Thursday, August 21, 2008

PARISH DAMNED, by Lee Thomas: Swimming Vampires!

South Florida generally doesn't come to mind when the subject of gothic horror comes up--never mind the oddly placed castle in which Dracula takes residence in order to re-brain the Frankenstein monster in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, a movie I would take to the proverbial desert island. Maybe it's all that sun that most people associate with that tropical climate. However, residents here recognize a general undercurrent of weirdness to this state, as evident in some of its lore, like the bizarre Count Von Cosel of Key West, who planned on resurrecting his dead love before stealing her body for . . . let's just say nefarious and kinky practices.

The Keys likewise serve as the setting for PARISH DAMNED, a novella that plays like a version of THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, only with vampires. Written in the first person, it concerns a lonely boat captain who lives on Coral Point, a small tourist island plagued by a recurring "sickness" that comes about whenever the mysterious Graham docks his boat. While much of the island lives in denial of the reality behind the sickness, the narrator knows what really plagues them, setting the stage for gory encounters that ultimately culminate in a grisly climax at sea. Only at the end do we learn that the narrator has a personal, er, stake in the vampires that prey upon the inhabitants of the community.

The general wisdom is that vampire stories have been played out long ago, but I find that I still enjoy it when a good writer puts the old gothic tropes into play again. The Keys offer an unusual setting, and while the novella moves a bit too slowly at first, I loved the climax, where we see the "school" of vampires get to work on a boat in the open water. Overall, good bloody fun, and just the thing I needed to ride out Tropical Storm Fay. I'll be dreaming of dripping wet fanged spectres! Visit Lee Thomas' web page here.

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