Blood Groove

Blood Groove

4.2 4
by Alex Bledsoe
     
 

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When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, the cunning nosferatu realizes he must adapt quickly if he is to survive.

Finding willing victims is easy, as Zginski possesses all the

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Overview

When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, the cunning nosferatu realizes he must adapt quickly if he is to survive.

Finding willing victims is easy, as Zginski possesses all the powers of the undead, including the ability to sexually enslave anyone he chooses. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires. But these young vampires have little knowledge of their true nature, having learned most of what they know from movies like Blacula.

Forming an uneasy alliance with the young vampires, Zginski begins to teach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly, for there's a new drug on the street--a drug created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they may unwittingly be stepping into a fifty-year-old trap that can destroy them all . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

First published by Night Shade in 2006, this dark tale of vampires in 1970s Memphis is marred by racial stereotypes and grim perversions. Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski, stabbed with a crucifix in 1915, reanimates 60 years later when pathologist Patricia Johnson withdraws the cross from his mummified corpse. The racist and self-absorbed Zginski kills his African-American resurrector and heads out into the world. He joins up with a gaggle of young vampires, including lecherous black teens Olive and Leonardo, who speak almost entirely in clichéd blaxploitation patois ("Don't be a jive turkey, sweetheart") and use telepathy to seduce and kill unsuspecting humans. Coroner Danielle Roseberry almost becomes the pair's latest prey until Zginski realizes they all need her help to trace the origin of a mysterious vampire-killing dust. Bledsoe (The Sword-Edged Blonde) employs a suave, creepy style that suits the story but can't mitigate his appalling treatment of female and minority characters. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Baron Rudolfo Zginski awakens after 60 years inside a coffin with a gold crucifix wedged into his heart. He has been transported from a small town in Wales, where he had been judged to be a vampire, to a morgue in Memphis, TN. The year is now 1975; an unsuspecting medical examiner pulls the crucifix from his chest. Bad move. The hungry vampire is now awake and must find sustenance immediately. Zginski needs prompt help understanding modern life. His fortunate discovery of a group of naive young vampires (their knowledge of their undead status coming mostly from movies) helps him navigate this bizarre new world. Zginski and his new cohorts must track down the source of a street drug that kills vampires. Note to readers with delicate sensibilities: there are a few gory scenes, but only a few, and sexual seduction, because it is a primary vampire power, is often employed. Bledsoe's debut urban fantasy is an intoxicating brew of mystery, humor, and horror. This edgy, enthralling, entertaining tale is recommended for all fantasy collections.
—Patricia Altner

New York Times bestselling author Whitley Strieber
I love vampire stories, both reading them and writing them, and when one comes along that's as new and fresh as Blood Groove, well, it's just plain delicious. One very sweet read.
bestselling author of Vampire Earth on Blood Groov E.E. Knight
Hot and sticky and tangy as a slab of Memphis ribs. A trippy vamp-noir seventies feed-fest, complete with the requisite sex, drugs, and vintage rock.
award-winning author of Wicked Game on Blood Groov Jeri Smith-Ready
An edgy, visceral page-turner that had me laughing one moment and shivering the next. Alex Bledsoe is a writer to watch!

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765321961
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Blood Groove


By Alex Bledsoe

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Alex Bledsoe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5657-4


CHAPTER 1

Memphis, Tennessee, 1975

"Shit," said Patricia. It was an understatement.

"Yes, ma'am," her assistant Joe agreed, and scowled at the musty odor, strong despite the morgue's chill.

The body inside the enormous coffin had the unmistakable look of someone buried alive. The limbs twisted in the folds of dry, brittle clothing; the jaw hung open in an eternal cry of despair. But the knife driven through his heart, still gleaming after more than half a century, was what held their attention.

It was solid gold.

Joe moved around the casket taking photographs. The hum of the flash recharger echoed in the silent room. Patricia took a magnifying glass from the table and leaned into the coffin to examine the knife.

"Careful," Joe said. "One wrong move, we've got nothing but a big ol' pile of dust."

"Not after only sixty-some-odd years," she said good-naturedly, but he had a point, and she forced herself to be extra cautious.

