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Love Bites

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by Philip Caveney

In case you hadn't guessed from the title, Love Bites is about vampires. In view of the plethora of other books, films and television programmes on the subject that are currently available, it needs to be good in order to stand out from the crowd. I'm not sure that it achieves that goal. On the other hand, it's not bad.

Right at the beginning, the style irritated me. It reminded me too much of the way my children talk. That ought to have been a recommendation. Telling a story in the first person gives it an immediacy and a credibility that helps make the reader accept the truth of a series of events that would otherwise seem improbable. To have, as the narrator, an adolescent, is therefore surely a good thing, bearing in mind the target audience. Unfortunately, the narrator of this book is supposed to be an adult - one Michael J Duffy, who earns his living as a "horror and fantasy consultant". On learning this, we begin to accept the resemblance to a popular TV script, the kind churned out by someone who doesn't know that "phenomenon" is singular, that Mrs Haversham is not a character in Great Expectations and that there is no such adjective as "wracked". (I should add, in fairness, that I was warned that the review copy hadn't been finally proof-read.)

This is, of course, simply a personal prejudice. All it means in practice is that, if I were ready to be converted into a regular reader of horror stories, this wouldn't be the one to do it. At least the author/narrator has enough of a sense of humour to poke fun at himself: "People only wear hats for two reasons in this country. One, if they're going bald. And two, if they think they're something special. Unfortunately, I have to confess that I fall into the latter category."

It's an easy read. After a few chapters, I found myself adapting to the speech patterns of the nerdish narrator and even starting to like him. The jokes are, perhaps, a little puerile, but that didn't stop me laughing. The horror aspect is something else. Philip Caveney's approach to the subject has every appearance of being tongue-in-cheek, until the point where Duffy's new acquaintance, journalist Kate, is found "drained of blood" in a dark alley, not far from where he left her the night before. Although the story shifts up a gear, the humour remains, and I found I couldn't get really distressed by any of the gruesome scenes that followed. Though I haven't read many horror stories or seen many horror films, they have - since the late twentieth century - acquired a reputation for being camp rather than truly frightening, and this book fits neatly into that tradition.

Duffy being the kind of incompetent loser he is, it's a wonder that he survives past the first 100 pages, but he does. Not only that, but he manages to fend off a supernatural assailant with the leg of a coffee table, proceeds to attract the admiration of a hardened female detective, and ends by well, you can probably guess. Then again, if I was looking for realism, I wouldn't have been reading a book about vampires in the first place.


ISBN 1 898030 57 X   
Published by Author Publishing Ltd, 2002
315pp, paperback       
Retail price 9.50

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Review by Deborah Fisher

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