When it comes to truly entertaining – and truly innovative – storylines, no other category comes close to paranormal fantasy. Every new release, it seems, brings a new fusion of genre elements; a delectable concoction of mystery, fantasy, romance, horror, etc.
And when it comes to stellar niche fiction – that is, fiction that may not appeal to mainstream readers but could potentially find a fervent audience at the shadowy peripheral of genres – some of the finest quality genre fiction can be found in small press offerings. But the sad fact of the matter is that many readers will never even know about these seldomly promoted literary gems…
Some of my all-time favorite reads, in fact, have been published by small presses: Stepan Chapman’s surrealistic masterwork The Troika, published by The Ministry of Whimsy Press in 1998, is arguably one of my favorite – and most singularly unique – novels of all time. The Damp Chamber and Other Bad Places by Frank Chigas, released by Medusa Press, is a jaw-droppingly brilliant collection of horror stories that, when I reviewed it in 2003, I described as having “the stylish storytelling prowess of Stephen King, the audacious gruesomeness of H.P. Lovecraft… and the cerebral machinations of Algernon Blackwood.” Bill DeSmedt’s science fiction thriller Singularity, published by Per Aspera Press; and Jeff VanderMeer’s Secret Life, released in 2004 by Golden Gryphon, are some of my most cherished books.
So when I heard that Georgia-based small press Samhain Publishing was releasing the first installment of a new paranormal fantasy saga, I had to check it out…
…and I’m so glad I did.
The tongue-in-cheek “warning” on the back of the book had me instantly intrigued: “Intense, graphic mafia-related violence, profanity, gangster slang, assassinations, fang punctures, explicit vampire sex, betrayal, greed, murder, gangland warfare, pervasive supernatural mayhem, large-scale explosions, and extremely expensive Italian suits.”
Simply put, Keith Melton’s Blood Vice – the first book in the Nightfall Syndicate – is nothing short of a paranormal fantasy masterwork. Imagine Bram Stoker writing a crime fiction epic, or Mario Puzo penning a vampire-powered thriller. Blood Vice is a perfect graft of noir fiction and paranormal fantasy. Karl Vance is a cold-blooded Mafia hit man. He’s also a vampire. When he becomes involved in a looming turf war between two rival Boston crime families – by becoming emotionally attached to Maria Ricardi, the beautiful (and ambitious) daughter of one of the crimes bosses – he puts both of their lives in jeopardy when he resolves to not only go up against both organized crime syndicates but also a sadistic, undead nemesis and his army of vampires who has pursued him across the centuries…
Why is this novel so good? Melton’s narrative voice is simultaneously hard-edged, intelligent (Milton is quoted numerous times), cool (references to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, Cold’s “Witch,” etc.) and darkly – dare I say poetically – descriptive. After Karl kills a target early on, the pale corpse is described as a “human-shaped cicada shell.” And here Karl’s former Master ponders immortality: “My Mistress is darkness. Shadows are my children. I remain constant while the world decays. Do you understand what it is to be eternal? It is to laugh in the face of God.”
And that is why Keith Melton could very well be the illegitimate lovechild of Mario Puzo and Bram Stoker. Blood Vice will pleasantly surprise any genre fiction fan who reads it – and undoubtedly compel readers to begin seeking out more small press offerings….
And all of those genre fiction fans interested in Blood Vice or Keith Melton or small press publishing should make it a point to visit BarnesandNoble.com's Paranormal Fantasy forum, where Keith is our guest throughout February.
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