At first she thought the knife was some ceremonial dagger, but a closer look showed it to be a crucifix, with an inscribed three-inch crosspiece and, visible between the ribs, a base sharpened to a point and flattened into a blade. The artwork was exquisite, with tiny Aramaic characters strongly suggesting a Middle Eastern origin. It was out of her area — she taught pathology — but she still knew impressive workmanship when she saw it.

"Christ on a stick," Joe said, and wrinkled his nose as he took the film from his camera. "So that's really a" — he made an exaggerated frightened face — "vampire?"

"No, it's a crime victim," Patricia said. "See the knife? He was murdered, allegedly by Sir Francis Colby, sixty years ago."

Joe put the camera aside. "And they want an autopsy done on him now? Is that Colby guy still alive or something?"

"No, he died quite some time ago. I'm not sure why the museum wants it, but it should be interesting as a technical exercise. You don't see many corpses like this."

"You mean ones that might rise from their coffins?"

Patricia scowled at him. "Did you read anything past the first paragraph of my memo?"

Joe rolled his eyes. "Yes. This is the corpse of Baron Zginski, the only man to have ever been legally proved to be a vampire. His trial was one of the first live broadcasts ever in Europe, but no recordings exist, and the various transcripts don't agree on details."

"You can read, then."

"But why are we cutting into him now, after all this time?"

She shrugged. "Professional courtesy. Someone at the museum wants to know the cause of death, and since we're part of the state system, they don't have to pay us extra. And you don't get experience with a body in this condition very often, so if you're serious about your education, you'd do best to shut up and pay attention."

She ran her hand along the coffin's firm, expensive wood overlay. The casket looked like a bulky version of a standard coffin, but they'd had to use a forklift to move it from the Colby Archives warehouse into the medical school's morgue room to examine it. Under the paneling the coffin was solid metal, probably lead.

"He looks ... dried out," Joe observed. "Not decayed. Mummified."

"Until the rubber dry-rotted, there was an airtight seal on this thing. The fluids drained out of the body while it was sealed, and when the rubber started to go, they evaporated."

"He does look like he has fangs," Joe pointed out.

"Just slightly enlarged canines," Patricia countered. "My grandmother had teeth just like that and she wasn't a vampire, either."

Her eye kept drifting back to the cross. If it was real ...

She forced her attention back to the moment. "Okay, we're pathologists, time to pathologize. Let's cook some tissue samples and see what really made everyone think this Baron Zginski was a vampire: porphyria, anemia, or just plain psychosis."

"There's no chemical test for psychosis."

"Your point?"

"It's nearly six o'clock."

"You have a date?"

He looked down. "No," he said pathetically.

"Well, you do now. With a Bunsen burner."

"I'm your T.A., not your slave," he said.

Patricia's eyes widened in mock outrage. She was the only black on the school's faculty, and one of only three women. But she'd worked with Joe long enough to know he had no idea how appallingly insensitive his remark, intended as a joke, might be. Maybe someday this would change, but now, in 1975, she decided to simply treat it as intended.

"All right, all right, I'm going," Joe said, and went to gather the test tubes.

Two hours later, while Joe prepared the tissue samples in the lab, Patricia went into the empty teacher's lounge, poured the last of the god-awful coffee, and settled onto the green vinyl couch. The museum curator had been kind enough to send along Sir Francis Colby's original documentation on the Zginski case, in which Colby had been prosecutor (and executioner, as it turned out). She opened the folder and read the first yellowed, handwritten page.


16 June 1915

Passelwaithe nestled amongst the Welsh hills, almost cut off from any sign of civilisation. Were you to stand in the centre of the town square and look in any direction, only green hills and grey sky would greet you. The people were equally isolated, aware of the modern world but preferring to exist in the superstitious nether regions of their ancestors. Magic still existed in Passelwaithe, or at least the belief in magic persisted.

I journeyed to Passelwaithe in response to a cryptic summons from one Arthur Jermin, the local physician. He'd been referred to me by Professor Alistair, and his letter described a problem so unusual I was unable to resist. I arrived just before sundown, as requested. It was a relief to be away from London, after the zeppelin air raids at the first of the month. Here in Wales, no trace of the ghastly war could be found.

The town seemed to be deserted as I climbed from my motorcar. Usually the sight of the great rumbling beast, technology's dire imitation of the horse, drew entire populations. I lit a cigar and waited to be noticed, one foot rakishly on the running board; that is, as rakish as a man my age could be.

