Eternal Vampires

August 9, 2015

"THE NIGHT MAN COMETH”

by Tony-Paul de Vissage, 2011

 

The first half of “Night-Man” is a vampire novel spanning the centuries.  Beginning during the Plague the book then jumps to the reign of Vlad the Impaler, then the French Revolution, and Charleston in the days before the Civil War.  Then comes a bit set in the present day.  But it doesn’t stop there.

 

Overall this is a very enjoyable and innovative book, chronicling the “life” of the vampire Damian La Croix.  It does have a few technical problems, however.

 

Two thoughts come to mind when reading this book.  They frequently come to mind, when reading the works of new authors.  The first is Show them, don’t tell them.

 

Instead of having the character thinking, “All accepted it as something deserved…” show other characters expressing this sentiment, and have the hero express his disagreement.  First, it sounds more believable and second, it’s far more interesting for the reader.  People talking with each other make it a scene.  Scenes consisting of people thinking means the reader is thrust in the role of a mind-reader.  Some of us are not comfortable with that.

 

Now that’s not to say that the writing is bad.  In fact, once we get to the first exchange of dialog, the story has a definite life to it.  Lopping off the first few pages would have made a better start.The other classic (and sadly ignored) rule is, Write what you know about.  But de Vissage has done his homework.  He knows medieval France and the customs and he understands the stranglehold that the Church had on people in those days.

 

And yet, in describing the all-consuming plague that he strikes Limousin in 1249, he seems to be describing the Black Death of the next century.  Yes, there were outbreaks before, but even those ended by AD 750, and none was as pervasive as the one described in this book until the bubonic bacteria re-entered Europe in 1347-48.

 

De Vissage refers to Vlad the Impaler as a Transylvanian, but in fact he was a Wallach and invaded Transylvania in a campaign of ethnic cleansing to eradicate the Saxon population.  The term Romanian would be anachronistic.

 

Later, a chapter is labeled 1789, but in the text Damian refers to the year as 1792.  Then the following chapter begins in 1790.  A little proofreading goes a long way.  It might also help avoid sentences like “They wasn’t affected by holy water or garlic.”

 

I don’t like the modern word cock to refer to the penis.  In the Middle Ages, they called it a wick or a member or even manhood.  ‘Jail’ was commonly spelled ‘gaol’.  And the word ‘vampire’ was unknown in the English language until about 1800.  But for the most part, de Vissage has a very good command of medieval words and sentence structure.

 

The reciprocal is also true.  Stories set in the future, while no one can say how that future will turn out, should be no more like the present than stories set in the past.  Without giving away too much of the plot, de Vissage shows Damian walking through all time periods, including those yet to come.

 

In the far off future we see Damian walking down Park Avenue and going into a Starbucks and ordering a coffee.  But this occurs some 1300 years in our future!  Wouldn’t all that change?  How many company names today have been around even a hundred years?  If people still imbibe coffee in the future, might they not inject it?  Eventually in the book, civilization is wiped out by an asteroid.  Won’t we have lasers to demolish wayward asteroids??  And shouldn’t butlers be robots or holograms?  To me, the parts of the book set in the future come across as unimaginative.  Whatever else the future will be, it will be different.

 

I’m reminded of recent episodes of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor travels ten billion years into the future and humans are still using AK-47s.  Have we already achieved the height of technology?  In the far future, people would be as likely to carry an AK-47 as a flintlock musket.

 

However, there are some imaginative bits here, such as vampires being stuck outside buildings because the access programming that opens doors can not register their undead presence.  And if de Vissage loses points on the un-futuristic future he describes, he gains them on story.I love that a bloodline is shown and followed.  Geraint infects Damian, who infects Armand and Antoinette.  And Domingo de Leyanda, a Jewish vampire, has no fear of the Cross—only the Star of David and the Seal of Solomon.

 

And as the author of a trilogy about Vlad Dracula, naturally I wanted to see how Tony de Vissage’s portrayal of him compared to mine.  Overall, our interpretations are quite similar.  We both show the Impaler as cold and cruel and making bargains with supernatural forces.  I have Dracula dealing with those forces from an earlier date, but the image of a mortal Vlad the Impaler hiring Damian and his marauding legion of darkness is very cool.

 

I also love the scene where a Walachian soldier, fearing Vlad’s ire, suddenly feels his butt puckering in fear of impalement.  Despite the portrayal in so many books, movies, and artwork, Vlad never impaled anyone through the stomach or chest—instead he used the anus.  Gravity did the work from then on.  De Vissage realizes this and describes the act in loving detail.

 

Our visions of the Undead bear more differences.  His vampires do not become bats but simply sprout bat wings when the need arises.  As such, they can wear armor in battle.  My vampires (of Dracula’s line) transform fully and as such can not wear armor.  However, they can carry weapons in their claws and use them upon reverting to their natural form.  Most modern vampire tales and movies are squeamish about showing this ability.  Fortunately, we both show vampires as supernatural beings, fearing the sign of the Cross and wincing at the sound of prayers.

 

Like Anne Rice, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane J. Oliver, de Vissage emphasizes and peoples his book with mostly male vampires.  I, however, always thought the female to be the deadlier of the species.  So, although I wrote a trilogy about a King Vampire, my Dracula is surrounded by queens—just as Bram Stoker indicated.

 

I definitely recommend “The Night-Man Cometh”.  I just wish de Vissage had watched a few more episodes of Star Trek.

 

4 stars.

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