Friday, June 10, 2016
Top Ten Vampires of Book and Screen with Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
We’ve been immersed in the world of the undead for so long now, we’re growing a bit allergic to the sun ourselves (or victims of polymorphic light eruption, as the undead might call it). A top ten list of the most notable vampires on film and screen is a dangerous undertaking because: one, it requires leaving off hundreds of candidates; and two, we’re suddenly confronted with all of our favorite movies and books and have to fight the urge to re-read and re-watch them. Right now. Instead of finishing this blog post.
Before we give in to that urge, we’d like to share our top ten list. But first, a note: we’re defining vampires not in the narrow sense of undead creatures of the night who sleep in coffins and need blood to live, but rather, we expand that definition to include beings who feed on the life force of others.
With that in mind, the best of the worst:
1. Dracula, of course. Specifically, Bram Stoker’s version (1897), which helped spawn the genre. We’re crazy about the original, especially because there was a cowboy in it. Quincey Morris, from the wild west of America (Texas, actually), delivered the fatal wound to the bad Count courtesy of a Bowie knife. We liked Gary Oldman the best of all the various actors who have played Dracula.
2. Lord Ruthven, from Polidori’s Vampyre, arguably the first published tale of the undead. It’s a little dated now (from 1819) but still worth it; at the very least, watch Gothic (from 1986) which is about the fevered night Polidori came up with the idea and Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein.
3. Lothos, from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1982), because: Rutger Hauer.
4. Eli, from Let the Right One In (2008), one of the best vampire movies all time. Such a beautiful, creepy film that conveys such grown up angst, ennui, dread and carnage, and all from the vantage of children.
5. The Girl, from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). A black and white movie about an Iranian vampire that feels like a Spaghetti Western and tugs the heart like the best kind of romance, this — naturally — is our favorite vampire movie of all time. The scene of her on her skateboard, abaya billowing behind her, is unforgettable.
6. The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson (remember, we loosened the definition boundaries a little), a crazy book about alien parasites that have been lurking in the deepest layers of human consciousness, feeding on human life force, for hundreds of years. It was published in 1967, and still stands out as a creepy masterpiece.
7. Miriam Blaylock, from The Hunger (1983). This movie has three things going for it: A great, creepy plot, Catherine Deneuve AND David Bowie. Susan Sarandon rocks too, of course.
8. Carmilla, from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly (1872) collection. It’s a quietly disturbing, genre defining work with not so subtle lesbian undertones.
9. Frank Underwood, from House of Cards (2013). Clearly, Frank Underwood is sustained by the life force of those he crushes. He may not have fangs, but he sure has claws. The only vampire, it seems, who has the power to challenge him is Claire Underwood.
10. Elita, from The Cowboy the Vampire Collection. Elita has it all: she’s beautiful, seductive, powerful, vicious and funny — the most irreverent revenant in the history of the undead. She’s been around for thousands of years, changing allegiances when it suits her, clawing her way through the powerful and the blood-rich alike and leaving behind a trail of smiling corpses.
Here’s an excerpt from The Last Sunset, released June 9, 2016, our latest book in which Elita tries to comfort her friend and queen of the undead world, Lizzie:
Back in the room, with Elita and a human minder, Lizzie stretched out on the bed and motioned for Elita to join her.
“It’s like we’re having a sleepover,” Elita said, crawling onto the bed beside her.
“He is an infuriating man,” Lizzie said. She felt like crying.
“I could have told you that three years ago,” Elita said. “I knew the first time I tried to kill him there was something special about Tucker.”
“You’re not helping much here,” Lizzie said.
“Oh, was I supposed to help?” Elita asked. “Okay, um, how about it’s better to have loved and lost than to kill a many-splendored thing?”
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Lizzie said.
“How about, if you love something, set it on fire.”
Lizzie nudged her with her elbow and laughed. “Terrible. Pathetic.”
“I’m not very good at this,” Elita said. “I don’t really understand what you’re doing. I mean, I’m a vampire, I love a good scheme, but you’re making yourself miserable in the process. That’s far outside of my realm of expertise.”
“I’ve explained it a hundred times to you,” Lizzie said.
“And yet it still doesn’t make any sense,” Elita said.
“I just want to keep him safe. Is that so bad?”
“No, but I’m pretty sure you’re the one who once told me that love means taking a risk. Otherwise it’s not love. You’re treating him like a pet, not a human—even though, strictly speaking, it’s all relative to me.”
“You’re just supposed to tell me I’m right,” Lizzie said.
“Sorry, my queen,” Elita said, draping her arm over Lizzie protectively. “Every decision you make is perfect in its absolute rightness.”
Of course, Elita isn’t the only powerful vampire in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection. To learn more about the series and all four books, check out www.cowboyandvampire.com.
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About the books:
First published in 1999, The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection is a genre mash-up that helped blaze the trail leading to a re-imagining of the vampire metaphor for a modern audience, contributing to the resulting undead pop-cultural explosion. Witty, sexy and authentically western, the four books deftly navigate the darkest sides of human nature while celebrating the power of love; it's been called everything from a campy cult horror classic to a trailblazer in its own new genre: Western Gothic.
Connect with the authors:
· @cowboyvamp (twitter)
· @cowboyvampire (instragram)
The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset
The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Genre: Horror, Western, PNR
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Date of Publication: June 9, 2016
Number of pages: 357
Word Count: 83,000
Cover Artist: Aaron Perkins
The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset is the fourth book in award-winning The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, a series called everything from cult classic to trailblazer in a new genre: Western Gothic.
