World Book Night

I’m one of the book givers for this year’s World Book Night: I’ll be giving out copies of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let The Right One In, somewhere in Brighton.

I’ve got 24 copies, all neatly stacked up and ready to go. Each is labelled with a unique reference number, so if you get one (and this applies to any of the WBN books, anywhere in the UK) do go and register it on the website – it’s a bit like BookCrossing; the idea being to follow the books as they get passed on from one person to the next. I rather like the idea – and somehow, with vampire books, where themes are often contagion and transmission, it feels even more appropriate.

“Let The Right One In” is a vampire story, or it’s a coming-of-age story, or it’s a love story. Or it’s all three. It’s a story about abuse, and about friendship, and about fear and about freedom. It’s horrific and haunting and oddly sweet and beautiful. Whether you’ve seen one of the two recent adaptations of it, or whether you’ve never heard of it before… once you’ve read it, you’ll never forget it.

As an experiment, by the way, in one of the copies I’ve been given, I’ve hidden a quote from the classic Bela Lugosi version of “Dracula” on one of the pages. If you happen to find it, let me know what I’ve written (and which page it’s written on) either via the blog or Twitter. A quick tip: this is the book’s WBN insert page.

Look out for mini-Vlad in the corner, and you’ll know you’re in the right copy…

Happy feeding… sorry: *reading*!


To the Shock of Miss Louise

I was never much into horror when I was a kid. My best friend, Becky, and her older sister were hugely into it – they’d seen every Stephen King adaptation going by the time we were 12, and I remember reading the copy of It she’d lent me… or trying to, anyway.

I think I got as far as page 24 before I had to close the book and put it in a drawer. On the other side of the room. Under another book. And then put a cushion in front of the drawer. Just in case.

I wasn’t exactly a robust child.

The aversion to horror evaporated soon after: literally, overnight, when I saw “The Lost Boys” for the first time.

I can’t remember quite why, but we (my parents and I) were staying with my aunt & uncle overnight. The house wasn’t that big, and my parents were sleeping in the spare room, while I had the sofa in the living room. I was 13, and my aunt put a video on.

No prizes for guessing what that was.

After everyone else had gone to bed, I remember opening the living room curtains and looking out of the window at the night. My aunt’s house was opposite a large area of open ground – a sort of common-slash-playing field – and I stared straight at the dark. To this day, I have no idea what I thought (hoped? feared?) I was going to see. And yes, I do feel like an idiot every time I think back to it. But I was 13. We’re all idiots when we’re 13.

The thing about “The Lost Boys” was how immediate it felt. As a teen horror-avoider, I was vaguely aware of vampires in the sense that they lurked in mansions wearing big black capes and… stuff. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t particularly interesting, either.

But my encounter with these particular vampires coincided with my American phase. I had pictures of American landmarks stuck on the ceiling of my room, and was planning my roadtrip. Beyond that, even: I had it in my 13 year-old head that America really was the city on the hill (yes, not only was I an idiot, I was probably the only teenage girl in Wales to be obsessed by JFK). So suddenly, I was seeing vampires in a whole new way – a way that dovetailed with the stuff I did care about.

Blew. My. Mind.

I fell in love with the Frog Brothers’ comic shop; with Santa Carla’s boardwalk (my husband, all too aware of my love for the film, is convinced this is why I love Brighton’s pier as much as I do…).

I fell in love with the cave David & his boys carved for themselves, all candles and Jim Morrison posters (along with vampires, my love for The Doors was another infection that stemmed squarely from the film). I fell in love with the utter amorality and absolute freedom the Lost Boys stood for. And I was quite taken with the bikes, too.

I was completely oblivious to any subtext – there’s the usual vampire themes rattling around in there, but being a film of the 80s, and a West Coast one, there’s more than a hint of gang mythology in there (the dinner in the cave smacks of a hazing, and the attack on the Surf-Nazis on the beach is a gang initiation if ever I saw one). But that was what made it frightening – particularly so. Not because this was the first time you saw the vampires for what they were, but because you saw them through Michael’s eyes. These were his friends: the people he thought he belonged with… suddenly become truly monstrous. When you’re a teenager like I was, the idea of belonging is so important, the desire to belong so all-consuming that it made Michael’s dilemma even worse. Lose your soul or lose your friends… you’d actually have to stop and think about that, wouldn’t you?

“The Lost Boys” was my vampire gateway-drug. After that, I convinced my dad to buy me the first three of Anne Rice‘s vampire books. We were on a ferry, and the newsagent-slash-bookshop happened to have all 3 of them in the wire spinner-rack outside. I knew enough to realise that if my parents were to pick one up and really look at it, I’d never be allowed to get the rest… so I went for broke. I read them back to back through northern France. I still have those same copies, broken-spined and dog-eared and smelling of teenage rebellion.

I scoured bookshops for vampire collections (chief among them, Parragon’s 1994 edition of The Giant Book of Vampires, edited by none other than Stephen Jones… Sometimes, I wish I could go back and explain to my younger self just how amusing I find that. She wouldn’t get it: how could she?) and smuggled them into the house, under the nose of my by now disapproving mother. I watched every vampire film I could get my hands on – and even waded my way through a not-terribly-well-dubbed version of “Der Kleine Vampir“.

