Man and monster are in his blood…
His name is Jeremiah Fall. A soldier of fortune, he has been fighting his own war for 150 years--ever since the beast in him was born.
Desperate to restore his lost humanity, Fall crosses the sands of Egypt, discovers a lost city off the coast of France, and finally arrives at the birthplace of all mankind. Shunning daylight and feeding only when he must, he battles the monster who transformed him forever. He can share his deepest secret with no one . . . not even the beautiful woman he starts to love, the only human who grasps the mysteries of an ebony stone as old as creation itself.
Across the world, across time, Fall seeks the stone's secret. But has he found a cure for himself or unleashed a final curse on all mankind?
Read an excerpt! Check out the VIDEO and the MUSIC!
Read the FREE short story, FALL AND THE JERSEY DEVILl!
"[Jeremiah Fall] travels to the shores of Egypt, the rocky coast of Brittany, and the gates of Eden itself in a quest for understanding and redemption that will thrill fans of biblical horror and historical detail." -- Publisher's Weekly STARRED REVIEW
"A must read... a classy, fun spin on the vampire tale."-- Ryan Buell, host of A&E's Paranormal State
Dark Shadows 4-ever!
"You wanted your Josette so much, well, you shall have her-but not in the way that you would have chosen. You will never rest, Barnabas! And you will never be able to love anyone - for whoever loves you will die."
-- Angelique Bouchard, 1796
My new novel, Blood Prophecy tells of Jeremiah Fall, a puritan devoted to finding a cure for his vampirism. Like any writer, especially one confronting a topic written to death and back again, I didn’t want to simply repeat what’d come before. For some authors this means not looking too closely at anything remotely similar. I, however, am of the he who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it variety. So, I spent some time thinking about where vampires came from, how and why they worked, and more specifically how my own fascination with them began.
For me, the thickest nosferatu-root is the 1960s soap opera, Dark Shadows, subject of this little meditation. I was eight when I first glimpsed Barnabas Collins baring his fangs on a B&W TV at a friend’s house. Though my pal explained he wasn’t a total monster, I was so terrified it was a year or so before I joined the rush of kids running home to catch the latest episode.
Yes, Dark Shadows was cheaply made. Sets wobbled, actors blew their lines and the blooper reel is nearly as long as the series. It also holds, I think, a critical spot in vampire lore. Barnabas Collins, a tortured Byronic hero, owes as much to Wuthering Height’s Heathcliff as he does Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Laugh if you will, but without Barnabas, the works of Anne Rice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twilight, would not be possible.
Its writers borrowed, often intelligently, from the best horror had to offer, featuring werewolves, witches, zombies, Jekyll & Hyde, Lovecraftian cults, and ghosts a la Henry James' Turn of the Screw (also turned into a classic film, The Innocents). The first James-based episodes, featuring the mute spirit of Quentin Collins (a variation on James Quint, get it?) and his eerie theme music playing on an old Victrola, remain genuinely chilling.
The show also gave birth to two features. The first, House of Dark Shadows remains one of my favorite vampire films. The second, Night, well, we’ll never know, since it was hobbled by last minute studio-ordered cuts. As testimony to the show’s endurance, Tim Burton is currently working on a re-launch with Johnny Depp playing Barnabas.
Barnabas was always the star. About a decade before Interview with the Vampire’s Louis de Pointe du Lac, he was the first reluctant vampire. Now, the vampire tale itself, near as I can figure, began as a plague myth, a disease travelling within families. Later, it morphed, via Varney, Carmilla and, most famously, Dracula, taking on the trappings of sexual repression, and evolving into the more familiar monster.
Barnabas was different. Rather than a soulless metaphor for disease and/or sex, he had a soul, and thanks to it, whined constantly. To be fair, Count Dracula, in Stoker’s novel, expresses sadness at not having seen the sun for a real long time, and there may be other precursors, but I’m convinced that it’s in Barnabas the notion of vampire as someone trapped reaches fruition. (The idea may seem a bit alien to fans of the 21st century glitter-vamps who sort-of don’t like the bloodlust thing and still attend high school. These days, more often than not, the punishment aspect of vampirism has been diluted to the point of meaninglessness.)
One reason you gotta love old Barnabas is that, for all his reluctance, he was never a sweetheart. Both pre and post vampirism, he was controlling and abusive. “Do you think I’d ever hurt her? Do you think I’d want to hurt anyone?” he might scream while smashing his poor man-servant’s face with his silver wolfs head cane.
Scion of the wealthy Collins family, his troubles began in the late 18th century when he did the nasty with his fiancé’s maid, Angelique Bouchard. He tried to dump Angelique, but, being a witch, she turned him into a vampire and spent the next few centuries obsessively tormenting him. Me, I would have stuck with the witch. She was self-actualizing and incredibly hot.
