By Larry E. Huddleston
Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis
At the present juncture, vampire novels are in vogue. The guy who started the whole thing was Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Hollywood got a hold of the book and went crazy, producing many different movie versions of Dracula, from Bela Lugosi’s vampy depiction to Gary Oldman’s creepy, love-starved bloodsucker.
Next up was Anne Rice, who wrote any number of bestselling vampire tales. Hollywood, forever eager to jump on the bandwagon, came on board once more. They hired Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst to make the movie go. And it was a hit.
Then along came Stephanie Myers, with her sensual, angst-ridden interpretation of the undead. Bestseller-city followed by mega-movie hits.
All that to say this. Vampires are hot stuff.
Larry Huddleston has written a vampire novel for Young Adults. It’s called Sacred Curse, and it’s the tale of Peter Reborne, who is a vampire of the old-school type, which is to say he has no redeeming qualities. The nastiest kind of vampire, unmerciful, vicious, lustful, and loving every minute of it.
The good guy in Sacred Curse is Michael Downs, who is granted eternal life by God because he “found favor in” God’s eyes. He found favor by being merciful.
As the story opens, Lisa Havenridge sets off on an ocean voyage from London to North Carolina, where she is to bury the earthly remains of her uncle, Count Peter Reborne, who, of course, is anything but dead.
All hell breaks loose on the voyage, as Reborne sucks – literally – the life out of the crew. In the end, Lisa finds herself floating on a wooden spar in the middle of the ocean. And that’s where the story takes off. The battle between Good and Evil begins. Michael Downs versus Peter Reborne.
Huddleston’s a talented writer. He knows how to build tension, and his dialogue and characterizations are deft. Yet something is missing. The story doesn’t grip the reader. It doesn’t pull the reader in and make him/her participate emotionally. At first, the reviewer couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Then, after giving it some thought, the reviewer decided it was the genre. Huddleston is simply not an accomplished interpreter of horror. He can’t communicate terror on the written page.
There’s no sense of dread or mysterious malignancy in Sacred Curse. Evil isn’t evil enough and good isn’t good enough. The spiritual element innate in the battle of Good and Evil isn’t present. Which means the battle takes place on a purely physical level. Which, in turn, means the conflict is interesting, but only in a detached kind of way.
In other words, Sacred Curse is a good book, worth reading. But it’s not as good as Huddleston’s other efforts, especially Just Beyond the Curve, which has nothing to do with vampires or curses. Huddleston is a powerful writer when he’s dealing with real people. However, when it comes to the supernatural – vampires, angels, curses, eternal life, eternal punishment – he tantalizes the reader yet cannot fulfill what he promises.
The end result is non-horrific horror.