The 10 Best Vampire Novels No One Has Read

Just because a novel is on a national bestseller list—or sells hundreds of thousands of copies—doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. The reverse is also true, especially of genre fiction, fringy fiction—a lot of the good stuff comes and goes virtually unnoticed.

Take vampire fiction, for example.

I’ve been reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and horror for almost 20 years now—and I’ve been reading the stuff obsessively since I was a kid—and during that time, I’ve discovered some jaw-droppingly good vampire novels. And the fascinating thing is that quite a few of my most memorable bloodsucking reads have been either self-published or released by a relatively small press—including more than half of the titles listed below.

With the anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death coming up in a few days (he died April 20, 1912), I thought it would be fitting to shine the light on some of the most under-appreciated vampire novels of all time.

10. Impure: Resurrection by J. R. Bailey (2011)

This little self-published gem is essentially vampire-nuanced adventure fantasy. Darkly lyrical and deeply philosophical, it’s like R. A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden saga—with teeth. I loved how Bailey reimagined the vampire mythos in a classic adventure fantasy setting.

9. The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas (1980)

Although the New York Times Book Review called it “among the genre’s few modern classics” and Stephen King described it as “unputdownable,” this landmark work seems to have flown under the radar for many vampire fiction fans. I hadn’t run across it until Tor reissued it back in 2008—and I’m so thankful they did!

8. Fat White Vampire Blues by Andrew Fox (2003)

This and its sequel, Bride of the Fat White Vampire, are simply hilarious reads. Featuring a 500-pound, bloodsucking taxi driver named Jules Duchon, this story—set in New Orleans—is as entertaining as it is audacious. The tagline for Fat White Vampire Blues says it all: “He’s undead, overweight, and can’t get a date.” You will never read anything quite like these novels…

7. Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin (1982)

How can a Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated novel written by a living legend be under-appreciated? Many people know GRRM only for his Song of Ice and Fire saga but, in my mind, this novel—largely set on the Mississippi River in 1857—is one of his best works ever.

6. Blood Blade by Marcus Pelegrimas (2009)

The first novel in Pelegrimas’s Skinners saga, this novel was marketed as paranormal fantasy and while it certainly is that, it is also an epic reimagining of vampires and various other monstrosities. Vampire fiction fans may never have even heard of this series before but at its heart, Skinners is nothing short of revolutionary vampire-powered horror.

5. Blood Vice by Keith Melton (2009)

I described the first book in Melton’s Nightfall Syndicate thusly: “Imagine Bram Stoker writing a crime fiction epic, or Mario Puzo penning a vampire-powered thriller. Blood Vice is a perfect graft of noir fiction and paranormal fantasy…”

4.  Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley (2011)

This remarkable debut novel from Headley—which revisits Cleopatra’s life (and death) as the Roman Empire was conquering Egypt—is simultaneously a beautiful, glorious, and tragic love story; a unique work of literary fiction that fuses historical events with Egyptian and Greek mythology; and a dark fantasy that cleverly reimagines the vampire mythos.

3. The Golden by Lucius Shepard (1993)

Again, like Fevre Dream, how can an award-winning novel (The Golden won the 1994 Locus Award for Best Horror Novel) written by a genre fiction icon be under-appreciated?  For whatever reason, this vampiric masterpiece seems to be a novel that many vampire fiction lovers have overlooked. I described this one as “a dark, poetic phantasmagoria of nightmarish images, brutal violence, and unholy sensuality not to be missed.”

 2. The Shake by Mel Nicolai (2010)

This brilliantly understated novel—self-published by Nicolai in 2010—is a blend of vampire fiction, noir mystery, and deep existential speculation. Revolving around a centuries-old vampire living in Central California who becomes entangled in a mystery involving one of his victims, this novel will resonate with readers long after the reading experience is finished.

1. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (2011)

I described Rowe’s debut novel as “a dark masterpiece that virtually burns the pages with a bloody incandescence.” Set in 1972, the story begins in the guise of a relatively conventional fiction narrative following three broken—and broke—characters on a trek from Toronto to Parr’s Landing, a little mining town in “the middle of nowhere” on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Ontario. This will be one of the best vampire novels you ever read.

Have you read any of the novels on this list?

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000171189836 Terry Weyna

    I’ve read Fevre Dream and The Vampire Tapestry, and enjoyed both of them very much. I’m surprised that Tim Powers’s wonderful and demanding novel, The Stress of Her Regard, doesn’t make your list!

