Under The Fang – Edited by Robert R. McCammon

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Under The Fang is one I’ve seen on bookstore shelves many times throughout the 1980s. Its chock full of the decade’s horror stalwarts, yet somehow I never picked it up. On a trip to my favorite used bookstore, I came across it again and made sure not  to overlook it this time. Let’s see what’s between the covers:

 

The Miracle Mile – Robert McCammon

McCammon always serves up his readers platter after platter of stories with three-dimensional characters and layers of atmosphere. The Miracle Mile is no different. Survivors of the apocalypse try to find one last glimmer of joy from a favorite family vacation spot.

4 out of 5 stars
Dancing Nitely – Nancy A. Collins

After the Uprising, life as a vampire is very different. A glimpse in the life of Maldives the vampire as he goes out to the club. An entertaining look at how the undead’s world would be.

5 out of 5 stars
Stoker’s Mistress – Clint Collins

Bram Stoker thought he was writing a fictional tale about vampires. It’s a good thing for them that he didn’t know the truth.

4 out of 5 stars
Does The Blood Line Run On Time – Sidney Williams & Robert Petitt

Dugan joins the resistance after seeing the lead vampire destroy the only thing he loved in this vampire apocalypse. Absolutely loved the writing and the plot. Perfect.

5 out of 5 stars
Red Eve – Al Sarrantonio

Spoiled, loud-mouthed brats learn a new lesson…the hard way. An okay story that you could see the ending coming from a mile away.

3 out of 5 stars
We Are Dead Together – Charles DeLint

A young gypsy learns that it is better to be true to yourself then live your life as a lie. A moralistic scene rather than a complete story. Still a decent rendition.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage – Chet Williamson

Being together for all eternity has different meanings in a world ruled by vampires. Richard finds out this and what true love really means. Great story written with such eloquence by Williamson.

5 out of 5 stars
Advocates – Suzy McKee Charnas and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

What to do with a captured vampire that isn’t limited by sunlight and can feed off of other vampires as well as humans. Advocates touches on sociological questions that could possibly arise during the vampire apocalypse but then never really goes anywhere, no conclusion, nothing. Its too bad. A story with this good of writing shouldn’t end by the reading being indifferent and shrugging their shoulders before they move on to the next story.

3 out of 5 stars
Special – Richard Laymon

Falling in love with the prisoners is never a good idea in a vampire apocalypse, especially when the humans are supposed to only be around to be slaves and procreate. But, for Jim, the heart wants what the heart wants and for some reason Diane is special. A fun tale that I actually like from Laymon. The guy can flat out write when he’s not trying to be a horny 13-year-old.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Herrenrasse – J.N. Williamson

Harry is captured by the vampire that kills his family. Instead of disposing of Harry, the vampire decided to make Harry his human “pet” to keep him company. A confusing tale that tries to show Harry outwit his captor. Eh.

2.5 out of 5 stars
Duty – Ed Gorman

Keller doesn’t like his job, but someone has to do it in the vampire apocalypse. A great story where the delivery is the best part.

5 out of 5 stars
Midnight Sun – Brian Hodge

This one knocked my socks off. Think of John Carpenter’s The Thing with vampires instead of an alien.

5 out of 5 stars
A Bloodsucker – David N. Meyer III

A quick and fun little diddy about the price of fortune and fame in the vampire apocalypse.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Prodigal Son – Thomas F. Monteleone

A vampire scientist discovers a vaccine that will allow him to be exposed to sunlight. Following a successful trial of using himself as the first test subject, Vandemeer finds himself walking along the beach right before sunrise for the first time since he became a vampire. He meets a human and is surprised that his hunger doesn’t overtake him. What has this vaccine done to him? Monteleone’s solid delivery still doesn’t make up for a mediocre ending.

3 out of 5 stars
There Are No Nightclubs in East Palo Alto – Clifford V. Brooks

A group of humans are tired of being scared and suppressed by the vampires in the apocalypse. They learn to play instruments, form a band, and write songs of rebellion to try and feel less weak, less afraid. But in the apocalypse, you never know who you can trust, even yourself. A solid story with interesting characters and nice twist on the ending.

