Bite Marks: A Vampire Testament
St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade Paperback, 400 pages, $14.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
An ambitious work; is this a pejorative or complimentary comment? The word “enterprising” has a positive connotation; “challenging” sends up some red flags; “not easy” gives off negative vibes. All are synonyms for “ambitious,” and each is applicable to summarize Bite Marks: A Vampire Testament.
Terence Taylor’s debut horror novel is a crazy patchwork quilt of a book. There are so many plot threads running through the work, that zeroing in is a problem. Focus is blurred by leaps in timeframe, shifts of emphasis, and a multitude of characters’ points of view. Even a seasoned writer would have his or her hands full trying to juggle a vampiric baby who has Antichrist-like potential; a white Worm god; various vampires with vendettas; some zombies; estranged lovers who reunite to combat occult oddities; and practitioners of alchemy.
The tale begins in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1986. A young prostitute who is turned into a vampire feeds on her baby. The infant also becomes a vampire; a powerful entity locked into a mini-body. When the hooker-mother is dispatched by her maker, baby flees down the fire escape into the mean streets below. Relying on the kindness of strangers (another prostitute and her cohorts) the wee bloodsucker finds sustenance. He also is nursing one seriously malevolent grudge towards the dude who did in his mama. Lots of vampires are mad at the same guy; he’s a loose cannon who threatens their world. His cavalier kill brings attention to the secret society; it’s hard to operate a sub rosa organization when a diminutive sanguinary sucker is at large.
The urban action that takes place in the 1980s richly captures the diversity of cultures of the city. Taylor conveys a realistic melding of races and ethnicities. He unfortunately, however, feels compelled to create a vampire mythos that originates in ancient history and travels through other centuries past. The concept that vampires were responsible for The Hindenburg disaster is loopy enough to be fun, but the majority of the incorporations of yesteryears don’t play as well. Getting loads of background on the formation of the watchdog group, and intricate explanations of who sired who into the club (and why) is distracting.
In Bite Marks, Terence Taylor has bitten off a bit more than he can chew. His appreciation of horror is obvious: There is a scene where baby vamp is presented with a “toy,” that will tickle the hearts and heads of Re-Animator fans. The referencing of Bram Stoker’s The Lair of the White Worm is another token of affection for the genre. Taylor’s short stories have been published in the three Dark Dreams anthologies. It would be worthwhile to seek them out; to see how he does in that format. The constraints required of a more compact medium could show the discipline he has yet to develop as a novelist.