"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Sanguinary: The Review

In 2003, I was a member of a forum in America called The Nook. 

It was quite a social place at a time when social networking was just beginning. 

There, I met a librarian from Watford. 

She told me her name was Freya and wouldn't give her real name even in private messages, of which, over time, there were a great many. 

Toward the end of our interaction, I was beginning to get excited at the prospect of some local weekend action, when lo and behold, she invited me down to Watford.

Then she told me what she did at weekends.

Along with a posse of like minded others, she spent her nights dressing up as a vampire, sleeping in coffins and...
...drinking the blood of willing donors and/or supplies stolen from Watford General. 

She was very candid about it. And she thought I would enjoy it and she wanted my company.

And for my part, while fascinated, I declined the offer. Naturally, our friendship petered out.

As my life collapsed like a rack of dominos in the next eight years, I forgot this story, but when I encountered Emma Edwards and her bloody tome "Sanguinary", it came back to haunt me like a legion of demons breaking down my door for a quick word.

Emma Edwards

An Interview with Emma Edwards
Original Interview from July 2013

Synopsis: Set in Cardiff, mostly in a nightclub called Domain, among goths, emos, rockers, metalheads and similar outcasts, Emma writes a quite simple - yet strangely complex - morality tale.  

Angel, the symbolically named heroine of the piece (who is anything BUT an angel), is a cub reporter for the local rag and she is sent to investigate the nightclub following a spate of gruesome murders in which the corpse is found drained of blood. 

Desanguinated, in the parlance.

Angel, a dyed in the wool counter-culturalist, neo-goth, rock chick and sex crazed thrill seeker is considered by her editor to be the ideal choice infiltrate the club. 

He's heard rumours of Sanguinarians - human beings who drink the blood of willing others. 

Not vampires, but something like.

Angel takes the job and before long is watching the lead singer of hot Manson-style rock band Erebis strut his stuff. 

Muscular, chiselled, pale, tattooed, challenging, feminine, writhing, taboo-breaking, in your face, he cuts a fine figure on stage. She notices a gaggle of young girls gyrating to his every move and she realises she is similarly entranced.

After the show, in the spirit of good journalism, she offers to buy him a whisky. He accepts. His name is Ash. And Ash tells her quite openly that the whole band drink blood for kicks...and despite her job, despite her ethics, despite...

...she begins to fall in love with him.

That same night, another girl is found in Cardiff docks, pallid and very, very dead.

Sanguinary is well worth a read. I think its a very, very good book.

This conclusion might surprise you.

I'm not in my twenties. I'm male. I'm not a fan of vampire fiction. I've never been to a goth club. I've never met a goth or an emo, nor have I spoken to a man who habitually wears make up in twenty years.

Yet I had no difficulty reading Sanguinary.  

In fact for several hours afterwards, I went through it and thought about it in some detail. Engaging, challenging in parts, and completely absorbing, the novel kept my attention. 

It has many, many strengths. 

Strong characterisation which remains concrete from chapter to chapter, a solid sense of place and a deliberate restriction of environment (the club, Angels house, the vampire's "crypt"), ensured a feeling of creeping claustrophobia. 

Emma has clearly walked in the moccasins of the protagonist because the dialogue, in parts, crackles like a sparkler on bonfire night. 

She has an excellent ear for banter, natter, and the way people speak, yet avoids the trap of dialect and slang and the use of interlocutions. 

This ensures a rattling fast pace, a sense of transferability (it could take place anywhere), and character-led reading experience.

The anti-heroine, Angel, is sexy, captivating, vulnerable, a borderline alcoholic, constantly at war with her demons and under pressure from her scathingly pristine and successful family. She makes mistakes, sometimes bad ones. For example, her treatment of her plain, straight and loving ex-boyfriend after she falls for Ash is disgraceful and dilutes much of the sympathy bankroll the reader has saved for her. She drinks too much, she is caustic, cloying and vicious at times, but there is a goodness to her that comes across - even if you sometimes have to believe.

As a heroine, you root for her and that's not always what you would expect. Emma clearly knows her readers, particularly the relationship that develops between the reader's experience and the familiar character in society - she's the type of girl who would ignite the Galahad, the Lancelot, the Martel in every man she meets and, as she admits on three occasions, be immediately willing to spit her saviour into the gutter.

And then there's Ash. If you are male - and this is a book suitable for both male and female - you are going to have strong feelings about Ash. That can go both ways...

Again, this is to Emma's credit.

Emma was originally drawn into the vampire genre by the lead character in "The Lost Boys".