4 out of 5 stars
Juice – Lisa W. Cantrell

A bootlegger in the apocalypse finds that they have just as much to fear as the original ones did during prohibition. My first time reading Cantrell, a fairly well-known author from the eighties. Juice was creative and an engaging read. Cantrell doesn’t have an extensive catalog, but I will be grabbing what she did publish.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Behind Enemy Lines – Dan Perez

Here’s an author I’ve never heard of, but with Behind Enemy Lines, he dishes out an engrossing tale militaristic vampires versus a band of human rebels. I’m a sucker for great characters and Perez delivers.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
UNDER THE FANG is one of the best anthologies you’ll run across. There are only a couple of clunkers in the 17 offerings. There were a few authors in there that I’d heard of but had never read yet. Now I’ve got a few more writers to look for in my used book store outings. And that’s going to be your best bet to find and pick up UNDER THE FANG, since it was released in the 1980s. I recommend that you do. It’s chock full of wonderful bloodsucking tales.
OVERALL = 4.11 out of 5 stars

 

Ghost – J.N. Williamson

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Zach Doyle is pretty sure that he’s dead. He doesn’t remember dying or what might have caused it. He just knows that he’s stuck watching his wife and children go through their daily routines without being able to communicate with them. They can’t see him. They can’t hear him. Nor can they feel his touches. His hands travel right through like wisps of smoke. His family is in the process of getting on with their lives without Zach and he’s stuck in limbo. Is this purgatory? Has there been a mistake? Did someone fall asleep at the switch and forget to collect his soul or is this how it’s supposed to be? Just when Zach thinks he’ll forever be a spectator unable to communicate with the living, the movers come to collect all of Zach’s belongings and the worker and his grandson can see him. Furthermore, they aren’t frightened at seeing a ghost. Can these people help him or is he destined to wander alone through this netherworld for eternity?

Williamson’s offering is a schizophrenic tale isn’t sure what it wants to be. Somewhere amongst all of the confusion is some interesting subjects that he seems to have a hard time focusing on. The idea of this poor guy not being able to communicate with his loved ones and watching his life try to assemble a love life again is a mix of so many strong emotions – frustration, sadness, despair, loneliness, and grief. That alone makes for a horrific journey for the reader. Unfortunately, Williamson didn’t anchor his focus here. He would bounce from what Zach was going through to the ESP ability of the movers, then onto some weird sidebar of a struggle for Zach’s soul by an angel and a demon, and then delve into some esoteric rambling about what he was going through. If you could cherry pick the interesting pieces out of Ghost, it would have the backbone of 2-3 good stories. I don’t know if Williamson was going through some midlife crisis at this period in his life, but it really made the flow of the story suffer. And even thought it sounds like I’m trashing the story, I’m really not. While it may not be his greatest tale that I’ve read of his, Williamson does offer up some interesting and thought provoking points to consider. They just so happen to be stuck in the middle of this schizophrenic soup.

3 Rattling Chains in the Attic out of 5

 

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The Offspring – J.N. Williamson

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Eric and Peg live with their ex-senator grandfather in a large, old house in an Indianapolis neighborhood. Their mysteriously ill mother also lives there where she is rarely seen and holes up in her room. And then there is Lynn. Lynn is an unseen “sibling” that their grandfather rescued from the middle east to raise in their home. Eric and Peg have never seen Lynn and their dominating grandfather demands absolute quiet and solitude as he “tudors” the young genius Lynn. Tension slowly builds as anyone that questions Lynn’s existance meet an untimely death or disappearance. The two children try to piece together what is going on before they become the next victims.

The Offspring is a shadowy offering with an interesting premise and lots of Gothic atmosphere that slowly builds to what we think is going to be a big payday of an ending. No such luck. Unfortunately, the ending raises more questions than it answers and ends up being a muddled mess that doesn’t make much sense. Its really too bad because Williamson’s storytelling has always been his biggest strength. In The Offspring, it seemed he had some good ideas that attemtped to grown, but, alas, never bore fruit.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars
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The Houngan – J.N. Williamson

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A houngan is a male Voodoo priest. Van Cerf is a divorced father of a twelve-year old boy and unemployed. Van is an advertising writer who has struggled finding satisfaction in his work environment from the various employers he’s had through the years. As a result, he finds himself with bills mounting and his confidence at ever finding a job that’s fulfilling, emotionally and financially, dwindling. In a last ditch effort, Van calls upon an ex co-worker, who has taken a job with the DeSilvier Corporation, and discovers that she loves working there, but she tells him that they have so little turnover that they rarely ever are hiring. Undeterred, he drops in an attempt at securing an interview. In what seems to be a twist of fate, he’s able to meet with one of the Vice Presidents, Doyle Munro. After answering some unorthodox questions, Van is hired. He soon learns that the president of the corporation is Horace DeSilvier, a charismatic houngan that prides himself that his company has so little turnover due to their employee-friendly “family” environment. The question is, is that really why the turnover is low or is there something more sinister involved? Is voodoo the peaceful religion that DeSilvier portrays and has introduced to Van or is there more than meets the eye?

Williamson’s writing is very reminiscent of Charles L. Grant, another prolific writer from the 1980s. The Houngan is a slow burn for the first 2/3 of the story as it sets everything in place for the final 1/3. The character development is solid and you’re invested in Van’s plight as he attempts to discover what is really going on at DeSilvier. The ending is just ok. But, The Houngan is a solid read.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars