The Vampire Files by P. N. Elrod

Review by Chris Redmond

Volume one and volume two of The Vampire Files by P. N. Elrod, neither of them absolutely enormous by the standards of fiction these days, together add up to six novels: Bloodlist, Lifeblood, Bloodcircle, Art in the Blood, Fire in the Blood, and Blood on the Water. At least, they purport to be six separate novels, and have been individually published. In reality, they make a consecutive narrative and would be best read that way.

The narrator is one Jack Fleming, who, just as the first episode opens, is being killed as collateral damage in a Chicago gang war, circa 1937. However, he finds himself not dead but undead; as the result of an earlier involvement with a female vampire in New York, the lost love of his life, he retains his body, his personality, and his memories, and can walk the streets of Chicago by night, invulnerable to anything much except wooden projectiles, as long as he rests on a little of his home earth (it comes from someplace near Cincinnati) during daylight hours.

In this particular interpretation of the vampire condition (Elrod has written other series of vampire tales and may, for all I know, have worked out the specifics differently there) Fleming is not affected by garlic, silver or crucifixes, but does have some difficulty crossing water. He also does not wear a cape like Count Dracula, or glitter like the popular vampires of the Twilight series. He can, however, dematerialize to travel invisibly, and he can hypnotize most people at will. In addition, of course, he consumes blood — human blood in encounters that can be deeply erotic and mutually rewarding, animal blood in matter-of-fact feeding down at Chicago's malodorous stockyards. His needs and abilities are both assets and handicaps in the life he finds himself leading, including a passionate love affair and responsibilities as the sidekick to a private investigative agent who gets drawn into the complex politics and violence of the gang conflicts.

The investigator whom Fleming assists is named Charles Escott (aha! says the experienced Sherlockian) and smokes a pipe (aha! again). He has, in addition, a few mannerisms and reasoning abilities somewhat reminiscent of Holmes's. Rather than a violin, he has a beloved Nash automobile. It's not much on which to build a case for The Vampire Files as Sherlockian pastiche, even if the reader happens to know that Elrod has been involved in the Sherlockian world since the 1970s.

On the other hand, perhaps the author should be given credit for avoiding cheap (elementary) allusions. And as the lightest of light reading, the chronicles of Escott and Fleming — there are apparently more, many more, beyond these first two trilogies — may be judged worth a glance.