Bound in Blood by David Thomas Lord. Review by Nickolas Cook
With Bound in Blood (the first part of a proposed quintet) author David Thomas Lord shows us the best and worst faces of erotic horror.
Through the eyes of ancient vampire, Jean-Luc "Jack" Courbet, we see the bleak underbelly of modern day New York City as Jack slinks from one seedy underground club to the next, in search of gay male victims to feed upon. It's during these episodic killings that the vampire's lack of empathy for his victims leaves the reader feeling cold, and gives a good sense of the anxious nightly search for food. After extensive (in some cases, too much) background on these desperate souls, Jack destroys them in bloody and imaginative fashions, in an effort to make his slayings seem the work of a serial killer. With deft touches, Lord illustrates Jack as a walking anomaly in the modern world: Pessimistic, caustic, seductive, bitter, and acerbic. A true predator, he shows no remorse for his victims, and there are moments of bloodiness that will make every man squirm uncomfortably, as Jack goes for the soft flesh. Lord has some wonderful flashback scenes that recall the startlingly detailed visions wrought by Anne Rice in her original vampire novel, Interview with the Vampire. From France, to England, to America, Lord paints the historical picture of Jack, allowing us to see his lost humanity. His recognition of personal shallowness is deftly culled from how badly he has handled his own past, and how selfishly he is handling his intended lovers' presents.
What makes for the main weakness in Bound in Blood is that the violence becomes increasingly more distracting, and as the story begins to move forward, we come to a halt for the vampire to seduce and then kill a horny victim. These, coupled with the sexual episodes, while admittedly titillating, do very little for the book's story. In some cases, the scenes even detract from Lord's fine eye for detail and rich use of language. Although his distinctive voice is loud and clear during the sexual scenes as he straddles the line between sensuality and debauchery, there's a bit too much emphasis placed on the kills. There is a boiling current of sensuality in Bound in Blood, but the many instances of unattached sexual play may not be for everyone; these scenes often play like sex without foreplay. Erotic literature is about voyeurism, and there were times these scenes lost that stylish edge and read more like borderline Penthouse forum letters.
At times, especially at the beginning, the book could have used further editing, either to condense or cut extraneous scenes that bog down the narrative. It takes too long to get to the main story between Jack and his vampire mother, Noel, but once we get there, Lord does a great job of adding surprising plot twists and elements to keep the story moving—including his mother's ability to slip into the minds and bodies of his friends and make threats against him. This is where the story becomes enticingly more complex—sexually and emotionally—and rewards the diligent reader with some beautiful scenes of pathos. The interchanges between Jack and his mother are by far the most effective the book has to offer.
Again, good editorial decisions could have helped make this a stronger book all around, as an editor ought to have attacked the opening lag, and the several instances of clunky dialogue, the overuse of names during interchanges (no one really talks like that), and the silly moments of Jack talking aloud to dead people while giving much needed exposition. But despite all of this, by the book's end, we are left in suspense as to the fates of the three main characters, Jack, Noel, and Claude. The next volume in this series is to be titled Bound in Flesh, and should cement David Thomas Lord as the king of vampires.
Nickolas Cook lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three pugs. He is the Fiction Moderator for the Shocklines Writing Group, the Chat Host for The Lost and The Damned Message Board and the Writers' Forum Moderator at ARWZ. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in several magazines. He collects jazz and blues, and is still trying to learn how to play the trumpet like his hero, Miles Davis. Visit Nickolas at his web site at The Horror and Jazz-Blues Review, his Myspace page, his blog, where you can read his free ongoing serial novella A Kind of Blue.