It’s no secret that M. Christian and I are friends. I’ve introduced one of his books and we’ve guest blogged for each other too. So even if I’m not the most unbiased critic, I still like to highlight interesting books I read from time to time even if they are by friends of mine.
One of Chris’ many recurring themes are alternate visions of the police. One of the characters in his wonderfully weird novel near-future novel Finger’s Breadth is a freelance officer who receives his orders and files reports via a distributed police ap on his smartphone. “Bluebelle” in The Bachelor Machine explores a future cop’s intimate relationship with his police vehicle, and Christian even co-edited the anthology Future Cops.
The most recent book I read by him is The Very Bloody Marys. Like Finger’s Breadth, it takes place in an alternate San Francisco but creatures of the night. Our hero is Valentino, a young gay vampire so uncertain of his place in the world that he can’t even decide how to start telling his story at the beginning of the book, so he begins again 2 or 3 times. Somehow, despite his Lestat-like confidence or prowess, he’s been selected to join an undead police force charged with maintaining the secrecy of the undead and the weird.
Here, Valentino laments his own impending doom after his superior officer disappears:
Two hundred years. It’d been a good run. Lots of … well, there’d been blood of course. Moons. Stars. Rain. Fog. Hiding, too: all-night movie theaters, bars, discos, stables, warehouses, churches, a few synagogues (even a mosque or two) [...] Lots of … I was going to say friends but, to be honest, the nightlife might be advantageous to boogying but doesn’t make for long-term relationships. Some back-alley assignations, sticky stuff in my mouth or pants; not blood, or at least not up until a few years ago.
Two hundred sure sounds like a lot, but … the time just seemed to have hopped, skipped and jumped by. Never skied, never sailed, never surfed, never had two guys at once [...] What surprised me the most, though, was what I wanted more: orchids, bow ties, potato salad, string, oil or watercolor, hooks and line, two of everything.
The book has a breezy, playful noir style which would make it perfect summer reading. Though it doesn’t have the usual romance (though it has a handful of interesting unrequited ones), I found it especially interesting as a queer take on the torrid vampires-and-werewolves subgenre of urban fantasy.Dru Pagliassotti, The Harrow:
Zombie taxi drivers, golems of Abraham Lincoln, a four-star restaurant in the city morgue, vampires, warlocks, fairies, ghouls, and angelic apparitions: they're all denizens of The Castro's other night-life, and Valentino must bluster his way through them as he hunts for a murderous faery, his missing dickwad of a commanding officer, and — of course — the pretty and ruthless Very Bloody Marys.
M. Christian has created a character with an unforgettable, if unceasing, narrative voice, an amusing and cliche-busting antidote to the overpopulated literary ranks of hardboiled vampire detectives. The world of Le Conseil Carmin, where vampires literally work for Blood Money and protect humanity from creatures much worse than themselves, is well-wrought; the plot twists, although initially baffling, all get satisfactorily straightened out; and Valentino, a less-than-enthusiastic member of Le Corps Policier Contre, has a self-conscious charm that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.
Fresh, quirky, and irreverent, The Very Blood Marys is a vampire novel for readers who've become bored with vampires.Mari Adkins, Apex Science Fiction:
The Very Bloody Marys isn't so much a vampire novel--the vampires are far and away from Bram Stoker, and I'm glad for that--as it is a good, old-fashioned mystery. I hate be cliché and say "This book is a classic page-turner," but it is! The plot is quick-paced, and Valentino is as sexy as he is funny. The story is packed with a full, colorful cast of characters ranging from vampires, ghouls, and faeries. Oh, and a zombie or two. If you're hungry for a different kind of vampire book, don't miss this one!Steve Williams, Muse Review:
Deftly, M. Christian has created a novel that is, in fact, a coming of age story in a sugary horror coating. Valentino goes through trials, such as confronting three Marys on Vespors, getting attacked by a pissed off Irish Faery called Liam - I kid you not - and having to contend with a chauffer called Mariah - please, God, let Mariah Carey play him in the movie, a zombie in drag, and she could warble all she'd like off camera just as long as, for those few seconds, she shuts the hell up (like her songs though!) - who is less than forthcoming when it comes to information or help of any kind. And so, time after time, Valentino must battle forces he has... well... to say he has no comprehension of wouldn't be quite fair. It's rather like giving an infant a blow torch and not expecting him to roast his little apple cheeks off (I'm suddenly quite hungy. Mutilation, even joking, shouldn't do that to a man).
