Friday, August 7, 2015

Blood for the Vampire Dead (Robert Leslie Bellem, MYSTERY TALES March 1940)

Having finished reading The Green Lama: Scions in under 24 hours, I decided to pick up some more pulp to read; I dropped ninety-nine cents on The Pulp Fiction Megapack last night and started reading.  The stories are short, sweet, and to the point, without any fancy "characterization" getting in the way of the cheese and sleaze.  The fact that I had never read any of the stories before and was only familiar with one author got me very excited - I'd be truly going in blind, with no preconceived notions about what I was getting myself into.

The first story in the collection bears the delightfully lurid title of "Blood for the Vampire Dead," and is, as I understand things, a fairly standard representative of the "Weird Menace" stories, in that there's a seemingly-supernatural threat that turns out to have a mundane resolution -- oops, spoilers!

The story centers around Dr. Tim Croft, a young doctor assigned to a remote region of the Ozarks (I'm not sure why the government is assigning doctors to regions - was this a New Deal thing I'd been unaware of?), and his nurse/girlfriend Brenda.  Dr. Croft has been treating a local woman named Eula Starko for a rare blood disorder, which has ultimately claimed her life.

Another local clan, the Ludwells, get it into their heads that Eula is a "witch-vampire," holding up the naked, bloodless body of clan patriarch Lige Ludwell's teenage daughter as proof (never mind that Lige whipped the shit out of her and drove her naked into the stormy night for dating a boy Lige didn't approve of).  When Croft tries to explain to them that Eula's dead in the next room, investigation reveals that Eula's gone and the other nurse has been stripped, strung up and drained of blood.  When Croft tries to phone the sheriff, he gets whacked upside the head and knocked unconscious.  Coming to some time later, he discovers that Brenda's missing...

It's a short, light, easy read - I think I plowed through it in under ten minutes.  And regardless of the existence or not of "witch-vampires," I found the story very enjoyable and honestly kind of compelling - with a twist I was not expecting.

My biggest complaint with the story was the hackneyed regional dialect of most of the cast.  You know how H.P. Lovecraft spells out phonetically the dialogue of characters like Innsmouth town drunk Zadok Allen, or backwoods degenerate Joe Slater? It's like that, but less elegantly handled.  I have trouble believing that even in the most inbred corner of 1930s Appalachia anyone would say "we-uns" in place of "we."

Also, I want to read all the stories delineated on that cover.  Those titles are pure gold.

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