Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil
Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman
Trade Paper, 320 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Collaborating on a compilation is complicated; a division of labor is required and must be delineated. Compounding the issue for Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman is the vastness of the material they cover in Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil. The lengthy title is a prelude to a multi-topic overview of overlapping genres. Dealing with folklore and pop culture’s treatment of the mad, mystical, and mythological, this loosely thematic treatise deals with much more than “enemies of evil.” It discusses perpetrators and victims of menace, as well. At once scholarly and casually conversational in tone, the book is overwhelming in scope. While admirable in its effort to traverse such vast terrain (there is even a section on genre related body art,) it is all over the map in terms of range. It’s a smorgasbord of the supernatural and speculative.
The sheer volume of topics discussed in the compendium is staggering: There are methods of exorcism from around the globe; legendary heroes; comics; games and role-playing; ghost hunting tips; movies; television; literature (quotes ranging from Milton to Brian Lumley.) Awe inspiring by trying to be utterly encompassing, the tome is also notable for its philosophical musings: “And it is choice you see, that gives us an understanding of evil. Without choice evil does not exist because evil itself is a choice. Evil isn’t the action, it’s the intention behind the action.”
Given the numerous subjects described and analyzed, it is not surprising to find errors. The Night Stalker’s protagonist Carl Kolchak, for example, is in both citings spelled “Karl.” And saying that “garlic paste is lathered onto livestock” as protection against vampire attacks in “some countries including Bavaria,” reminds that Bavaria is a region rather than a country.
Replete with raconteurs such as artists, fans, and filmmakers Wanted Undead or Alive has many fun and interesting anecdotes and quotes. Baybee Bloodbath, an exotic dancer and tattoo enthusiast extraordinaire shares her body art: “I have all of the Clive Barker Cenobites on my thighs; I have dark angels and demons on my back, and werewolves and vampires biting my breasts.” Former Weird Tales editor Darrell Schweitzer reflects on that publication’s impact, and distills it to the stories that were printed in its pages: “Lovecraft’s ‘The Rats in the Walls’ (March 1924) was certainly the strongest American horror story since Poe. Like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky.”
Ultimately, the book is simultaneously entertaining and exasperating (is it necessary to have the footnote: “Arthur Conan Doyle’s London detective who appeared in numerous novels and short stories since the late 1880s” as an explanation for “investigative profilers such as Sherlock Holmes”?) Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman deserve respect and get points for ambition and tackling a wealth of material. The Horror Writers Association has honored their joint effort by nominating Undead or Alive for the 2010 Bram Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in Nonfiction.