A novel to sink your teeth into
John Marks' third novel, Fangland, is no ordinary vampire tale. Evangeline Harker embarks on what might be the worst business trip ever. She's a producer for The Hour, a television news show, and is sent to Romania to investigate a story. She finds Ion Torgu, purported crime boss, but instead of giving her an interview, he takes her to his crumbling and creepy hotel in Transylvania, where she soon learns that he's a vampire. No fangs here, though. Torgu's teeth, though hideously stained, are rounded, not sharp. He relies on two henchmen to murder his victims and pour the blood in a bucket for him to drink.
The vampires in this novel don't merely skulk about looking for blood. They are instead haunted by an eerie chant of place names: Treblinka, Olindo, Kosovo, Mycenae, Nanking. All places where terrible massacres have occurred. It's no accident that the offices of The Hour look down over Ground Zero in New York.
Evangeline disappears for months, and most of her family, friends and co-workers think she's dead except the ones who are receiving strange e-mails from her account. After mysterious shipments begin arriving from Romania, the show's sound system seems infected with a virus, and a strange chant permeates every recording the crew makes. Staff members begin wasting away, and then Evangeline is found in Romania, convalescing in a convent, in terrible shape. When she returns to New York, it becomes clear that Torgu has dark plans for everyone at The Hour. Marks tells his story through the e-mails, therapy journals and diary entries of characters. His experience working as a producer at 60 Minutes makes you feel like he knows just what to satirize at The Hour. He's not simply retelling Dracula; his vampires are more like guardians of the dead than horror movie villains. But don't think they're not scary. Fangland is a novel that will keep you up late: It's sad and terrifying and darkly funny.
Tasha Alexander is the author of And Only to Deceive.