By C. Michael Forsyth
I finally got a chance to read the book Vengeance, the first novel by Robert Cruchfield. I picked up a copy after serving on a panel with the author at the Undead Con organized by the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club.
The back story here intrigued me. Crutchfield was a U.S. soldier fighting overseas during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he began reading Anne Rice’s vampire series in the base library. He was so inspired, an idea for a vampire novel of his own came to him. In a fan email to the author he mentioned what was then a vague aspiration to write. To his surprise the mistress of the macabre emailed him back within a few days and encouraged him to put his story on paper. And so he did.
The plot revolves around Jayden Endsley, a high school football coach In Las Vegas whose family is decimated by a pack of vampires. To seek revenge on the ruthless bloodsuckers, he does the unthinkable: He allows himself to be converted into a vampire so he can take the gang on. Before long, Jayden’s surviving family members join him among the ranks of the undead.
The book is fast-paced, well-written and many of the action sequences are especially vivid. The scene in which Jayden’s family is set upon by the vampire crew is genuinely horrifying. I liked the idea of an ordinary middle-class family suddenly becoming vampires. And there are touches of humor. After her conversion, Jayden’s teen daughter Katie comes out of the movie “Twilight” complaining about the corny manner in which vamps are portrayed.
My biggest complaint about the book is that after Jayden turns into a vampire, has no qualms about murdering innocent people. Nor does he think twice about converting loved ones – even his teenage daughter. This threw me for a loop because the hero’s personality appears to make the human-to-vampire transition intact.
There’s also one glaring plot flaw. The vamps target Jayden because he’s inadvertently come into possession of a book prized by their kind. Jayden, who knows the book is valuable and has it tucked away in a safe, has a chance to bargain for his family’s safety, yet inexplicably, he doesn’t do so. The vampires, likewise, could simply drop in on the Endsley household and use their mind-reading skills to get the book from Jayden. But they insist on doing things the hard way.
The book treads into controversial territory: Vampirism is linked to disciples of Jesus who consumed the Savior’s blood at the Last Supper.
This isn’t the first time an author has had Jesus mix it up with the undead. Previous writers have picked up on the similarity between elements of vampirism and the New Testament themes of blood-drinking, supernatural powers and return from the grave.
In some books, Jesus himself is a vampire, such as Shadows and Saints and The Last Days of Christ the Vampire. In other variations on the theme, Judas becomes a vampire, as in the movie “Dracula 2000,” or the soldiers who crucified the Messiah are cursed to walk the Earth forever as nosferatu. Sometimes, Jesus bats for the human team, most famously the movie “Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter,” a bizarre musical comedy about the Second Coming.
What I found a bit disconcerting in this book is how Jesus and his followers are portrayed. Hopped up on the blood of Jesus and endowed with super strength and speed, Saint Peter and other disciples take bloody revenge on those who put him to death, launching a sadistic killing spree that leaves Pontius Pilate, Herod and scores of others dead.
When Jesus returns from the grave and learns of the bloodbath, he tells Peter, “I cannot say I condone it.” You’d expect our Lord to take a firmer stance on mass slaughter! And you’d think if anything, drinking Jesus’ blood would make you more peace-loving.
Nevertheless, on the whole, I’d call it a successful and entertaining outing from a first-time author. Keep an eye out for Robert Crutchfield’s name. I have a feeling he’s just warming up.
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