Barnabas, not quite reluctant yet, planned to turn his betrothed, Josette, into a vampire like himself. When Angelique showed Josette what that’d be like, she killed herself, setting in motion our hero’s long-lasting obsession.
Skipping sundry details, he winds up chained in his coffin until 1967. (Though we later learn that, thru time travel, it was opened a whole bunch of times.) Does he get on with his un-life? No. Instead, out-of-the-box, the fiend finds the first of many women whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his dear, departed Josette. This never works out, btw. As the show progressed, eventually Barnabas didn’t even care if the woman looked like Josette. He was just fine finding someone he could dress up in that musty old wedding gown.
We’re all obsessed at times, but how low can you go? In one of the creepier iterations from the novel tie-ins, Barnabas adopts a child, figuring she’ll grow into his new Josette. He raises her until she’s of age, and then proposes (“Haven’t you noticed I don’t age? It’s cool, baby…”). Thankfully, the head of the family whisks the girl away. Barnabas doesn’t follow, agreeing that perhaps he’d crossed some kind of line there.
In this lovelorn sense, Barnabas neatly fulfills an essential trope of the old-style vampire – being completely, hopelessly, eternally stuck. Old school Vampires do not change. They do not progress. They do not grow, not emotionally, not spiritually. They do not let it go. They keep checking Facebook even if they have no friends. That’s because they’re dead. Static. Their hunger for blood is a clear symbolic yearning for lost life.
Nowadays vamps are often played as having the same growth-potential as humans. They’re more like misunderstood mutant superheroes, blessed with powers, plagued with weaknesses. It’s an equally interesting trope, but certainly not as monstrous.
Back to 1967 and a final twist. For Barnabas, Josette is the same as blood, but a funny thing happens. He’s offered a cure (in the film, by Dr. Julia Hoffman), a way to lift the curse. Instead of bemoaning the possibility of losing his immortality, he goes for it. He’s thrilled that he might be able to come to his Josette-of-the-week as a living man. It wouldn’t be a shadow existence anymore, an echo of life, it’d be the real thing.
The series giddily jumps shark after shark and Barnabas goes from human to vampire a few times, but his initial realization that there’s a difference between being alive and dead, seems to me a crucial moment for the vampire story itself. Varney, Carmilla, Dracula, weren’t just in hell, they were hell. They had to be destroyed. Now, we’re talking purgatory, possible escape. After all, what’s a heaven for?
Which brings me back, roundabout, to Blood Prophecy and Jeremiah Fall. In writing the book (more an action-paced thriller than this intellectual essay might imply), I tried to keep that history in mind. In part, the book harken back to the notion of vampire as plague, embodied by Jeremiah’s nemesis, Skog, but also to the Dark Shadows idea of salvation.
There is a twist, of course. Rather than a rich dude who beds the wrong woman, Jeremiah is a simple farmer, a pious Puritan. And it’s that belief system which crystallized everything about vampires I wanted to say. See, Puritans (like the ancient Gnostics) had an intense distrust of the physical world (it is the Devil’s, after all), yet knew they had to live in it.
Their rigorous quest for salvation drove them stiff and twitching to some wonderful innovations (the idea that each person had to read the Bible and discover God for themselves, the first books printed for children, for instance) as well as horrific cruelties (cutting off the ears of blasphemers, the Salem Witch Trials, to mention two).
I mean, I can just see them using that wolfs head cane on Willy for his own good.
For me, though, the big thing tying Puritanism to the tortured vampire is the fact that they were never, ever, certain they’d earned God’s favor. Being rich or successful might do it, or it might not. Good works, maybe, but is it enough? They lived in a constant state of dread, trying to guess which signs were from God, which from the Devil. For the self-aware vampire that translates to – which hunger is the true hunger? Which love real love?
Rather than a woman (though yes, there is a woman, you betcha) Jeremiah is motivated by the belief in salvation. Unlike Barnabas, his goal in death the same as it was in life. Like his Puritan forbearers, he’s never sure whether he’s doing the right thing, or being insidiously compromised, whether he’s struggling to reach heaven, or being dragged inch by inch into hell. Seemed cool to me.
And that’s the walk from Dark Shadows to Blood Prophecy. It may seem bizarre to award a cheap, goofy old soap a lofty spot, or arrogant to discuss my own humble work in such terms, but I hope it may provide some distraction, useful notions, or at least a glimpse into the mind of one crazed writer.
Thanks to Roxanne for inviting me to blog here – and thanks for reading! Now where did I put that wolfs head cane? Willy!
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