Author and poet Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. “I’d never read anything like it. It was terrifying – but so exciting … that’s when I realised I liked to be scared,” she admits.
Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.
I first discovered Sam via Myspace sometime back in 2006. I think it was from a link on one of my favorite writers, Warren Ellis’ Page.
@ the time she was still working on her first book, which was eventually published in Jan. 2007. She lives in England, but I had the pleasure of meeting her in person in 2008, when she came to America to attend a Dr. Who/Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention. This was the first convention I’d ever been to, and I had great time getting to know her and her boyfriend David J. Howe who is a writer/editor for Telos Publishing. If all goes according to plan, I should get to see them again, @ the same convention, next month.
Her initial books are part of a planned trilogy, the “Vampire Gene” series. Two have been published, and she is currently writing the 3rd. I thought I would give a quick review of each.
Note: Both books contain descriptions of violence and strong sexual content. Not intended for children.
KILLING KISS is the first book, and in it we are introduced to Jay, who, @ first blush, appears to be just another young college student, attending Manchester University. But we soon learn that he is much more than that.
He is Gabriele Caccini, a 400-year old vampire, who has come to this school to stalk his latest prey. We learn of his background, as a young Opera prodigy, transformed into a vampire by a mysterious woman named Lucrezia, he now travels the world, looking for new victims, changing identities every few years to avoid suspicion.
From various flashbacks throughout the book, we learn of his initial transformation into a vampire and discovering the limits of his abilities, and trying to come to terms with his new “life.” To the point now where he is, essentially, living as a serial killer. He only “feeds” once a year. He spends the intervening year selecting and stalking his prey, preparing for the big night. He even keeps a lock of hair from each of his victims, as a trophy.
@ the university he has chosen a student named Carolyn, who fits his “type,” a thin brunette. Yet he finds himself inexplicably attracted to Lilly, a voluptuous blonde, who is the opposite of what he normally prefers. Yet, as hard as he tries to focus on his preselected target, he keeps being drawn to Lilly. And, after an unplanned drug-induced night of passion, neither Gabriele or Lilly’s “lives” will ever be the same.
There are several interesting twists in this story, which I won’t spoil here. But I will say that it keeps you hooked from the beginning. I finished this book in a few days. Sam has a strong talent for painting pictures with her words, so that you can really “see” the scene, as you’re reading it. When Gabriele is remembering the night that Lucrezia turned him (during sex, of course) and he describes how cold her naked body felt against his (or when her fangs punctured his groin!), I could imagine exactly what that felt like. There’s also another scene, which I can’t give away too much, but it is Gabriele alone in a room with a corpse, and I almost felt claustrophobic as I read it.
Next is FUTILE FLAME, released last year.
First, let me say that this book follows the classic horror sequel formula, in that it takes things from the first book and kicks it up a notch. The eroticism and violence is amplified in this book. And that’s definitely a plus, for me. This book has it all, sibling incest, lesbianism, male on male rape, and people getting their hearts ripped out of their chests.
Gabriele and Lilly feature prominently in this book, it opens with the two of them on the hunt for a new victim, but it is primarily Lucrezia’s story, as we learn her background through flashbacks. The daughter of Pope Alexander VI, in 16th century Rome, she begins a consensual sexual relationship with her older brother Ceasare, which eventually turns into an ugly abusive relationship which spans years (even centuries). It is Ceasare who ended up dabbling in the Black Arts and first transformed his sister into a vampire.
We then read about Lucrezia’s various adventures through the years, as she comes to terms with her transformation, and assumes different roles in society, from rich man’s wife, to prostitute, to doctor.
In the present, Gabriele and Lilly find themselves being stalked by a mysterious force, that Gabriele thinks might be connected to Lucrezia somehow. He tracks her down, initially hiding this fact from Lilly, to learn more about her.
Much like the first book, Sam’s descriptive writing helps draw you into the scene, which occasionally has it’s drawbacks. When reading about one particular passionate lovemaking session, I had to remind myself that this happening between a brother & sister, so, y’know, don’t get excited.
Also, this book kept me hooked. I actually had it for several months, but didn’t get around to reading it, due to a backlog of Star Trek books that I was reading, for awhile. But when I finally started, it was just like the first one, in that I breezed through it in a few days. Or I should say I breezed through most of it in the few days, until I got nearer to the end.
That brings me to the one major criticism of this book, in that it takes a rather dramatic turn, in my opinion, during the final chapters. Again, I can’t spoil it, but there is a fantasy element introduced that seems to come a bit out of left field. It’s not bad, necessarily, it just changes the tone of the book a little, in a really unexpected way. Though, on the plus side, I can say that I had an idea of where the book was going, and what the direction of the 3rd book would be but, thanks to this added element, all of my preconceived notions are shattered. And that’s a good thing, right?
Another thing I’d point out is that, this book very much feels like “the middle of a trilogy,” it’s like Empire Strikes Back. Killing Kiss stands on it’s own, as a complete book (if you ignore the epilogue), but Futile Flame really ends with a definite feeling of, this story isn’t done yet, and you know you need to read one more book afterward and, with the prominence of Gabriele & Lilly in it, I think some previous knowledge is required, and I think it’s best if you have read Killing Kiss first.
So go ahead and get both books, and read them, so you’ll be all caught up by the time DEMON DANCE (the finale) comes out!
Sam Stone’s books can be purchased directly from her publisher @ http://www.murkydepths.com/ (click on “Murky Shop” and then “Paperbacks”), also through Amazon and other major bookstores.