Thu 5 Jul 2012
GEOFFREY CAINE – Curse of the Vampire. Diamond, paperback original; 1st printing, May 1991
If M*F is a magazine for detective mysteries only, this review certainly has no business being here. Luckily it isn’t, or at least since it’s my magazine, I can read and review what I like. (Can’t I?)
The book does feature a retired Chicago cop, however, and maybe that’s enough connection to make it legal, but Abraham Stroud’s days of retirement are not likely to be easy ones. This is only the first of many adventures to come.
This one takes place in Stroud’s home town, but according to page 183, there are “all manner of nasty creatures the world over.” The “family” of vampires in this book are only a taste of what lies ahead. (Next in the series: off to Russia and Wake of the Werewolf.)
The gimmick is vampire today is apparently to find some sort of pseudo-scientific rationale for their existence, and to create some sort of well-suited setting for this enemy of man, one in which they can find new ways to survive in an otherwise alien world.
This is all well and good, but it can backfire on them, as it does in this book. This perhaps may require a plot alert warning, but I’ll forgo it and tell you that what Stroud and friends come across is a chemical substance called succinylcholine (S-choline, for short) which is a deadly poison to the creatures.
Stroud’s demented handyman — yes, there’s one of those, too — is the only one who knows about it, but it works. (Keep the name of the chemical in mind. Who knows? It may come in handy some time.)
It wouldn’t have been difficult to have come up with a “scientific” explanation for the stuff as well — you know, essence of garlic or something — but unfortunately, the author didn’t take the chance to do so.
But the book ends with the grandest sort of cemetery shootout, a true pulp style holocaust that inflicts tremendous damage on both sides. In fact, if you are a fan of the pulps, this is as close a descendant to those old magazine stories as I’ve read in a long time. Wild imaginative story-telling is a grand old tradition to be following in, and I’m glad to see it still around today.
May 1991 (revised).
Bibliographic Notes: Geoffrey Caine was the pseudonym of Robert W. Walker, who has made a good career of writing novels in the horror/psychological suspense/thriller vein, mostly under his own name. There were only three books in this series. I don’t remember reading either of the other two, but it’s possible that I did. (Note that I no longer see the need for making excuses for posting material on this blog which is not purely detective fiction.)
The Abraham Stroud series —
Curse of the Vampire. Diamond, 1991.
Wake of the Werewolf. Diamond, 1991.
Legion of the Dead. Diamond, 1992.
Vampires, werewolves and zombies. You can’t go into a bookstore today and avoid them. Caine was obviously a man ahead of his time.