In a few moments another man, as middle-aged and portly as I, literally skulked towards me, checking frequently behind him. Finally he stood erect and made an effort to reclaim his dignity. 'Sir Francis?' he asked.

'Indeed,' I said. 'And you are Dr. Jermin?'

'Quite. Come, let's get inside, in case —' He caught himself before giving away too much, and I followed him into the nearest building.

A typically Welsh choice, it turned out to be the local pub, and the entire male population of Passelwaithe filled it. Dark, muscular men with faces like battered gargoyles, they gazed upon me with an expectancy almost religious in its intensity. Dr. Jermin stepped forward.

'We have only a few minutes of safety left to us, lads,' Dr. Jermin announced. 'This is Sir Francis Colby, the eminent spiritualist. He's here to rid us of our problem. Is that not correct?'

'I must know this problem first,' I demurred.

'It's that devil, the Baron!' one man cried.

'Aye, Baron Zginski!' echoed another.

'And who is Baron Zginski?' I demanded.

'A vampire,' a man in a cleric's collar stated. 'An unholy being who survives on the blood of the living. And he'll be the ruin of us all if he's not stopped.'

Having been briefed somewhat by Professor Alistair, I was not entirely surprised. The grip of superstition was still firm in Passelwaithe. Indeed, they knew me only as a spiritualist, not understanding that my primary mission was to expose fraud and misinterpretation.

'True vampires,' I said carefully, 'are not native to this land. They exist only in isolated central European districts, or in books by Irish theatre managers. How is it one may be found here?'

'He came to us as a rich immigrant,' Dr. Jermin explained, 'claiming to have been disenfranchised by the war, and to have barely escaped with his life and fortune. That was six months ago. Since then, our wives and daughters have begun exhibiting strange behaviour. Our young men are disheartened and morose. And all due to this ... this foreigner!'

A grumble of assent rose from the gathered menfolk.

I understood all too well the dynamic at work here. 'Tell me, is this Baron Zginski a young man?'

The priest nodded. 'He appears young, yes. And handsome as the very devil. Yet rumours say he is centuries old.'

I considered my words carefully. This young, rich Continental European was clearly such a threat to the stolid males of Passelwaithe that they'd inferred supernatural origins to his attractiveness. Inwardly I was amused, but to all appearances remained deadly serious.

'Gentlemen,' I said, 'if this Baron is all you say, we must proceed with caution. Vampires are the devil's own tricksters, and —'

'Very little gets past them,' a new voice said.

A dashing, debonair young man stood in the doorway. Of medium height, slender, with raven-black hair and moustache, he dominated the room with his blazing eyes. The royal blood of Europe clearly flowed in his veins, and he stood for our inspection as if he were used to such scrutiny. His clothing was more appropriate for a Parisian salon than a Welsh pub, but he wore it with ease and flair.

'Sir Francis Colby, I believe?' he said in a light Eastern European accent.

I stepped forward. 'Indeed.

Baron Zginski?' 'Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski,' he said with a bow. 'At your service. I understand my neighbours have some rather unusual ideas about me.' Each man at whom he gazed directly immediately turned away.

'Some concerns, I believe,' I said in as conciliatory a tone as I could muster. 'I'm certain at the root it's mere misunderstanding.'

'No doubt,' Zginski said. He had none of the pomp of royalty, but rather an unassuming quality that was most endearing. 'When I heard you were to visit, I thought between the two of us we might clear this whole thing up. Your reputation for discovering the truth in such matters is spotless.'

'Devil,' someone muttered.

'Incubus,' came another voice.

Zginski smiled. His teeth were quite white, quite even. He said, 'I am open to any suggestion you make, Sir Francis. I wish only to live in peace with my neighbours, in my adopted country.'

'Very well. I suggest, then, that at this time tomorrow evening we meet here as a judicial body. We shall, Baron Zginski, put you on trial for the crime of being a vampire. Because of my experience in such matters, I shall act as prosecutor.'

Zginski clearly understood my meaning. 'And I shall defend myself, Sir Francis,' he said with a slight smile, 'with the mere truth.'

'Is there a magistrate?' I asked Dr. Jermin.

A white-haired gentleman announced, 'I am the magistrate. Alun Toomley.'

