Growing up, I wasn’t a big fan of horror or vampires. The first vampire film that really caught my attention was Werner Herzog’s 1979 Nosferatu starring Klaus Kinski. I saw the movie in 1984 and loved its atmosphere, beautiful photography, and the fact that it explored the horror of hopelessness rather than engaging in cheap gross outs.
When I first went to work at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1992, one of my co-workers jokingly referred to those of us who operate telescopes as “the vampires of the mountain” because we were almost never seen during daylight hours. She introduced me to the works of Anne Rice. I devoured the four books of The Vampire Chronicles that existed at that time. I also bought the fifth book when it came out. Life and other interests caught up with me and I stopped following the series. Recently I decided to dive in again with the sixth novel, The Vampire Armand.
Arguably, Anne Rice is the author who did the most to turn the vampire from a figure of horror to a figure of romance in the popular imagination. Sure, there are erotic and romantic overtones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and other early vampire works, but Rice really brought those romantic elements to the forefront. The Vampire Armand is certainly no exception as it explores the story of a young man captured by the Turks and sold as a slave in Venice to a vampire named Marius. Marius names the boy Amadeo and the two become lovers. One thing that struck me was that the love scenes in The Vampire Armand seemed more explicit than earlier entries in the series, which seemed to imply more than they showed.
Amadeo goes on to explore Venice and love with mortals. The upshot is that he’s mortally wounded and Marius makes him a vampire to save his life. As the story progresses, Rice shows a strong knack for horror as vampires raid Marius’s home, attempt to kill the older vampire and steal Amadeo away. The scenes where the vampires break Amadeo’s spirit and turn him into Armand, the leader of the Paris vampire coven are extremely frightening and soul-wrenching.
Rice brings us from these historical events up to modern-day happenings of the Vampire Chronicles rather quickly, but in the process re-introduces us to many of other vampires including Lestat, Louis, and Gabrielle. As such, if I was going to take a hiatus from the series, this was a good one to reintroduce myself to these old friends. The closing act of The Vampire Armand is both frightening and thrilling, leaving me hungry for the next book in the series. As it turns out, I gather I’ve come back to the series just in time, since Anne Rice has announced a new book in the series, Prince Lestat.
If you’d like to see my take on historical vampires, which includes a vampire astronomer inspired by those days at Kitt Peak, check out Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The book is available at Amazon.com, BN.com, and Lachesis Publishing.