The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Last fall, I had the pleasure of reading Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism (great title), a book I had avoided because it seemed overly gimmicky and made me worried about discovering another author who wrote only in 80s references like good ol’ Ernie Cline.  Thankfully, while it was jam packed with 80s nostalgia, it wasn’t ABOUT 80s nostalgia, so it succeeded in my book. 

A few months ago, I was perusing the Kindle Daily Deals section (like you do) and noticed Grady Hendrix’s follow-up, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (another great title) on sale for two bucks.  I figured, what could go wrong?  Thankfully, nothing did go wrong.

I’m not a horror buff by any means.  I generally like what came out Stephen King’s word processor in the 1980s and I enjoy his son Joe’s stuff as well.  Other than those two, I’ve read a few classics, some Nick Cutter, Paul Tremblay, and most recently, Stephen Graham Jones, but I wouldn’t call myself experienced enough to recommend something to a horror junkie.  I will say that for a novice like myself, Grady has done a great job in the two novels I’ve read.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires sounds like it could be a horror comedy.  I mean, the name alone suggests it.  Also, the cover has a peach with two bite marks on it!  However, the story is sinister and suspenseful.  Beginning in 1988, the story follows Patricia Campbell, a housewife and mother of two, as she forms a book club with several other neighborhood ladies in which they read and discuss drug store true crime and mystery novels.

A few years pass before a stranger, James Harris, moves in across the street from Patricia.  While he appears trustworthy at first, an unexpected encounter leads Patricia to believe James is responsible for the rash of missing persons and the unexplained shift in the behaviour of the town’s youth.  The problem?  Harris has woven himself into the fabric of the community and finding those to turn against him may just prove to be impossible.  Especially when she has to convince those same people that James is a vampire.

On its surface, this is a novel about a group of suburban women taking on a vampire but it is more than that.  It’s a commentary on the housewife of the 1990s (or maybe it still applies in 2021?) who people think has it easy, but in reality would cause the lives of many who depend on her to crumble if she were to drop everything.  Patricia is the backbone of her family and is absolutely essential to the style of life her husband and children enjoy, but she’s constantly treated as less-than.  Trying to convince these men that their buddy James is a blood-sucking menace is probably just as difficult as convincing them that the sky is blue.  Seriously, no one cares what these women think.  They’re just hysterical!  Give them some medication, remind them of their place and what happens when they decide to stray from it.

Be prepared for a considerable amount of blood and guts here.  Grady does not hold back.  The first scene alone involving Patricia’s encounter with a deranged neighbor rooting around in her trash was akin to ripping off the Bandaid when it came to what was in store.  And while not specifically gory, there’s a scene midway through the book involving a cockroach that I believe made me emit a noise that only my cat may have heard.  Along with a scene that had more rats in it than a GOP convention, this book had some great, skin-crawling horror.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires further cements Grady Hendrix as an author I enjoy.  There’s a new book out later this year and a few other novels from a few years back that I will definitely check out.  Hendrix says in his intro, “I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom.” I think that’s as good a selling point as anything I’ve said in my review.

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