Werewolves and Vampires

For this review we have to get in the time machine and go back to 1980 and take a look at  Moondeath by Rick Hatula. Moondeath was Rick Hatula’s first novel and was originally released by Zebra books. From 1977 to 1994 Zebra books was a major publisher of horror novels, but as the horror boom of the 80’s died down, Zebra books died with it. So for several years you probably couldn’t find a copy of Moondeath until late 2011 when Evil Jester Press re-released Rick Hatula’s Moondeath.

Moondeath takes place in the picturesque little tourist town of Coon Falls New Hampshire and follows the story of divorced teacher Bob Wentworth. Bob is looking to make a fresh start and has just moved to town to take a job as a teacher. Bob meets an unhappily married woman named Lisa and starts a relationship and things look good for Bob.

Things change though when a car with a young man and a woman he was having an affair with,  goes off of a bridge and into the river. To the people in town it looks like an accident but the young man was married to a woman named Julie and Julie has some dark secrets. After the accident people start dying on nights when the moon is full. The local sheriff and townspeople think there is a large dog or a wolf doing the killing, but Bob believes the deaths are the work of a werewolf.

Like Julie, Bob also has a dark secret and the townspeople are not willing to believe his story. The townspeople try to hide the fact that they have a werewolf problem but the bodies keep stacking up and secrets don’t stay buried forever. There is something evil in Coon Falls and there may not be a way to stop it.

If you read Moondeath remember that it is a product of the early 80’s because the story seems a  little dated. For one thing there is a scene where a werewolf is terrorizing a man in a phone booth. Also the story reminded me a lot of the slasher movies that were so popular in the early 80’s. You have people dying off in a beautiful small town one by one and no one in town seems to worry about it, until the bodies really start to pile up.

Another thing that makes Moondeath a little dated is the lack of strong women characters. One of the villains in the story is a woman named Julie. She comes across  as slutty and very one dimensional, I think if the story focused on her more and how she feels,  it would have made the story better. The other main female character, Lisa comes across as hateable because she is married to an abusive alcoholic and does nothing about it even though she knows who her husband is cheating with.  I also didn’t like how she wouldn’t  believe what is going on in Coon Falls despite the evidence that is in front of her.

I can forgive Moondeath for having weak characters because in a lot of books and movies in the early 80’s, women were not presented as strong unlike today.  My other complaints was that the book was a little slow moving and there was a couple  unanswered questions that annoyed me.

That being said there was a quite a few things that I did like about Moondeath. Rick Hatula does a great job of using forshadowing. For instance when Bob and Lisa meet for the first time, you see Lisa playing with her wedding ring which tells you right away that this couple is going to be more then friends. Also there is a point after a fight between two boys in a high school takes place and after being beaten up, one of the boys stomps down the hallway, you know we haven’t seen the last of him. Another scene that I liked was one day when Bob is showing up at the high school he sees an ominous looking cloud passing over the school and he thinks that something evil is coming.

I  loved how Rick Hatula describes the death scenes in the book and the parts where black magic is being performed. I also thought it was a nice touch how there we’re scenes in the church where what the preacher was saying was a metaphor for what was going on in the book. Lastly, I did like all of the  male characters in the book but would have liked to have seen more from the villains point of view. All in all I did enjoy Moondeath and would recommend it to anyone who liked horror in the early 80’s.

Also recently I read a short story from Biting Dog Press called Search and Destroy by Nancy Collins. Search and Destroy follows vampire hunter Sonja Blue as she goes to investigate why homeless people are dying at an alarming rate outside a small town in Washington.

If your not familiar with Sonja Blue, she was created by Nancy Collins in 1989. Sonja has had 5 novels written about her and several short stories. Search and Destroy is the first new Sonja Blue adventure in 10 years.

Sonja was only 18 years old when she was raped and fed on by a vampire. She was left on the street to die but miraculously survived and became a living vampire.  She now spends time hunting vampires, ogres and demons. Think Buffy but more powerful, funnier and a lot scarier.

My only problem with Search and Destroy is that I wish it was longer. Despite how short the story is, Nancy Collins does a great job of creating some characters that you quickly grow to like and she gives a good commentary on what its like to be an outcast from society. This is a fast paced story with a lot of action and is very well written, but I wanted more.  Hopefully we will see more of Sonja Blue in the future.