It wasn’t all bad: watching all those vampire films meant I eventually discovered Near Dark – which I maintain is the best vampire movie ever made. It’s better than “The Lost Boys”, I admit… but while I love it, it’s never quite managed to edge David, Marco, Paul & Dwayne out. Nothing has. In such appalling affection do I hold that film, I’ve bought it three times (once on VHS, when I wore out my aunt’s copy; and twice on DVD. It was the very first DVD I bought).

If it had been the film it was originally intended to be, complete with the tweenage, not teenage, vampires and the set-up for the sequel that never happened, “The Lost Girls”, I don’t think I could have loved it as much. Perhaps if I’d seen it at a different time, it wouldn’t have had such a hold on me – a hold that has lasted 17… 18 years thus far and shows no sign of letting up.

But these are moot points. I saw it when I saw it, and it was the film it was: noisy, snarky, silly, flashy, bloody in places and heavy on pop-culture. I’ve written about my love for it before, and a lot of what I’ve said here echoes that earlier article. I’m consistent, you have to give me that. This particular outpouring of Lost Boys love stems from two places: the wonderful article on Ghostbusters from the Guardian’s site, and Damien Walter’s piece on vampire novel, “Stainless” (as well as his referring on Twitter to “The Lost Boys” as “Probably [the] most influential vamp movie ever.”)

It certainly influenced me.

The Lost Boys: David’s Initiation

Here’s a nifty thing I came across on youtube this morning – a fan-made mash-up of “Stand By Me” and “The Lost Boys“. It’s clever, because it works on the premise that Ace from “Stand By Me” grew up (or not, as the case may be) to become David, leader of the Lost Boys.

(Some of the audio samples make this a touch NSFW, by the way. Unless you have headphones…)


Alright, so there’s a slightly wiggy bit in the middle where the films don’t quite mesh, and it does totally disregard everything we know about Ace as a character in his own right, but I like this. Actually, given the enormous crush I’ve had on David (and Ace, now I come to think about it) since I was about 13, it would be very difficult for me to actively dislike it.

In all fairness, I like most things Lost Boys-related… although while I’m sure I’ve seen the second one (The Tribe), I don’t remember a thing about it – and I still can’t decide whether this means I should give it another chance, or take this as a warning to be heeded.

Either way, this little mash-up trailer works for me: I did always wonder where David came from, and this seems as good a match for his character as any I’ve ever thought up!

Vampire Diary

It’s been a while since there were vampires round here. Too long.

I’ve been watching the first season of The Vampire Diaries, and despite my initial thoughts that it was essentially One Tree Hill-with-fangs (which, to be fair, it sort of was for the first 3 episodes) I’m almost up to the end and you know what? I’m really enjoying it.

Much of this, I suspect, is down to the character of Damon. He’s fabulous: snarky and spiky and many other things that make me intensely jealous I didn’t write him.

The show interested me enough to make me go and pick up the first two books in the series: something I hadn’t really been inclined to do before. This was less down to a crushing need to read another vampire-based YA book and more to do with my being curious how the story had fared in the adaptation process.

It’s quite surprising just how many points have changed: whole character backstories, appearances, ages, relationships… even the name of the town. The great plus that I seem to have seen, though, is the shift in focus from the high school to the town itself, involving a much wider spread of the population. I know that True Blood, for instance, has made some huge changes to the Sookie Stackhouse books as Charlaine Harris wrote them (unsurprising, given it’s Alan Ball who came up with the TV version) but these are an altogether different kettle of fish…. blood… fish blood. Whatever.

In the case of the Vampire Diaries, I can’t help but wonder now I’ve read it, how many of these decisions were taken post-Twilight. The scene in the book where the two protagonists (Elena and Stefan) meet for the first time is uncannily like the Bella-and-Edward-biology-lab scene. And Stefan certainly has his share of Edwardisms… years before Edward came along (The first in the Vampire Diaries series was published in 1991, then reissued in 2007 after Twilight appeared in 2005). The televised version of Elena is certainly a better role-model for young women than Bella: no moping, no mooching, no jumping off cliffs because her boyfriend bailed…(so far). She surrounds herself with equally strong young women, and generally comes across as a positive, empowered female character. I’m yet to be convinced by the book version, the self-proclaimed queen of the school who has never found a boy she couldn’t wind round her finger and who declares she’s going to have Stefan even if it kills them both. Umm.

Maybe the shift in focus from school to town in the TV show isn’t just about setting it apart from the “Other Vampires”, and more about opening up the audience demographic. After all: I’m 30. I did the whole school (and even college) thing back with Buffy. I don’t need to do it again. It just goes to remind me that yes, I am getting older and that no, I’m still not immortal. Oh, and yes: those teenage years in school were just as vile as I remember them.

Tell you what, though: Meyer may well be the new queen vamp, but she’s yet to come up with anyone as fun as Damon.