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Rovers Richard Lange Main

"Rovers" Book Review

Written by Chris Deal

Published by Mulholland Books

rovers richard lange poster large

Written by Richard Lange
2021, 304 pages, Fiction
Released on July 27th, 2021

Review:

As his mouth fills with blood, he recalls a cloud shaped like a duck that he saw when he was a kid.

The vampire. There ain’t no more tried and true monster than the vampire. With origins as far removed from the present day as ancient Persia, Babylon, and Assyria, if you can name a culture without some sort of bloodsucker in their folklore, well, you’d be quite the learned anthropologist. The modern idea of the vampire itself has most of its origins in Stoker’s novel, that’s where most of the common tropes took shape. As the recent film The Last Voyage of the Demeter proves, pop-culture at the least is still enamored with vampires.

With all that cultural baggage, it’s a mighty fine day when you find some vampire fiction that tries something different.

The beasts of Richard Lange’s 2021 novel Rovers don’t call themselves vampires, but this isn’t a Walking Dead world where the concept doesn’t exist. The characters here call themselves Rovers, as the curse here necessitates being on the move to survive eternity. There are no fangs but knives to the throat. The Rovers need to know how to hide bodies, how to pick off those no one would miss, but even the most careful sort would know its best to keep on the move to keep from getting dusted.

Rovers follows Jesse and his younger brother Edgar, two Midwest boys keeping their heads above water in the 1970s south West. They look more like father and son than brothers, as Jesse was turned in his early twenties, while the mentally handicapped Edgar was quite older when his brother came back. Having turned Edgar at the behest of their mother, knowing she couldn’t look after him, Jesse spends his long life as a caretaker. That said, no sibling relationship would be easy sailing after close to a century of motel rooms.

In this ugly world we also find Charles Sanders, a middle-aged man adrift from his old life. On the road looking for the killer of his son, Benny, Sanders goes from town to town looking for leads. He knows something is off about the murder, given the boy had been living the dangerous lifestyle of a hustler, and he was found throat cut. Empty of blood. The cops don’t care, as Benny was one of the lesser dead, a gay, black youth. While on his quest, Sanders is found by an old man who shows him the truth, and forces Charles into accepting a horrid mantle.

Then there are the Fiends, a biker gang of Rovers, Hell’s Undead. They make their money making hits on Rovers who’ve crossed those with power. Jesse inadvertently crosses the Fiends, bringing the whole thing together into a bloody crescendo.

Rovers has touchstones of recent vampire stories, from In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson to Christopher Beuhlman’s The Lesser Dead and The Suicide Motor Club. Taking the tropes of vampire fiction and placing it in a gritty, realistic world of crime. Lange’s prose is more Jim Thompson than Stephanie Meyer, starkly telling ugly tales in a pretty voice, with moments that feel like they would be found in the pages of The Sound and the Fury or Of Mice and Men. Rovers is a beautiful and painful story with plenty of horror.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Cover
Buy from Amazon UK.

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