  • http://twitter.com/Toni_BookAddict MyBookAddiction

    Well, thanks. Now I have more books on my TBR list. :)

  • Deborah Craytor

    I’ve read Fevre Dream, Blood Blade, Blood Vice, and Queen of Kings; of those, I enjoyed Blood Vice and Queen of Kings the most. I have previously purchased Enter, Night and Impure: Resurrection, and Vampire Tapestry looks interesting, too. I love the “Featured Titles” section appearing after the new blog entries; I see that the NOOKBook version of The Shake is currently available for $2.99, so I will definitely be picking that one up, too.

  • Deborah Craytor

    Yay! My library has The Vampire Tapestry and The Golden, so I guess I’ll be going on a vampire marathon soon.

    • Deborah Craytor

      Having now read both The Vampire Tapestry and The Golden, I agree that The Vampire Tapestry belongs in your list, but The Golden did nothing for me. I found the writing style overwrought and Michel’s visit to the Patriarch completely bewildering.

  • http://www.flyleafreview.com/ Heather@ The Flyleaf Review

    You forgot Sunshine by Robin McKinley, 2003

  • http://www.facebook.com/mir.asraful.3 Mir Asraful

    Yes it
    is best book. But my life turning point is a Book name as Turning point which
    is written by Dr. Kevin Williams. He is a noted minister, acclaimed
    motivational speaker, author and media personality.

    http://www.drkevinawilliams.com/

    Williams
    speaks to audiences around the world about subjects ranging from life’s turning
    points and the challenges of being single in today’s world, to reinvention of
    oneself and the role of religion and spirituality in a person’s life. In recent
    years, he has become a media personality and is regularly quoted in magazines
    and newspapers, and appears on television shows, as an expert resource on a
    variety of topics.

    As the
    Pastor of the New Jerusalem Cathedral in Greensboro, North Carolina, Williams
    oversees a congregation of more than 4,000 members who rely on him for
    spiritual guidance, inspiration and motivation. Williams’ sermons are also
    broadcast every week on the ABC and Fox affiliates in the Carolinas as well as
    radio stations from Alabama to Pennsylvania, reaching an audience of millions
    throughout the South and into the Northeast. Williams is also the house Pastor
    at Monument of Praise Ministries in High Point, North Carolina.

    Williams
    is the author of “Turning Point,” a manual filled with advice and
    guidance for business-minded people. Williams provides historical, political
    and personal success stories that aim to change the mindset of readers. The
    book received rave reviews for its ability to teach individuals how to use life
    experiences and key moments, whether positive or negative, as a form of
    motivation to live a more positive lifestyle.

    • Deborah Craytor

      Huh? What does the book you describe have to do with vampires?

  • Michelle Lane

    I read Fevre Dream when I was in 9th or 10th grade. It was amazing, and I should definitely read it again as an adult.

    • shining.genji

      rereading our favorites from when we were kids can be quite disillusioning, i’m afraid.

      Dune and Brave New World are two of the few books that really stood up, and BNW is so much better now that i’ve read a lot of Nietzsche and understand what Huxley was getting at.

      however, most books just seem flat after 35 years or whatever.

      our tastes mature, especially since we’ve read many books since then.

      but then again, a woman who still uses the word “amazing” to describe a book she read when she was 15 or 16, who knows . .

      well, at least you didn’t use the other A-word, “awesome.” .

    • Rob Patton

      I read Fevre Dream last year and loved it. One of the best Vampire novels in my opinion, along with Let the Right One In and Salem’s Lot and The Historian. Anne Rice notwithstanding of course!

  • Silver Moonbeams

    we shall see if your right… i cannot wait to publish mine

  • Vampryss

    I quite enjoyed ‘The oldest living Vampire’ by Rod Redux. Has anyone else read the books in this series?

    • shining.genji

      the title “oldest living Vampire” makes me think of a parody, The Oldest Living Vampire Confederate Widow Tells All.”

      it could be a sequel to “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer.”

    • Erik

      I have…I just commented people should get it. Loved that series and I can’t wait for the next book which I think he is working on it now.

  • Karen Fainges

    I’d like to add my own books, The Shaytonian Chronicles. They mix the paranormal with sci fi.