Take one long, last look at LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. It’s been two years since the vampires quit the quirky little town and things are mostly back to normal — broken dreams and never enough whiskey. But that’s about to go to hell.
Hold on tight for a midnight showdown when a psychotic religious order takes the entire town hostage — including Tucker's long-lost brother — to lure Lizzie from her frozen exile in Russia. The mad monks know Lizzie’s murder will strand the ruling vampire elite in a disembodied afterlife so the cult can impose their twisted beliefs on the living and undead alike. It’s a rip-roarin’ stampede as a cowboy and a vampire try to round up the shattered pieces of their unusual romance.
With the fate of the world on the line yet again, can Tucker and Lizzie put aside their broken hearts to face one last sunset together?
Slap leather or reach for the sky.
This is the fourth book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.
The first few months were anguish. But then she threw herself into bringing order to her inherited chaos. If she was to run this vampire shit show, she would run it right. And she had, intensely, ruthlessly, for the first year.
Now, everyone knew the rules, knew the consequences for breaking the coda, and—if grudgingly—understood the wisdom behind the annual allocation. She kept her word, showing no favoritism. Nine turns picked by the Council, followed by one pick for Lizzie, with nine nights of rest. By the end of the first year, a fragile trust in her leadership was established.
By the beginning of the second year of her self-imposed exile, as the intensity of the work began to wane, she realized something had shifted. The full weight of her future lodged permanently, sadly, in her soul.
Rurik, forever circling like a handsome vulture, sensed the change.
“Finally, you admit to yourself he is not coming for you,” Rurik said.
“I knew he wouldn’t come,” Lizzie said, more sharply than intended.
“I’m not the one who requires persuading on this point,” Rurik said. “But no matter the reason, I am pleased. Stop working so hard. Amuse yourself with the privileges and pleasures your position affords. You can have anything you want, with no punishment.”
“From the society you once valued, or from yourself,” Rurik said. “You are free from guilt, free of all constraints, free to act upon your desires and to assume the glorious existence that awaits only your assent.”
Rurik felt something akin to compassion as he watched Lizzie struggle to control her emotions, mistaking liberation for captivity. He was right in one sense, though; she was coming to the same realization all vampires faced at some point in their long, undead existence, even those whose turning was consensual: there was no going back.
Yes, Lizzie thought, defiantly, as the first year passed into the second. If she was no longer ever to be a human, she might as well have fun. Why the hell not? She submerged herself into her passions and found that although not exactly fulfilling, it was diverting, covering her nightly routines with a shroud of hedonistic numbness that prevented any feelings at all—other than immediate pleasure—from surfacing.
She would never admit it, ever, but Rurik was right on another point. She had waited. She had hoped he would come for her, but why would he? She made it clear by breaking his heart that they would never be together. That he believed her ruse broke her heart.
Such a sad and dusty little tragedy, she thought, clutching the railing. A shadow by the lake’s edge caught her eye—Rurik, out with his dogs.
He felt her gaze and looked up, taking in her nude body and letting his senses wash over it, the closest—it seemed—he would come to possessing her, at least for the time being.
She could feel his heart stuttering, but held her own body in perfect check until he averted his eyes and continued his walk.
Lizzie once again considered whether it was time to move. Rurik’s home was spacious and lonely and safe and remote, and while he had been a good host to her, he enjoyed the power of proximity over the other tribes, and she understood he was motivated by a hope of his own.
“It is inevitable that you and I come together,” he once told her. “You have known this since we first met in that godforsaken American outpost.”
“Nothing is inevitable,” she said. Thwarting his passions had become a habit.
She wondered if Rurik ever missed the man he had once been, the brilliant military strategist who helped turn back the crusaders all those many years ago in a battle for Russia’s soul. “Ironic that you lost your soul in the process,” she said aloud and in his direction.
Her private cell phone buzzed on the bedside table. Lizzie padded back into the room, the wolfhound in tow.
Elita. She picked up the phone.
“My queen,” Elita said, managing to sound both sarcastic and reverential. Was there a difference, Lizzie wondered?
“My loyal subject, my lovely maid-in-waiting,” Lizzie replied. In all this madness, Elita was her only certainty.
“Whatever that means,” Elita said. “How’s the frozen tundra treating you?”
“Still frozen. Have you wrestled the American Royals and the Reptiles into peaceful coexistence?”
“We’re making progress, one corpse at a time.”
“When will you visit?” Lizzie asked.
“I’m on my way now,” Elita said.
Lizzie paused. That was not a good sign. “That’s a welcome, but unexpected surprise.”
“What I must tell you may not be so welcome.”
“Tell me now,” Lizzie said.
“I’ll save the details until I can tell you face to face, but in brief, I’ve heard rumblings, screaming really, that you have a new enemy.”
“Why would that concern me?”
“Keep your guard up until I arrive.”
“My guard is never down,” Lizzie said, breaking the connection.”
About the Authors:
Between the two of them, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have worked in writing jobs ranging from cowboy-poet to energy journalist to restaurant reviewer to university press officer. After they met, their writing career took center stage when they wrote the first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection as a test for marriage. They passed. Clark and Kathleen now live in Portland, Oregon.