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“A reader lives many lives,” James Harris said. “The person who doesn’t read lives but one. But if you’re happy just doing what you’re told and reading what other people think you should read, then don’t let me stop you. I just find it sad.” - From "The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires."
I finished up a book this weekend that left me eagerly heading over to Amazon and Goodreads for the book reviews, because it was such a fascinating example of storytelling. I first noticed the book, “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires,” last summer while browsing one of my favorite independent bookstores. Both the title and cover intrigued me, but I already had another book in my hand, so I put it back. Someone in my family remembered me talking about the book so I got it as a Christmas gift.
Any book about a book club is going to be an automatic draw for me, but a book club set in 1990s Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina where the women decide to be “rebels” and discuss only spooky books like true crime and suspense/thrillers? Count me in, especially when a mysterious man moves into the neighborhood who may or may not be a vampire. Yes, you read that right.
At first, I thought the protagonist, Patricia, was only mistaking new resident James Harris for a vampire. She did invite him into her home and offered to let him be the only male member of their club. This book, authored by Grady Hendrix, is described as “Steel Magnolias” meets “Dracula.” I described it as “Steel Magnolias” or “Fried Green Tomatoes” meets “Fright Night,” after that move set in the 1980s. Not only are there themes of female friendship, an exploration of race relations in the south, but there is also plenty of horror thrown in. So if you’re not up to someone’s ear being bitten off or a large band of rats attacking an elderly woman, this book may not be for you. As an avid reader of true crime, I also enjoyed reading about the characters’ discussions about famous books like “The Stranger Beside Me,” and “Helter Skelter.” The author includes an annotated true-crime reading list as bonus content at the end of the book.
But as a writer, I was fascinated by the blend of storytelling the author created. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and it made me rethink ways I could tell new stories in the future. It can be a tough sell to readers, though, based on the reviews of “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.” Some reviewers thought it was a compelling exploration of the themes, and appreciated the horror aspect. Other reviewers hated the way the male characters treated their wives and how the police didn’t care to investigate when Black children went missing or died mysteriously in the town. I believe the author set out to write a southern gothic book and succeeded with the character development and themes explored.
Have you read an interesting work (or written one?) lately that blended different genres? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and creator of the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She now knows that picking up "The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires" on a night she had insomnia may not have been a good idea.