BOOK REVIEW: "Knuckle Supper" by Drew Stepek

BOOK REVIEW: "Knuckle Supper" by Drew Stepek
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The Heroin Addicted Gangster Vampire Novel.

That's how KNUCKLE SUPPER is described via it's official website. I went into this book knowing exactly that, that it was about a heroin addicted gangster vampire.. and that's all. Enough to grab my interest? You bet! Needless to say I had no idea what I was in store for...

What do I mean by that? Well let me explain it to you all in a single sentence: A 12 year old prostitute performs an abortion on herself using a glass Pepsi bottle and a cinder block. Oh yeah... it's THAT twisted. Shades of Carlton Mellick III, but with more of a moral center. Now before I get into my review of this horrific adventure into the depths of Los Angeles, where the Undead control everything, let me hit you all with the novel's plot.

When the LA heroin-addicted vampire and gang leader named RJ reluctantly takes in a twelve year-old prostitute called Bait, humanity is introduced to his otherwise lifeless existence. An unforgiving, vicious and realistic horror story, KNUCKLE SUPPER explores chemical dependency, inner-city brutality, religion, molestation, abortion and the very nature of evil itself.

On the outside KNUCKLE SUPPER is a novel that takes what's acceptable in society and throws it right out the window. What the book aims for throughout the story is that shock factor that'll make you ask yourself if that really just happened... I'm talking some pretty vicious stuff. The detail is amazing, giving you a perfect idea of how these vampires effortlessly tear apart their enemies. At the same time that detail is one of the book's biggest weaknesses, often giving more description than needed for a scene.

"I pried her mouth open with my right hand and quickly ripped off her bottom jaw, tongue in tact. That way, she couldn't scream very easily. I immediately stepped my left foot into the portion of her face where he mouth used to be. I pressed my foot down hard. She squirmed around. Her defined arms reached toward my face. She tried to lash around with her ultra-cheesy, jewel encrusted French manicure. I kicked my boot up into her skull, busting through her nose and blowing out her eyes. Her arms dropped and as I held her head down, I grabbed both her arms and twisted them outward, breaking them off entirely. I chucked both arms into the showers at my sides. Finally, to end the job, I stood up on the boot I had in her mouth, lifted my other leg and just crushed right through her sternum. If there was even a second of life left in her then, it was done after that. A successful workout."

At the heart though, KNUCKLE SUPPER is a story of boy meets girl. Even more-so KNUCKLE SUPPER is a character driven tale about this vampire gangster RJ and how he finds that there's a lot more to life than shooting up heroin and drinking blood. Before little Bait comes into his life RJ lives day-to-day wondering where his next fix would come from, and that's all. Actually most of the characters in the story travel down the same road. It's all about the blood and drugs in KNUCKLE SUPPER... and Bait. She's the key. This 12 year old prostitute delivers the humanity in the story. In his own twisted way author Drew Stepek uses this character to echo everything that is good and pure in the world. Definitely not on the surface, but between the lines Bait is salvation. Especially for RJ.

The novel starts off with RJ and his roommate/best friend Dez tearing apart Bait's pimp and therefore introducing the Knucklers to the little girl. Right off the bat RJ feels some sort of connection to her and decides to keep her around, much to Dez's dismay. An ambushed drug deal goes better than planned soon after, leaving RJ and Dez with a massive amount of drugs. They choose not to tell King Cobra, the 'leader' of this gang-infested drugged out Los Angeles, and decide to sell the drugs themselves. As the novel progresses RJ becomes closer to Bait and further from Dez, which doesn't sit to well with the rest of the Knucklers, or any of the gang-bangers of LA for that matter.

"Sitting on a throne-type chair that matched the rest of the decor in the room was a young man with his eyes rolled back. The figure's lips quivered every so often but it was clear that he was in a comatose state. Drool dripped from his lips down to his chest and connected with one of the many flexible snake pipes that were plugged into all his major veins. Hooked to his arm was an I.V. drip of opium. Eldritch knelt in front of his semi-living victim and lit a water-filled sphere embedded in the chest cavity. As he heated up the blood and opium, he placed one of the hoses in his mouth, flipping a valve that was placed halfway down the pipe. He sucked as smoke manifested from the corners of his lips. He smiled, sucked the toxin into his lungs, waited a second and then puffed smoke rings straight into the air."

My major gripe with the story though was the middle of the book, where RJ and King Cobra are captured by The Cloth. The relationship that blossomed between Cobra, or 'Herman' as he's dubbed, and RJ is actually interesting to see pan out but at the same time that point in the novel seemed to put the rest of the story at kind of a stand-still... which killed some of the momentum it was picking up. Things pick up pretty quickly after that though as we're treated to a finale that offers intense action, some closure and plenty of questions left unanswered.

As far as the characters go, the lot of them are very likeable, for the most part at least. Our hero RJ stays pretty positive throughout the book, often leaning towards the side of 'good' rather than bad. The same can be said for characters like Bait, King Cobra and Eldritch. On the other hand characters like Dez and 'The Habit' are downright hate-worthy, with every scene they pop up in giving you more and more reason to wish for their demise. Come to think of it Dez's personal finale is one of the weakest points of the book, so as you're reading try not to get your hopes up with that one. As far as Bait goes... if RJ is the flesh and blood of KNUCKLE SUPPER then Bait is the heart. She's the drive behind the entire story. And the kicker? The whole time she's perfectly presented as this playful 12 year old, making it that much more of an impact that she's tossed into a world like this.

"I palmed his head with my right hand and beat it against the bottom of the toilet bowl again until my hand went completely through the front of his face. I opened my clenched hand, poked his eyeballs outward and swiped out his brain. After extracting his mind, I grabbed his neck, thrust my other arm up to my elbow through the face cazve and disconnected his skullcap. I spun around like a college hippie playing Ultimate Frisbee and whizzed it toward Dez."

The best way for me to describe KNUCKLE SUPPER is if you take the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT graphic novels and slap them together with the twisted work of someone like Carlton Mellick III you're left with Drew Stepek's KNUCKLE SUPPER, which is arguably the best of both worlds. And as I said before KNUCKLE SUPPER's under the surface story of compassion is what sets it apart from the rest of the twisted, graphic stories of the world.

Are you intrigued? Of course you are. If any of my review sparked your interest at all do yourself a favor and be sure to pick up KNUCKLE SUPPER. This thing actually has the potential to be somewhat of a cult classic and I'm sure a feature adaptation will be coming our way sooner or later. If I had to slap this one into a rating system I'd give it a 9 out of 10.


"Knuckle Supper" by Drew Stepek - Book Trailer

Source: AITH



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