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I have never read a 'Twilight' book or seen any of the films. As an adult male this should come as no surprise because I get the impression that the phenomenon is aimed more at teenage girls and their mothers. Despite having little to no idea if the books/films are decent or not, I still have an opinion based on absolute conjecture. They seem soppy and paint vampires as lovely dovey romantic leads. Not in my world. If vampires did exist they would be the equivalent of a supernatural junkie hooked on blood rather than heroin. I ain't going near one of those blood sucking monsters. I prefer my vampire novels to have a much darker edge and perhaps teach teenage girls (and their mothers) that perhaps running in the opposite direction from a vampire is the better option than going in for a kiss.
In an alternative modern day America the vampire myth is a reality. Rather than being your common frilly neckerchiefs wearing fop, they are actually pretty rare and very brutal. The beasts are very real, but don't last too long as their rampages of bloody violence mean that they are hunted down. The leading vampire hunter in America is Special Marshall Arkeley, but he is getting old. When rumours arise of a pack of vampires, Arkeley decides to take the reliable State Trooper Caxton as a partner. Between the two of them they must hunt down a vampire family that is slaughtering people. Can they survive long enough to once more rid the US of the vampire menace?
As mentioned I am a big fan of the grungier side of supernatural fiction from the 70s exploitation style of 'The Strain' and the 'Joe Pike' books, to the self disarming comedy of Jim Butcher's 'Dresden Files'. What all these books have in common is that they paint the supernatural in a way that I believe. '13 Bullets' can be added to this excellent list as it too takes the vampire curse very seriously. There is no romance in this book; instead the vampires lure their victims using a form of hypnosis (is this were the notion of them having romantic powers comes from?) These are ugly beasts that use their raw power to tear through humans. As they grow older their thirst grows stronger; they can start small only picking victims that won't be missed, but eventually the blood lust will lead them on a killing spree.
The power that author David Wellington gives the Vampires is what makes them so compelling in '13 Bullets'. The idea that 13 snub nosed bullets may not be enough to finish one off makes them a formidable foe and genuinely a scary proposition. Wellington goes some way into reaffirming these undead as a genuine threat in terms of horror fiction and not the light hearted love trumpeters of many dark romance books of today. With a truly horrific set of creatures the book is intense as no character is safe. As a reader you are aware that at any moment either Arkeley or Caxton could be killed.
The two main characters cannot quite live up to the splendour that are the vampires in this novel. Arkeley is intentionally underdeveloped as a means of giving him some allure, whilst perhaps we learn too much about Caxton. Her home life increasingly comes into the story as the book progresses and I found this a little dull if I am honest. I was also unsure about the direction Wellington was going with the connection she had with the beasts. The book goes from being quite realistic (in terms of a book on vampires) to a novel based on ethereal beliefs.
'13 Bullets' is an impressive action novel that shows Vampires as they really would be; junkies with immense power. Wellington writes a good crime novel and throws in supernatural elements. His vivid descriptions make the violence hard to read, but compelling horror fiction. The only issue I had with the book was the fact that it begins to lose its way towards the end as the world of unreality begins to creep into the story. What was an almost believable view of vampires becomes something a little too whimsical for the nature of the story. This is still an excellent book and will satisfy any fan of hard horror.
Author: David Wellington
Price: amazon uk - £2.82 (2nd hand)