Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2007
Simon & Schuster
US First Edition Hardcover
300 Pages; $23
Publication Date: 09-19-1995
Date Reviewed: 02-26-2007
Early in his career, Christopher Moore staked out his territory. Literally. 'Bloodsucking Fiends' is a contemporary romantic comedy about vampires set in San Francisco. It's a slim novel, a fast read and very funny. Moore plays with the reality of the vampire trope in a modern, urban setting and finds lots to laugh about, even as dead bodies pile up in the back-alleys. Little did we know when this novel came out that he was also creating the underpinnings for more than a few novels to follow.
Wealth and poverty stride side by side on the steep hills and urban hinterlands of San Francisco. The homeless man who calls himself The Emperor of San Francisco knows that something's awry, and hares off with his two dogs in search of a monster. The monster strikes in the heart of the financial district, taking Jody's life and bringing her into the ranks of the undead. Tommy Flood left the Midwest to come to San Francisco and start his new life as a writer. Instead, he finds himself bowling with frozen turkeys on the midnight shift at a Safeway store. Until he meets Jody, after which his life will indeed be the stuff of novels.
Economy and comedy make excellent bedfellows in Moore's third novel, even as he is creating characters we'll encounter in later novels, including 'A Dirty Job', and his latest, 'You Suck', a direct sequel to this novel. Not that 'Bloodsucking Fiends' requires a sequel; but it's good enough to make you want one. In swift, sure strokes, Moore creates a believably supernatural San Francisco, where the man you hand a buck might be the Emperor and the cute girl on the corner looking frazzled after a hard day's work might be a vampire. Your Thanksgiving turkey made some lucky graveyard shift worker's night when he managed to get a strike using it as a bowling ball. In a world where turkeys can be bowling balls, anything is possible.
Strong characters pin down the novel. Tommy Flood is the goofy, dreaming, love-struck writer that all of us either knew or were at some point in our lives. His dreams of being a writer are likely to be derailed by both his talent and his new girlfriend Jody, who has this problem with sunlight. Moore knows how to add the perfect level of detail for each of the ancillary characters as well, from the members of Tommy's Safeway graveyard-shift stocking crew to the cops on the trail of some unusual murders to the Jody's old boyfriend, a Shit-with-a-capital-S to the darned vampire himself, slowly revealed. He works so well that you're unlikely to understand just how well until or unless you look back and try to figure out just what was so good about the novel.
The plot here is perfectly linear and pared down to the bare nubbins, but Moore's humorous approach and generous characterizations keep it from devolving into a simple chase scene. In fact, Moore uses the grittiness and the realities that would be faced by vampires in the city to evoke laughs as well as sympathy. And he's got some neat tricks up his sleeve with regards to keeping us sympathetic to all his characters. 'Bloodsucking Freaks' is a simple vampire love story with the sort of grace notes that make you forget all the skill that has gone into its creation. Moore's world of the supernatural is not all grins and chuckles. There are enough dark moments in here to make the threats seem real and the responses seem reasonable. Ultimately, however, it is the sweet, positive nature of Moore's writing that prevails. We like his characters so much that when they do die, we hope they rise again.