Why television needs Damali Richards, L.A. Bank’s Bad Ass Black Vampire Slayer
by Sumiko Saulson
If someone were to ask me what horror by a black female author was most likely to wind up as a television series, I would say without a doubt, L.A. Bank’s Vampire Huntress Legend series. This extremely well-written paranormal suspense series combines elements of gritty urban fantasy and paranormal romance with outright, edge-of-your-seat, bloody, gory horror. If you like shows like Supernatural, Grimm, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Sleepy Hollow, you would probably love the Vampire Huntress Legend series, and if they made a television show out of it, you’d probably be instantly addicted.
The series revolves around Damali Richards, a young black woman whose main goal in life is to succeed as a musical artist. That’s until she discovers that she’s a Neteru, a vampire slayer, whose destiny is to defend humanity from creatures most still believe to be mythological fiction. In the first book of the series, Minion (2003), Damali is a rising star on a hip hop label with the enigmatic name Warriors of Light. Strange attacks against artists on the label and its rival, Blood Music, lead her into a mysterious web of intrigue. She learns that a group of rogue vampires are behind the attacks.
Leslie Esdaile Banks, the author behind the series, wrote it under the pen name L.A. Banks to distinguish it from her voluminous collection of primarily romance novels. The gritty tone of the Vampire Huntress series distinguishes it from those romances. However, some people may consider the series paranormal romance. Carlos Rivera, a Latino drug lord turned vampire, soon emerges as Damali’s love interest. He spends the first few novels pursuing her. While some might consider the romance central, most consider it secondary, like Buffy’s romance with Angel on the Buffy the Vampire Hunter television series. Like Buffy, Damali is clearly the star. This is her universe, and the rest of the character’s interactions center around her.
L.A. Banks died on August 2, 2011 of adrenal cancer at the relatively young age of 51. During her slightly more than half a decade on the planet, she created an impressive body of work, which includes close to fifty novels and novels, including the thirteen books in the Vampire Huntress Legend series.
The books are Minion (2003), The Awakening (2004), The Hunted (2004), The Bitten (2005), The Forbidden (2005), The Damned (trade paperback), The Forsaken (trade paperback) (2006), The Wicked (2007), The Cursed (trade paperback) (2007), The Darkness (2008), The Shadows (2008), The Thirteenth (2009), and a spin-off, The Shadow Walker: A Neteru Academy Novel (2010) . Thirteen books are quiet enough to keep any television producer busy for many seasons. She wrote all thirteen of the novels between 2003 and 2010. Fans like me were shocked to learn of her cancer diagnosis and devastated by her death shortly after. We were all expecting to see many more of these books by the marvelously talented Leslie Esdaile Banks. Although she isn’t here to see it, I think it is imperative that the world adapt her novel series for television immediately.
Some may think that the world isn’t ready for a vampire slayer series that features a twenty-something black female rapper as its star, and a thug as her Latino lover. I beg to differ. The success of supernatural television serials like The Originals and Sleepy Hollow, which feature prominent black characters, shows that the world is read for the Damali Richards Chronicles, or Neteru, or whatever they are going to call this television show when someone clever finally pitches it and gets it greenlighted.
How fascinated are people with Black Panther? How many people watch American Horror Story just so they can check out whatever characters Angela Basset and Gabourey Sidibe, are playing this season? How fast did Sleepy Hollow tank when they made it all about boring Ichabod Crane and his wife, denying that Abbie and Jenny Mills were the heart of the show? How many people would stop watching The Walking Dead if there were no Michonne? Why are there so many The Vampire Diaries Bonnie Bennett spin-off novels? It’s because strong black heroines sell.
Television desperately needs Damali. Can you see it? Empire meets The Originals. It would be legendary.
If you are reading this article and you work in Hollywood in any way, shape or form, run out and immediately pick up the Vampire Huntress Legend series. You owe it to yourself, the black community, and America to make this a thing.
About the Author: Sumiko Saulson is Sumiko Saulson is a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer, winner of the StokerCon Scholarship from Hell and 2nd Place Carry the Light Sci-Fi Short Story Award. Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She ranked 6th place in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.