A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix- Feature and Review


Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the '90s about a women's book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia's life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they're more likely to discuss the FBI's recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club's meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he's a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she--and her book club--are the only people standing between the monster they've invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.



The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is a 2020 Quirk Books publication.

Dark, gross, and creepy, but wildly entertaining and fun!

The book was set in the 1990s, and features Patricia Campbell, housewife, and mother extraordinaire. She’s raising two children, cares for her live- in mother-in-law, while her husband, Carter, tries to make a name for himself as a star psychiatrist.

She’s super busy, but decides to join a book club, only to find she doesn’t have the time to read through the heavy literature she’s assigned.

After a disastrous meeting, Patricia is drawn to a different book club- one that reads trashy true-crime stories. Patricia is far more invested in these dark, lurid tales and gobbles them up with relish, along with her friends, and fellow book club members, Kitty, Maryellen, Grace, and Slick.

But when Patricia becomes the victim of a bizarre incident, that leaves her with a severed earlobe, the circumstances brings a new resident into their midst named James Harris. James is a bit of a charmer, if a bit inept, and has a condition that keeps him indoors during the daylight hours.

But for some reason, the sight of James is quite upsetting to Patricia’s MIL. At first, Patricia is stunned by this reaction, but soon realizes her MIL is holding a dark secret in the dark recesses of her mind… and somehow James is the key that will unlock the mystery.

But when Patricia realizes what is going on with their new arrival, she is met with staunch resistance- especially from the men in the community. As she tries to move past all the trauma, she realizes her children may in danger, she steps up to the plate, ready to take drastic matters to save her kids and her community…

As I have stated in years past, the horror genre is a hard sell for me these days. Instead of making myself immensely unpopular amongst fans of the genre, I will just simply say that I prefer something creepy and atmospheric over disgusting blood and gore- and that seems far and few between these days.

So, usually, when the calendar roles around towards October, I’m relegated to old classics or Stephen King books I read years ago, that may have some gross out stuff in it-but also has a plot- and a little value to the story, and I know what to expect.

I’ve been fortunate this year, in finding a few newer horror novels that fit my criteria. This book got lots of press a year or so back, and I see some valued reviewers gave it positive ratings- so I decided to give it a try.

Well, I must say, this is one of the best newer horror novels I have read in ages!! Yes, it has some passages that made me want to cover my eyes and might give someone nightmares or make some readers feel a little queasy. But those parts are in context with the lore of vampires, and horror novels in general, and to be honest, the gory bits were not as graphic as one might expect, and not at all that gratuitous, in my opinion.

What makes this book so good, is in part due to the 1990s nostalgia, which was super fun, but mostly it’s a homage to the ladies- Patricia in particular, whose character develops in depth and grit as do some of her book club cohorts.

Purists will find a fair amount of traditional vampire lore- such as the vampire requiring an invitation, etc., but it is also a wholly unique set-up.

It could easily have gone into eye-rolling cheesy camp territory- 🧀🧛‍♀️- and its format seems predisposed for such a scenario, but I thought it was very clever, indeed!

Though, it is obvious that not everyone will appreciate his style, I think Grady Hendrix gets it, really. He’s raising the bar on the horror genre, giving a respectful nod to tradition, but avoiding clichés, which could mean a wider appeal, moving to a more mainstream audience, and a long overdue touch of class.

* I liked both Book Club lists at the end. Marjorie's list did have some good selections. But, of course, Grady's suggested true crime list was of great interest, as well!



New York Times bestselling author Grady Hendrix makes up lies and sells them to people. His novels include HORRORSTÖR about a haunted IKEA, MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM, which is basically "Beaches" meets "The Exorcist", WE SOLD OUR SOULS, a heavy metal horror epic, THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES, and THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP, coming on July 13, 2021. He's also the author of PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, an award-winning history of the horror paperback boom of the Seventies and Eighties. He wrote the screenplay for, MOHAWK, a horror flick about the War of 1812, and SATANIC PANIC about a pizza delivery woman fighting rich Satanists. You can discover more ridiculous facts about him at www.gradyhendrix.com.

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