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S.P. SOMTOW
Vampire Junction


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Futura, London, 1985
(price: 2.50; 362 pages)
(first published in the USA by Donning Company Publishers in 1984)

dedication: To Lydia, who accidentally gave me this title and to Thaitow who imbued in me an undying love of horror.


The blurb on the back:

The deepest evil from the past.
The darkest horror of today.
Next stop ...
Vampire Junction
Timmy Valentine is the dark side of love; a beautiful boy with hypnotic dead eyes, a shape-shifting vampire with a million dollar voice. He'll steal your heart - and have it for breakfast.
Compassion and guilt are the new dangers facing Timmy. Taunted by a nameless hunger that will not be denied; tortured by an awakening conscience his psychoanalyst dare not explore; trapped inside the body of a twelve-year-old boy: what future is there for Timmy Valentine?

'This isn't the book to give Aunt Matilda for Christmas ... should delight fans of horror fiction!' - Newsday
'Terrible things happen in this book - murders, tortures, rapes, abandonments. It's about rock music, about mass hysteria, about vampires, about horror. One comes out knowing, and caring about a panoply of new friends and acquaintances, living and dead and unalive.' - Theodore Sturgeon,
Washington Post


The vampire hasn't left Western popular culture since Dr Polidori first introduced him to the English language back in 1818, but there have been times when he's gone a bit quiet. When the Hammer revival of horror movies in the 1950s and early-60s degenerated into the camp nonsense of Lust For A Vampire and Dracula AD 1972, it seemed like the vampire was on the way out, irretrievable as a figure of terror or glamour (in the true sense) for a generation to come. The fact that he made such a rapid return is largely down to Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot, which drew heavily on Bram Stoker's novel and established that there was still some mileage to be got out of the old boy.

Then in the 1980s came Anne Rice, whose purple-prose adolescent fantasies swept all before them. Over-written, over-wrought and over here, they have sadly proved unstoppable, and in the process have obscured the two genuinely great vampire novels of the modern era: GRR Martin's Fevre Dream and this one, Vampire Junction.

The central figure in Vampire Junction is a 12-year-old boy who's actually a couple of thousand years old and who fancies he might have a go at being a pop star under the name Timmy Valentine. He's also undergoing something of an identity crisis - if he is an archetype of evil, what is his position in a world that is losing all sense of belief in good or evil? Society has abandoned the hard road of certainty and is sinking in the quicksand of relativism, and the boy Timmy doesn't quite know what to do with himself. It's certainly safer now that the crucifix doesn't terrify him anymore ('as the power of symbols crumbles, so their effect on me dwindles,' he explains), but somehow also it's less satisfying, and, in an existential panic, he calls in a representative of the modern priesthood, a psychiatrist, to explain what's happening to him.

Meanwhile a group of octogenarians are gathering in Thailand remembering their days as students at Cambridge when, as the self-styled Lords of Chaos, they dealt in second-hand Satanic rituals and scared the life out of each other. Their story intersects with Valentine's pop career, his memories and his eternal life.

This is a strong book, one of the richest, most beautiful explorations of vampirism you're likely to read. And - hugely impressive, this - it doesn't let itself down when it gets into pop music.

Recommended.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
3/5


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