'Very well. I shall return at this time tomorrow evening, at which time we shall meet here to settle this. Oh, and incidentally — while I shall abide by any ruling you make, sir, I shall take steps to insure no prior prejudice will be allowed to operate. Baron Zginski will be judged on the facts alone.'

Baron Zginski nodded his assent and departed. Conversation resumed around us, low and bitter and menacing. I motioned Dr. Jermin to join me at a table.

'This is not an example of Christian charity,' I said quietly. 'That young man is rich, handsome, and, I assume, unmarried. That is why your village menfolk feel threatened.'

'I thought so at first, too, Sir Francis. Yet why would a rich, handsome bachelor pick such a tiny, out-of-the-way village? Why not London, or Glasgow?'

'Perhaps he has different priorities,' I said.

Jermin considered carefully before he spoke. 'Or perhaps he was aware that, in all of the United Kingdom, no village has as large a population of women. I've lived here for forty years, and attended births for nearly that long. In that time, daughters have outnumbered sons almost three to one, and the isolation we face here has kept most of them unmarried. If I were a young, handsome rich man, this would be an ideal location. And if I were also a vampire ...'

I finished my pint of bitters. 'Your fingers clutch at the proverbial straws, Dr. Jermin. Vampirism is a superstition, nothing more. Tomorrow night, we shall prove it.'

'I thought you were to be the prosecutor.'

'And I shall be. I shall submit Baron Zginski to every test of vampirism I know. And when he passes them all, we shall have settled this nonsense. Agreed?'

'Agreed,' Jermin said reluctantly.

As I drove from Passelwaithe, two things impinged on my consciousness. One was Dr. Jermin's description of the male-to-female ratio in the village; it was, indeed, an ideal situation for a male creature that fed on living blood.

The other was a moonlit glimpse, nothing more, of two figures on a hill, clutched in an embrace. One was a slender, dark-clad man, as Baron Zginski was. The other was smaller, paler, and unmistakably feminine. The second figure seemed to have swooned in the arms of the first.

At the time, I convinced myself they were merely lovers meeting for a tryst. Subsequent events would prove otherwise.


Joe tapped on the lounge door and opened it. "You decent?"

"Much as I ever am," Patricia said.

"Everything's running right now, so we should have basic toxicology screens pretty soon. I'm going to get something to eat, if that's cool. You want anything?"

She stood and stretched. "No. I'll probably be down in the morgue when you get back."

"Hanging out with the guest of honor?"

"Sometimes you spot new things if you keep looking. Have fun, but be back in an hour."

"Yes, massah," Joe said. Patricia merely sighed.

For reasons she couldn't really pinpoint, Patricia wanted to read the rest of this story in the room with what was left of poor Baron Zginski. Sure, it was morbid, but she was a pathologist, and she'd done her thesis on historical murders. Besides, being a black professional woman in Memphis, she knew just how strong provincial resentment could be; she felt like she and Zginski had something in common. Had anything really changed between 1915 and 1975? Different was still different, and still feared and hated.

She closed the door, buttoned her lab coat against the cold, and dragged a chair next to the coffin. xxx As promised, I returned to Passelwaithe the following evening with two security measures. One was quite obvious — I brought along an army signalman and his broadcasting apparatus. Passelwaithe was too wrapped up in itself, and this connection with the outside world would prevent any hysterical mob violence. The experiment served two masters: it provided the scrutiny needed to insure justice was done, and it allowed the military to test aspects of their latest equipment with a broadcast of such absurdity that no spy could take it seriously.

The other measure was insurance against a possibility so outlandish I chose to keep it my secret.

By prior arrangement, Dr. Jermin would escort Baron Zginski into town, and the tavern would be set up for our purposes. When Signalman Reynolds and I arrived, quite a crowd had already gathered outside the low building, trying to peer through the closed blinds and locked doors.

At the sight of the gathered masses, Signalman Reynolds immediately perked up, straightened his uniform, and put on his best winning smile. The image of Mercury on his cap badge accented his jaunty air. The group clustered outside the tavern was exclusively female, and all frowned with desperate concern. The women and girls of Passelwaithe had gathered there to learn what fate their bitter, jealous men had in store for the handsome stranger who had brought excitement into their isolated and dreary lives.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe. Copyright © 2009 Alex Bledsoe. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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