This week I had a chance to read a short story by an up and coming independent horror writer, Jeremiah Coe, and I have to say that he didn't disappoint the vampire lover in me. Having found him on FaceBook I already knew he was a hardcore Twit-light hater, so I went into Vampire's Retribution with high hopes. In this short story Jeremiah Coe makes a great effort to steer fans back to the things that make vampires vampires and away from stuff that makes them sparkle. Coe gives us his own unique ideas on the vampire condition and does his best to take you into the gritty little towns of post Civil War America in 32 pages.
The story opens with gambler turned card dealer Carl Tamell being unceremoniously being tossed off the Southern Queen by a pair of thugs under the orders of the boat's owner, Walter Uptoll, as the captain idly lets it happen, because Carl and the house have been having a bad night at the Black Jack table. Of course from the word go this story spoke to Me, hearkening back to My days as a cage banker at the St. Joe Frontier Casino. Carl makes it to dry land, despite getting his head nailed on the dock on his way into the water. He makes his way to the next town wet and broke, and immediately starts looking for a job with no more luck than he was having at the Black Jack table. Then, just when he thought his day couldn't get any worse, he is attacked by a vampire while falling to sleep in a back alley.
The Vampire Gaius show Carl mercy when he begs for his life, so he helps Carl turn instead of bleeding him dry and letting him die. Afterward the two begin a several day's ride to one of Gaius's refuges, and along the way Gaius teaches Carl some of the ways and history of the vampire. Once settled in the refuge house, however, Carl is overcome with the need to take revenge on the people who have cost him his old life and to ensure that they never do the same to anyone else. Despite Gaius's doubts that he is ready to face the world on his own he lets Carl ride out in search of his vengeance.
Overall I give Vampire's Retribution Four Stars because as well written, and as entertaining as it is, it is not without a few flaws. The story's pacing is excellent almost all the way through, however Carl's need for revenge seems to come fairly suddenly and unannounced, especially considering the amount of time the story spends detailing the two vampires' journey to reach Gaius's refuge. Plus Coe uses a few concepts just a little out of sync when you consider that the story is a period piece, set 5 years after the American Civil War. Coe introduces an interesting take on where zombies come from as well, although the old term ghoul would have been more appropriate for the period. Nit-pickers will point out that "millions" was not as common as a concept as it is today, and vampires themselves where not as well known at that time, despite the fact that Carl seems to understand much about them. America only has one folk tale that mirrors incidents from the time of the European "Vampire Craze". Vampires themselves really didn't enter popular culture in America (and worldwide) until after the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was published in 1897, 27 years after the setting of this story. Le Fanu's Carmilla would be published a year after this story takes place. That is not to say that Carl Tamell would not have been familiar with Padori's The Vampyre or Rymer's Varney The Vampire, but again the more defined notion of the modern vampire, their powers and weaknesses does come from Dracula.
Anyway, I'm sure that most readers will enjoy this story and will not be bothered by those little details, just as I did. As for Carl Tramell and Gaius I'm hooked and would love to see more of their adventures, or even better, see this story turn into a fully flushed out novel. I look forward to greater things from Coe in the future and so should you.
Vampire's Retribution is available for eReaders and PC download:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vampires-Retribution-ebook/dp/B004XQWLWC
Amazon Germany: https://www.amazon.de/Vampires-Retribution-ebook/dp/B004XQWLWC
Be sure to check out a great story from one of the new voices of horror.