(Ballantine, $13.95, 334 pages, trade paperback; published in July 2003.)
Fat White Vampire Blues, Andrew Fox's first novel, is a relentlessly entertaining romp through New Orleans's supernaturalunderworld. It's the best vampire comedy since Christopher Moore's sardonic ode to San Francisco, the classic Bloodsucking Fiends.
In each novel, the city itself is so lovingly and vividly portrayed that it becomes a character. Fox's New Orleans admirably strays from cliché and rings with authenticity; it's inhabited by beautifully eccentric weirdos from all walks of life.
Fox, like Moore, cleverly lampoons vampire lore while taking it seriously enough to concoct a convincing and thrilling read. And both authors are merciless satirists. Fox's book, though, is entirely its own in terms of plot and characters.
Jules Duchon is a 450-pound cabdriver who harbours two secrets: he's an ex-superhero and a vampire. Jules is addicted to the fat-rich blood of New Orleans residents; he especially loves the blood of overweight black women and gets an erotic thrill watching them eat before he feeds on them. For years, he never questioned his actions.
But then the upstart vampire Malice X threatens to run him out of town if he continues to feed on black victims. And then New Orleans's underclass, including many of Jules's friends, rally to mourn the tragic murder of a well-loved homeless woman -- a victim of Jules's. For help and guidance, the confused and besieged Jules must turn to his estranged lover Maureen, the vampire stripper who turned him, and his former superhero sidekick, Doodlebug.
The result is a surprisingly inventive, moving, and complex tale that never fails to elicit a smile, even at its most brutal or at its most tender. And it has a killer ending -- the kind of powerful final punch that elevates a novel another notch or two.
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© Claude Lalumière 9 August 2003, 31 October 2003