It seems only logical that an astute vampire would haunt battlefields where wounded soldiers would provide easy pickings, yet few authors have capitalized on this obvious scenario.
My first experience with this idea was Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s illustrated Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (2007), a Gothic supernatural tale beginning in WWI.
“In the thick of the night, only a madman would attempt to cross the ravaged No Man’s Land that separates [Captain Henry Baltimore’s] battalion from the Hessians.” Yet, war is filled with mad actions and Baltimore leads his men out of the trenches and through the barbed wire, where they are mowed down by German machine guns. Baltimore, wounded in the leg he would eventually lose, is the only one who survives.
As the Captain wakes he thinks he is dreaming when he sees black bird-like beings feeding on the dead. He lashes out with a bayonet slashing the face of the vampire who comes to drink his blood. Baltimore devotes the rest of his life to destroying the being who has desecrated his men. But, for the vampire, the Captain, like Hans Christian Andersen’s tin soldiers, is a toy, a distraction from the boredom of his centuries of existence. And what ensues is a plague of the undead that spreads across Europe and destroys everyone the wounded soldier holds dear.
Told in a series of flashbacks by Baltimore’s only friends and introduced by quotes from Andersen’s somber story, Mignola and Golden use grotesque supernatural phenomena as metaphors for the horrors of war, all culminating in a violent crescendo.
For me this was as close to an original vampire novel as I have come across in years.
This spring Robert Masello starts his Blood and Ice with a similar conceit that takes place in a more famous battle from an earlier time.
A lieutenant barely survives the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. Lying wounded and unable to move among his dead comrades, he is bitten by a vampiric being and turns into a living vampire himself. His fiancé, a nurse working with Florence Nightingale, finds him in a field hospital, but the nurse is dying from a battlefield epidemic, and the lieutenant’s bite saves, or curses, her.
The two book passage on a ship across the Atlantic, but storms take the ship farther and farther south. The sailors discover that the pair have been drinking blood from wine bottles, and thinking they have cursed the ship, they toss the unfortunate lovers overboard. Then the real story starts. And Masello, an accomplished television writer, turns from Gothic to thriller style.
In the present day photojournalist Michael Wilde needs to get away after a climbing accident has put the woman he loves into a terminal coma. Thus he agrees to an assignment for an ecological journal to photograph the climate changes in Antarctica. Almost immediately he finds the couple frozen in the ice. When he and his cronies thaw them out, folks start to die with their throats torn out.
But Wilde falls for the nurse, a reluctant vampire, and he works with a brilliant scientist who may be able to find an antidote for the virus that has caused her condition. Naturally, the lieutenant, unwilling to give up his woman or his vampire’s powers, gets jealous. And storms near the South Pole make things even more difficult.
Although the premise is pretty far-fetched, Blood and Ice is a fast and fun adventure, the best Charge of the Light Brigade vampire in 21st century Antarctica book I have read recently.