The week of Valentine’s Day is an ideal time for a love story. Christopher Moore’s third vampire novel, Bite Me: A Love Story, isn’t due out for another month, so this seemed an ideal time to reread Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, the first book in the series.
Although Bloodsucking Fiends, released in 1995, was preceded by Practical Demon Keeping and Coyote Blue, it was this hilarious vampire love story that began to establish the former disc jockey, waiter and grocery store shelf stocker as a cult icon, and eventual New York Times best-selling author.
Twenty-six-year-old Jody Stroud has just gotten off work at her menial job in an insurance company in San Francisco. She is dragged into an alley, bitten in the throat and forced to drink from her attacker’s arm, then drained of blood and left under a dumpster.
When Jody awakens the following night, she discovers she has the strength to toss the dumpster off her and that the hand that has been left in the sunlight is badly burned. It doesn’t take too long for her to discover that she has joined the ranks of the undead. She has a thirst for blood and she will remain exactly as she is for eternity. She will never be able to lose that last five pounds she was intending to diet away.
Nineteen-year-old Tommy Flood has left the Midwest, adopted the pen name C. Thomas Flood (the C doesn’t stand for anything, but sounds great for a writer), and nursed his dying Volvo to San Francisco where he hopes to become an author. The fact that the Volvo goes up in flames is probably a symbol for something, but you will have to decide what—then again, maybe not.
His father and his bowling buddy Harley, who must possess near papal infallibility because he recently rolled a 300 game, have convinced him that he can’t succeed as a writer in the relative comfort of Indiana:
“Finally Harley said, ‘Well, if you’re going to be a writer, you can’t stay here.’
‘Pardon?’ Tommy said.
‘You got to go to a city and starve. I don’t know a Kafka from a nuance, but I know that if you’re going to be a writer, you got to starve. You won’t be any damn good if you don’t starve.’
‘I don’t know, Harley,’ Tom Senior said, not sure he liked the idea of his skinny son starving.
‘Who bowled a three hundred last Wednesday, Tom?’
‘And I say the boy’s got to starve.’
Tom Flood looked at Tommy as if the boy were standing on the trapdoor of the gallows. ‘You sure about this writer thing, son?’
‘Can I make you a sandwich?.'”
While Tommy waits for his writing career to take off, he finds a place to live in Chinatown, bunking in a room with five illegals named Wong. Mysterious flowers are left on his bed, the first hint of budding romances.
In order to pay the rent, Tommy hires on with the night crew at a local Safeway where he proves his prowess at frozen turkey bowling (not yet a Winter Olympic sport, but not totally dissimilar to curling).
As Jody begins to get used to being a vampire, she discovers her need for a man, someone who can operate during the day, who can get her car out of the impound lot, who can find an apartment with a bedroom with no windows, in general, someone who can run errands. Her current boyfriend is a jerk who is already two-timing her. It’s time to find a Renfield.
Of course, fate, with a little help from the Emperor of San Francisco, a recurrent Moore character whom you will meet on page 1, throws Jody and Tommy together, and the sparks and the blood fly.
Before it is all over, you will learn the secret of the flowers on Tommy’s bed; find out more about the centuries-old vampire who started it all; meet a tough and gay homicide detective and his partner, who enjoy playing good cop/bad cop; get to be friends with all of the reprobates on Tommy’s night grocery crew; and learn how to bronze a snapping turtle.
If you didn’t read Bloodsucking Fiends when it was first published or in 2007 when the sequel, You Suck: A Love Story, came out, you are in for a real treat. If you have read it before, it is still as fresh and funny the second time or the third as it was the first. And give a copy to someone you care about.
Way better than flowers or chocolate on Valentine’s Day, or any time, laughter is the best gift of love.
I think it’s time to reread You Suck…another month to wait for Bite Me. That Chris Moore sure has a way with words.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books, including all but one of Christopher Moore’s novels. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.