  • shining.genji

    i read The Vampire Tapestry so long ago that I don’t remember when, twenty or thirty years ago, and then again last year.

    excellent, in my opinion.

    all the rest, no, not read them or even heard of them.

    i have a title, Castle Dubrava, by Yuri Kapralov, that I’d recommend. Read it twice, long ago and recently, too. not as good as Vampire Tapestry, but still pretty good.

    on the other hand, to mention a much better known book, I didn’t like

    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. it’s not horror, or rather it’s an eerie story, a subgenre where mostly creepy, mysterious things happen but there no real confrontation with evil or whatever.
    In the Historian, characters do things simply because they have to do it to move the plot along, go restaurants in huge cities in far away places where they just happen to strike up conversations with people who just happen to speak English and are able to tell things that they need to know to move the plot along. They go to fabulous libraries and look and maybe even touch books in mysterious languages but don’t really do any boring stuff like actually read those big dusty mysterious books . . .

    and then they meet Dracula, the real Dracula, real-life Rumanian mass murder and undead vampire.

    it’s all very silly and 900 pages where nothing really happens and where nothing really holds up to critical thinking.

    • Rob Patton

      Loved the Historian. Great read, and wonderful intertwining of history and fiction, and Vampires!

  • Kevin Rubin

    So there’s a little known novel out there entitled “Cult of the Vampyr” by KRRubin, Excellent. I’d recommend it. Centers on the battle between Vampires and Wicccan’s in a modern day setting…a bit if mystery, action, and horror…real page turner

  • IceCreamSarang

    For romanticized vampire fiction, I’d recommend Poppy (Z.) Brite’s Lost Souls. The vampires are a mix of glam and romance, horror and terror. It’s an interesting read, but it’s not for everyone.

  • Robert T Canipe

    I’ve read 9, 8, 7, and 3.

    • shining.genji

      LoL, why tell us that, if you’re not going to tell us what you thought of them?

      i’ve seen people like you in the bookstore pointing to books on the shelves, “i read that!” “I read that, too!”

      and that’s it.

      well, congratulations!

      • Robert T Canipe

        They were good.

        • shining.genji

          i wasn’t angry.

          but can’t you see that just saying that you read a few books, that you refer to by their numbers in this story, too, really doesn’t tell us anything?

          it might be interesting to people who know you, but we don’t, of course.

          and i’m glad to hear that you thought that they were good, although just maybe you could’ve told why they were good, or in what way they were good.

          but that’s okay. i wouldn’t want you to worry that i’m getting angry again.

          well, i’m off to my court-ordered anger management therapy.

      • Robert T Canipe

        And why are you angry?

  • Ryk Spoor

    Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I’m rather proud of my own _Digital Knight_, soon to be re-issued in an expanded and, I think, much improved version titled _Paradigms Lost_ (November, from Baen). Admittedly it’s not just “vampires” but a lot of other stuff, too (I have described it as “MacGyver meets the X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)

    I *am* impressed that you include “The Vampire Tapestry”. I read that when it first came out many years ago, but have hardly encountered anyone else who has.

  • shining.genji

    i have another title, not sure if “no one reads” it, “The Hunger,” by Whitley Strieber. it was made into a movie in 1983 with the French actress Catherine Deneave, Susan Sarandon and the rocker David Bowie.

    i remember it as a good movie, but i was 24 back then.

    but I just read the book. pretty good. an SF take on vampires, or at least it offers a quasi-scientific explanation — vampires are a different species than human, immortal but still primates. However, they can pass on some of their characteristics, including the hunger for blood and long life, to chosen humans.

    it’s also an a sexy novel, not erotica, but sexy, although i sort of wanted to only skim the sexy stuff — i guess reading the real thing has jaded me. — to get back to the main event.

    a factual mistake, the Thera (Santorini) volcano, which seems to have inspired both Plato’s myth of Atlantis and George RR Martin “Doom,” is brought up as a flashback. the vampire’s father tells her to go to Rome, that the Greeks will suffer from the great event, and he knows somehow, mysteriously, that it’s Thera as it happens, but the Greeks were living in mud huts back then, around the year 1500 BCE, and Rome wouldn’t be founded, traditionally, until about 750 years later, too.

    but still, pretty good.

    oh, another problem, why the main character would turn herself over to be studied just seems crazy.

    but still, again, a good book, if you can shut off the critical part of your brain, or like me, you’re willing to overlook its flaws.

    good movie, too, i suspect, it was 31 years ago when i saw it.

  • Marcelius

    You forgot Badly The Vampire Huntress Series,,By L.A.Banks,,its far more Entertaining and Pretty Retro for our Today`s Society…If Knowones read or heard of this Author and Her Vampire Huntress Series,,,u r missing one good BITE of a Read….

  • Erik

    The Oldest Living Vampire series by Joseph Duncan (pen name Rod Redux) is amazingly good and I highly recommend it.

  • Gina

    You left out “Silent Dawn: Chasing Sunrise” by Charles Avent, 2014 You have it listed as “Action/Adventure” but it’s a vampire book!