Arrogant, offhand, cocksure, uncaring, dissuasive and unconcerned, Ash is every inch the Lestat symbol,  the sexual predator, the fanged beast of the night that trembles the heart and inspires the fevered breast.  He is written as a symbol of many things: There isn't much of a metaphysical leap between Ash gyrating on stage in his leather trousers, and the chilling pale-skulled Nosferatu sneaking up on the willing virgin in her chambers.

Emma writes him strongly, possibly the strongest written character in the book, sketched with a fine eye for detail.  

There are Heathcliff elements of him - the orphan, abandoned child, the dark presence - as well as the very definite danger of the ultimate Bad Boy - but Emma shows us slivers of light, explaining his blood drinking as every inch a curse, a circumstance, a quirk of medical fate and that there are other sides to him. 

I'm told women generally love Ash - and he's as good a reason as any to buy the book, because together, Angel and Ash are dynamite.

Dynamite. I'm not kidding: I mean, say what?!

The book exudes sex. It positively bleeds it. 

Some flowers are so productive, even their stems are fragrant; their stamen emitting pollen, their buds weeping copious juices as if the act of germination would be its very last.

If Sanguinary were a flower, and sex was it's fragrance, this novel would be one of these flowers.

The book has an unbelievable amount of sex per page. I mean truck halting amounts. The lovestruck duo never, ever stop bonking. 

If you like sex writing, you will love this book. 

Some good ones too. The  sex scenes that satisfy Ash's dark desire for bloodletting - the enthralling moment when Ash feasts on Angel's blood by opening an artery on her thigh, for example, an act which echoes Dracula, Prince of Darkness - are genuinely breathtaking and are worth the price alone. 

Obviously, Bad Boy symbol Ash is a tattooed sexual behemoth whose very presence inspires a cacophonous certainty of orgasm in all his women. Yet, Anne Rice wrote Lestat and his clan as asexual at best and impotent at worst and Dracula himself never showed much interest in sex, so he has to be human after all. Brilliant irony in the age of the vampiristic supermen. 

Emma is making a wry, social comment here - the good guy-bad guy sex angle - and indeed, there are three or four entertaining subplots to this affect, particularly the three cornered relationship between Jay, the lovestruck guitarist and friend of Ash, the vampiric singer, and Angel herself.

It's not a perfect book. 

Sometimes, you wish Emma would get to the point, the watchwords of today being space and economy. There are too many characters in the book and you end up not caring about two or three of them; they take up space. The murder scenes, written as vignettes, didn't convince me and I remember thinking I wish Angel and Ash would go down the Taj Mahal for a Bombay Duck and a big pot of Chicken Balti instead of going to that bloody nightclub again, but none of this stopped me enjoying the book. Nitpicking for balance.

It's a lovely typeset paperback with a beautiful, clean font and the whole thing inspires you to hold it in your hand.  It's now sitting proudly on my bookshelf.

Emma is a big talent that much is obvious. She has what it takes and she writes in the right genre. Its an innovative take on a traditional theme and she's pulled off the job - for a first novel, that takes a lot of moxy. 

I've already got the second book. Imbrued, (also featured on the Wizard's Cauldron). There is a third on the way and she'll complete it, no doubt. I'll be featuring on this too.

I heartily (and bloodily) recommend this book.  
Well done, Emma. Thumbs up from the Wizard.

Incidentally, if you're a Kindlehound

Amazon UK   = 76p

Amazon US  = $1.23

You'd be crackers to ignore that. I mean, in Ali's newsagent, a Mars Bar is 70p and you wouldn't think twice.

Get your fangs in, your cloak on and download this to Kindle. You won't regret it.

And of course, no feature on vampire related topics would be complete without...

...the king of vampires himself...Zoltan: Hound of Dracula.

Merry Christmas.


  1. Informative Review. Just for the record, Frank Langella's portrayal of Dracula oozed sexuality in his sensuous performance, an excellent seducer - the best of the lot, in my humble opinion.

  2. Well Lestat and the rest of his Articulate vamp fiends were technically incapable of sex - they still oozed tons of sex appeal and knew how to seduce humans - men and women, young and old. Will definitely give Sanguinary a try thanks to this sterling review :)

  3. What a fabulous review for Sanguinary. Spot on comments by Mark Barry. I would highly recommend reading this book ... 5* to author, Emma Edwards.

  4. Thanks for all the lovely comments ladies! It's a very, very good book - I would highly recommend it even to my closest friends. I like reviewing. I'm going to have to find a book I "detest" to show my other side. I can really loathe books, even from author's I love, like Paul Auster (I nearly ripped Invisible in two). Any ideas? hehehehe Have Suzanne's Obscura to read and one or two short stories from an, ahum, anonymous source, then I shall crack on with Imbrued.
    Thank you for your continued interest. xx


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