Nightblood: So Much More Than a Daymare
By Sean M. Sanford
I’ve pretty much always loved vampires. Ever since I was young enough to worry my parents about it. That’s why the core of my soul quakes with anticipation whenever I’m introduced to a sweet new vein of blood suckage. How about the story of Chris Stiles? A man who hunts devilish beings as per is dead brother’s phantasmal requests. Said brother yearns to re-discover and exact vengeance on a demonic entity who killed him while Stiles was fighting in ‘Nam. We meet Stiles as he is told by his bro-ghost to go fuck up an article of vampiric persuasion. Welcome to Nightblood.
Chris Stiles is a man with remarkable qualities. Like a big-ass van full of enough artillery to make a Bambi of Rambo. Plus, he’s not hard on the eyes. He’s been known to woo a damsel or three. Yet to the ladies’ collective chagrin, he’s got his focus tethered to one thing, and it ain’t companionship. He’s more the kind of hero who I found myself wishing would bidet a few of the stinkier assholes in this book.
Like deputy Rusty Sanders, a real piece of work who beats women and accessorizes his snakeskin boots with a wallet chain. Ugh. Or of course there’s Sebastien Danner, the classic town millionaire who was cemented captive in the basement of his estate when he started distributing a few leech-like persuasions.
It is Danner who Stiles is seeking when he goes to Isherwood, Indiana. A tiny berg where everyone knows everybody else; the perfect setting for someone to want to, oh I dunno, establish an army of blood-gorging enthusiasts. That may have been Sebastian Danner’s agenda. Little does he know, Stiles has his ticket, and it’s about to get cashed.
But first, Stiles is faced with some other trippy shit. As I alluded to, the life of a demon-hunting zealot trends toward solidarity. Love? Pshah. Friendship? Not in this afterlife. But in the town of Isherwood, Stiles is confronted with both. Turns out the people of this little town are quirky, interesting, and downright loveable. First we have Billie, a single mom who waits tables at your typical downtown soda joint. She has two young boys who are, shall we say, intrigued by exploring mythically abandoned mansions such as the one once occupied by Vamp Danners. This is the charm that binds Stiles to Billie in the first place. He sees a bit of himself in her two little rascals, even beyond any shared plasma when all three were assaulted by a common vampire.
There’s also George Bailey, the fiercely independent solo act of a man who lives up in the retirement home on the hill. He is rarely seen to speak or interact with anyone in town, and apt to rock a beard of classic dishevelment, atop his unruly garb. He is known as a lonely and somewhat forgotten old man, who’s rarely seen outside of the old folks’ chalet, and when he does come to town, it’s usually to sit in Billie’s diner and have conversations with no one besides his cup of black coffee. George is a lovable character who gains all kinds of grim depth as the story unfolds.
Like most good horror stories, Nightblood is as much about human connection as it is about vampires. We meet a man who has focused on isolating himself from the living so he can battle the dead, submerged in a cast of people who are isolated geographically, and create worlds of Earthly concerns within themselves and one another. Meanwhile there’s an unholy bloodsucker who has been imprisoned behind brick walls for years, and wants nothing more than to share his curse with everyone in town so they can all enjoy an immortal thirst for companionship. And blood. Oh, and murderous evil. Talk about an agenda.
Chris Stiles is such a grand character, full of sassy quips and an ability to stay alive in the face of a danger that surpasses most mortal reasoning. I really loved following this guy on his journey to not only kill the undead, but to remain an island in a town full of social life rafts. This story made me think of us all during this trippy Era of The Vid19. A lot of us drifting in isolation, while yearning for a connection. Any connection. Even when we know it might totally kill us and/or some of the people we love. And in some circles the only physical connection available is with aggressive troops who refuse to believe that our lives are in danger.
Vampires continue to be a fearful rendition of our inner desires, and Nightblood helps it along with more than a sprig of action movie-stylized violence. If there’s much more that can be asked for in a horror story, I’m not one to issue the request. A great read complete with a few clot twists.