"Blood Red" Book Review
Written by Chris Deal
Published by Earthling Publications
Written by James A. Moore
2005, 416 pages, Fiction
Released on October 20th, 2005
Sometimes you want a steak. A hunk of meat the size of the plate, juicy, more rare than done, maybe with garlic butter on top and with a side of something you’d never bother cooking at home. A meal you’d drop quite a few dimes on, one you’ll think about for days, weeks after. Other times, you want a drive-through cheeseburger. You paid for it with the coins gathering dust in your car’s center console. You’ll spend more time eating the burger than the guys inside took to cook it. In the moment, that cheeseburger is just as satisfying as the steak, and sometimes the memory of that burger will stick with you longer than the steak that took hours of your life to work for.
Blood Red by James A. Moore is more a drive-through burger than a cloth-napkin establishment steak, but that is not an insult. This is a book that does not aspire to be more than it is, but takes you through its journey with pride. Old school in its inspirations, Blood Red harkens to the vampire fiction of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Richard Laymon, and other greats of the genre. Moore admits in the afterward to not trying to reinvent the trope’s wheel here, but to use the ingredients to make his own playground.
Black Stone Bay, Rhode Island, is your basic seaside college town. There are haves, have-nots, and people just trying to get by. The characters absolutely make this novel. Moore writes more simple prose, not worrying about literary tricks, which allows him to inhabit the characters more fully. Everyone here is fleshed out, from college-student-in-the-day, prostitute-in-the-night Maggie her secret admirer Ben, who undertakes a campaign of revenge, to Officer Brian Freemont, the local cop with a habit of pulling over female college students and coercing them into sexual encounters. Each of these characters is in some way flawed and realistic.
Every member of this ensemble is cast against the machinations of Jason Soulis. Soulis, the debonair man of wealth with a thing for the claret, gets the plot moving early when he contacts Maggie through her pimp, Tom “Monkey Boy” Pardue, and enlists her to seduce various religious figures around town. Sex is frequent in this book, as well as sexual violence perpetrated by Pardue and Officer Freemont, but neither are near as graphic as the regular old violence inherent in such a tale.
Moore is quite the prolific writer, with over 30 books to his credit, and Blood Red shows just how much he has it down to a science. The characters, plotting, and description are precise and get the job done. He knows what is needed to propel characters forward, what they need to overcome, and how to make us care about people who are most likely going to meet brutal ends. He knows how to leave just enough undone that makes you want to come back for more, and there are two more novels, 2011’s Blood Harvest and 2019’s Bloodlines, as well as a prequel.
Those were released in limited runs so they can be hard to come across.
It’s good to search for the literary version of a steak, but do not forget just how satisfying a treat a burger can be. Blood Red is such a treat.
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