THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES / AUTHOR: GRADY HENDRIX / PUBLISHER: QUIRK BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 7TH
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires is one of those novels with a smashing premise. We begin in the late ‘80s, where a band of housewives have discovered the joys of getting together to talk about books, namely true crime and murder mystery fiction. Patricia Campbell is our main protagonist and as the book opens, and we get a good idea as to how horribly busy her life actually is. It’s very busy. Even though everyone pretends it isn’t.Patricia’s friends are all a bit different, but they are essentially a gaggle of privileged middle-class white women who live in somewhere that’s almost certainly South Carolina. They find tales of crime and misery thrilling but when it all becomes a little too close for comfort, they do everything they can to ignore it. As the story progresses throughout the ‘90s, their safe little community becomes all the more sinister. Monsters lurk not in the shadows, but by simply talking their way into society.
The pacing is steady throughout, as is the tone. And that’s actually part of the problem here. They are key scenes where it feels like it’s all going to kick-off and transform into a slightly different sort of story and it just doesn’t. Though there is genuine threat throughout, the real villain here is soul crushing mundane day-to-day life. As this is a book where the main characters are women, it also goes without saying that one of the biggest obstacles they face is the patriarchy, by which we mean the everyday sexism that pervades normal life as to be almost invisible). Hendrix doesn’t preach, he just blends supernatural terror in with the ordinary. There’s plenty here that just feels all too real. This makes for some incredibly unnerving scenes and some rather graphic moments of horror and cruelty. Though the book is pitched as ‘bad-ass housewives take on evil’, it’s not really that. This is a tale of the rot setting in and corrupting all that one holds dear. It’s a story of abuse and survival and though gripping, it’s not exactly fun. It is however, thrilling.
Grady Hendrix is monstrously good, and is the master of the cunning and mesmerising narrative. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires is not the journey you may expect it to be, but it is striking and powerful. There are also quite a few ‘cute’ touches that remind you that the entire thing is set in (mostly) the ‘90s and if you lived through that time, it’s very easy to imagine the world these characters live in. Strange, evocative and engaging, if you’ve not read Hendrix’s work yet, we advise that you start here.