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BOOK REVIEW: Trevor O. Munson's Angel of Vengeance

02.08.2011by: Dave Murray


SYNOPSIS: Hired by a gorgeous burlesque dancer to find her missing sister, L.A. Private Investigator Mick Angel is having a run of some serious bad luck. With drug dealers, Hollywood producers, and a conspiracy involving his own past all in the way, anyone would be having a hell of a time getting results, even a vampire like Mick. The novel that inspired the T.V. series Moonlight is finally here, a bloody and brutally personal vampire tale that should be the start of an awesome new series of good vampire novels.

REVIEW: I think I've read more vampire fiction than is healthy for any one man to take, and the main problem is that most of it I didn't care for. That's not the case with Angel of Vengeance, an excellent and bloody read that mixes together elements of some of my favourite vampire stories, and manages to add some mean new twists to create its own mythos. This is no sparkly teen vampire romance. Hell, it's not even a brooding gothic vampire drama. No, this is a very hardboiled modern vampire noir that bares its many teeth from page one, grabs the reader by the throat and hangs on like a steel bear trap.

I was a fan of the short lived show Moonlight, but the book that it was based on is a different breed entirely. Gone is the romance angle of the show, Mick's last name of St, John and a good deal of the supporting characters. The first thing that strikes the reader is the narrative style Munson used here, as Mick's voice is presented in first person present tense. This gives an intimate immediacy to the action as it unfolds. And action there is! Munson's vampires are monsters, plain and simple. From reading the blurb on the back of the book, you'd think that there would be some similarities to another famous vampire named Angel who's a PI in Los Angeles (Angel's co-creator David Greenwalt was even the first showrunner on the TV adaptation for CBS), but that's where the comparison ends. Sure, Mick tries to keep his monster in check, but even he loses control.

A former smack addict in the 1940's (a period which still infuses his wardrobe and outlook), Mick likes his blood human and injected with a needle. When he does lose control, his jaw unhinges and all of his teeth become fangs! This reminds me of the thoroughly evil vampires of Brian Lumley's Necroscope saga (my favorite literary vampires by the way), and Munson's melding of different vampire traits impressed me all to hell. One of the coolest things about his vampires is that since they are essentailly reanimated dead bodies, they continue to decompose, although the rot happens at a much slower pace. So Mick spends the day lying dead in a deep freezer lined with grave dirt! Also, Mick can see his reflection, as can everyone else, but what he sees is the monster he becomes when he changes. And these are just the tip of the genre iceberg that Munson has created here in terms of bringing something new to the bloodsucker table.

The story is a simple tale of a missing girl, but the path to the truth is mired in danger and no small amount of bloodshed. Munson's characters could have easily been cardboard cutouts and genre cliches. He mentions in his afterword that the idea for the story came from reading Dracula and then a Chandler novel, which not only informs the style of the book but also the character types. However, Mick's voice keeps the characters fresh and vibrant, as we experience them through his cynical outlook. The characters of Reesa, Vin Prince, and Leroy the drug dealer are very human characters, and the latter two provide some of the better moments of humour and scenes of awesome.

As for Coraline, Mick's ex-wife and the one who turned him, she's just a frightening sociopathic monster. What more could you want of an antagonist? The twists in the story depend on the deft introduction of different elements of Munson's new vampire mythos, and he handles it well, giving us a short and violent look into Mick's world that just begs for more books in the series. Mick Angel may be a bastard at times, and a monster as well, but damned if he isn;t a likeable protagonist. One scene that had me chuckling was Mick going to a goth club and seeing all of these black dressed and made up vampire wannabe's looking at him like he was the freak in his fedora and 40's style suit! Hilarious and sad all at the same time.

In fact, the only problems I had with the boook was that it was too damned short, and that the character of Josef Kostan is not in it. The book made me want more. I was hooked like a junkie and flipping through the pages like I was demon possessed. For me, Munson has joined a very select group of writers, such as Lumley, Steve Niles and of course Steven King, who have done as much as possible to repair the damage that the writers of sappy teen vampire romances and badly written vampire erotica (yeah, I'm looking at you Laurel K. Hamilton) have done to our beloved scary bloodsucking genre. He's one of the few writers that are keeping the vampire where it belongs, with equal amounts of horror and awesome writing. I do hope there are more books to come (especially if Josef Kostan is there too!), because I'll be along for the ride.

I can only imagine what a more literal TV interpretation could have been like, especially on a more grown up network like HBO or Showtime, it seriously would have kicked True Blood's ass. Or even if it had been done as a feature movie (which was Munson's original aim, with a rumour that Bruce Willis was considered to play the role of Mick Angel). As it stands now, Moonlight (which was originally titled Twilight, funny stuff!) is a watered down and romanticized adaptation of the book that ultimately was laid to rest (seriously, following Ghost Whisperer on the scedule would not be where I would put this show if I had read the book first!), and a new TV series should be done, just as I described above. That would be awesome. Anyway, if you're a fan of real vampire fiction, check out Angel of Vengeance. It does not disappointand wears its many fangs with pride. Rating: 9 out of 10




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