to the apartment just as the sun's coming up.

Tommy comes home from work, finds her passed out, and decides, hell, he's going to have his date with the cashier. Knowing that Jody's metabolic processes are all but shut down, he puts her in the freezer with the dead bum, figuring he'll get her out before he leaves for work. Then he, too, goes to sleep. Bad move: in walk Rivera and Cavuto with a search warrant. Tommy goes downtown for questioning. Of course, he's been at work when all of the deaths occurred, so he's off the hook, but he unburdens himself to Rivera, who suddenly realizes that the Emperor has sworn there's a vampire on the loose in the city.

From here, Bloodsucking Fiends careens down its last pages like a well-oiled machine fueled by goofballs, culminating in a showdown with the vampire at his yacht in the San Francisco Marina. Will Jody call the Chinese guy and have her condition reversed? Will the lovers live happily ever after? If only it were that easy. Suffice it to say that things keep changing course right up to the last page, and the reader leaves the novel thoroughly entertained.

Moore has a comic gift that bodes well for his becoming a household name in the odder sorts of households, and Bloodsucking Fiends, which has already been bought by Disney, looks to be his breakthrough book. The dialogue crackles, the characters are as appealing a bunch of misfits as you'll find, and there's even a hint that Rivera and Cavuto may figure in a future book, which, given their odd-couple relationship, is good news.

If Anne Rice's books seem a bit too over-the-top and claustrophobic, here's the perfect antidote. And if nothing else, it proves that being a member of Generation X can really, really suck. n

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