1990’s books

The first book I want to talk about is by one of my favorite authors, Tamara Thorne. I was first introduced to Tamara through an interview on horrorworld.org. In the interview, Tamara mentioned that for easter she was planning on painting some mice to look like Easter eggs,  so her cats could enjoy the holiday also. I liked her sense of humor and ran out and bought her book Moonfall. Moonfall was written in 1996  and is centered around Sara Hawthorne and John Lawson.

Sara Hawthorne has been away from the small town of Moonfall for a long time. She was a student at Saint Gertrude’s school for girls but left town after the suicide of her best friend. She has now returned to teach at St. Gertrude’s or St Gruesome’s as the townspeople call it; but not all is well in Moonfall. There have been quite a few unusual deaths and suicides lately and some of the bodies are being found on the grounds of  the school.

Certainly the priests and nuns at the school couldn’t be involved in the murders, or could they?  The local sheriff: John Hawthorne is investigating the murders and he has experienced some tragedy at St. Gertrude’s himself. On Halloween night as a child, 24 years ago John and his friends made an after hours trip to the school to spy on the girls. No one knows for sure what happened that night, but one of the boys was found dead at the bottom of witch falls and the rest were scarred for life.  This school may not be what everyone thinks it is, and those gargoyles around the school might not be stone after all.

Its been a long time since I’ve read Moonfall but I remember thinking  it was a little like Dario Argento’s Susperia with a few laughs and some good sex scenes thrown in just to mix it up a bit. The book also has a couple of good love stories going on and I remember liking how the witch’s masses were depicted in the book. The story deals a lot with the occult and it was interesting to see how the school mixed pagan and christian beliefs without either one overpowering the other.

The next book is by another one of my favorite authors, Richard Laymon. This one is called In The Dark and was released in 1994. Jane Kerry, the city of Donnerville’s librarian lives an average uninteresting life but that all changes when she finds an envelope containing $50 dollars and instructions saying “look homeward, angel,” signed MOG, Master of Games. Soon MOG starts to give Jane tasks to complete and keeps giving her more and more money. The tasks keep getting more crazy and more dangerous and now Jane is forever changed and obsessed with the game. Will she survive or will she fall victim to Mog’s games?

Once again I read this book years ago, but I remember enjoying watching the character of Jane change through out the book from a  normal person to a tough as nails woman who will do whatever it takes to complete Mog’s tasks and get more money. I also loved how the excitement in the books builds, you never know if Mog’s games will be dangerous or just simple and easy to give Jane a false sense of security. For instance one night Jane just has to spend an evening eating dinner with a stranger while the next night she has to find a treasure in a house where a serial killer is torturing his victims.

My favorite scene in the book  managed to make me shudder and laugh at the same time. I don’t want to give it all away but at one point Jane is being chased by a female cannibal with only one leg, holding a knife and a fork  and screaming “I’ve got the hungeries.” Richard Laymon’s books are usually very hard core and definitely not for everyone.

One thing that every Richard Laymon book that I’ve read has, is a rape scene. I’ve also seen where some people have said that Laymon hates woman because there is so much violence against women in his books. I have to disagree with the people saying that Laymon is a sexist, because if you pay attention to his stories you will see that the female characters in his books are smarter, stronger, more compassionate, more resourceful and all around better characters then the men. Also the men who commit the violence against women always end up suffering much more then the women do. I also have not read a Laymon book where the main hero wasn’t a woman.

Last but not least I want to mention Midnight Blue: The Sonja Blue Collection by Nancy Collins which was released in 1995. This book is a compilation of three novels(Sunglasses After Dark, In The Blood and Paint It Black) that follow the adventures of the living vampire Sonja Blue. Sonja was only 18 years old when she was raped and fed on by a vampire. She was left on the street to die but miraculously she survived, sort of. She becomes a vampire but she never died, making her a living vampire. Now her goal is to find the vampire that changed her, kill him and get her life back.

In Sonja’s world she not only has to deal with other vampires but she also has to battle ogres, demons and religious zealots. The thing that sets Sonja apart from every other vampire character that I’ve read about, is that she is not conflicted about who she is. She is an anti-hero, she is out to kill vampires she also hurts innocent humans in the process but doesn’t feel guilty about it.

In this book Sonja has opportunities to be happy and falls in love but because she is obsessed with revenge she doesn’t get what she truly wants. The only thing I didn’t like about Sonja Blue was how it ended, but if you want to read a fun, blood soaked vampire book then check out Midnight Blue.