Needless to say, there's a fair amount of swearing, some getting spanked with chains and a dollop of hard ass domineering, but you'll have to wait and see if Valintino, our underdog (who, incase anybody does want to make a film of this, I think I look quite like; hollywood, call me) makes it through this ... well, not alive... but... as dead as he was before... I guess.
M. Christian's writing really sparkles here, and his wit is obvious, and never labored. There's a lot to love, amongst characters like a talking cat addicted to cat nip, and a statue of Lincoln that is a wizard's personal butler. There were a few moments of perplexity on my part as I was reading through, but M. Christian does well in keeping you turning the page, and, whilst everything is tied up in the end rather niceley, this isn't forced and feels much better for it. In fact, I felt this one book would make an excellent start to a series, and I know I for one would be reading cover to cover.
There was one issue I had. Oh God, what an issue. I mean, really, Valantino fancying Nicholas Cage... well, I suppose, if you're a walking corpse your taste would change somewhat... but I'll let M. Christian off on that score, because Very Bloody Marys is one of the most entertaining little novels I've read in a good long while, and it does, as they say, exactly what it says on the tin.Out & About Magazine:
4 Muses Out of 5! ***This Weeks Recommended Read.
Don’t lock your doors – the thing that goes bump in the night is back—and he’s hot!
M. Christian, the best-selling author of Running Dry, has set out to curl your toes and your eyelashes. The Very Bloody Marys is a rollicking noir that sets the hero, a slick gay vampire cop named Valentino, against a wandering gang of vamp twinks, a killer Tinkerbell, and a world wide council of vampires that would make the Vatican seem laid-back and jovial.
Quick paced and full of eye-popping visuals, The Very Bloody Marys whisks down the plot-line at breakneck speeds, daring the reader to keep up. Back-story is held up to make way for the full throttle action that begins almost immediately, and once you’ve started the book, it may prove difficult to put down.
Christian was written the quintessential noir mystery, using sex, the night and a barrage of interesting undead characters to tell a fun and captivating story. There are several references to Humphrey Bogart, and indeed, our gay Bogie is the perfect protagonist, even if he himself doesn’t buy it.
Using all the right details, Christian has created a world that’s one part L.A. Confidential and two parts Tales of The City. The result is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying experience that will leave you thirsty for more.
Thomas Roche, ErosZine:
With The Very Bloody Marys, prolific writer and editor M. Christian, best known for his vast contribution to the erotica genre, turns his hand to the melding of the classic San Francisco crime-noir thriller (think The Maltese Falcon) and the steamy, sexy vampire-occult tale (think TV shows Angel or The Dresden Files, or Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series of novels). That it is also an irreverent entry into the San Francisco canon of queer coming of age novels might be unexpected, given that its protagonist is a centuries-old vampire, but that aspect of The Very Bloody Marys is no less satisfying for the main character's age.
Christian is known primarily as an erotica writer, or, more accurately, one of the most widely-published authors ever to assault carnal matters. With Marys, however, that fact is evident only in the briskness of his prose and the frankness with which he treats the dark, sleazy side of the city. Far from being an entry in Christian's mind-boggling output of boldly innovative, irreverently nasty erotica, The Very Bloody Marys is a tight genre thriller with a taste for the absurd and a dry wit. But it's also about coming of age; Valentino, as a centuries-old vamp, still has a lot to learn about being a cop, and when confronted with matters of the heart he's as arrested in his development, as vulnerable and at-risk, as any teenager lost in the byways of human relationships.
Equal parts action and introspection, the 171-page thriller cooks along rapidly, following the formulas of the tried-and-true detective novel while at the same time slyly lampooning it. San Franciscans will recognize the details of their city, the smells and sounds of Fogtown after sunset. If you've walked those streets at midnight, you'll recognize them. If you never have, you'll want to book the next flight and maybe bring a cross and some holy water.
Like all the best noir thrillers, Marys is about being apart, alone, isolated; it's about finding a way to bring evil to justice, even if that justice is uglier than the crime; and first and foremost it's about redemption, as Valentino struggles to find his place in the city's nightside and make things right, while keeping his skin.
The Very Bloody Marys is a divine confection with a steaming load of pulpy goodness. It's also got its boots planted firmly in the noir tradition that crosses every sexual boundary in its search for right and wrong. And perhaps most importantly, or most immediately important, it's a deliciously enjoyable addition to three different, and too, too empty, bookshelves: queer vampires, queer noir, and late-night San Francisco adventure.... and some short reviews:
M. Christian creates a variety of quirky characters from wizards to zombies to fairies, and the tone captures the feeling of a fast-paced horror movie, alternately funny and creepy.
Atmospherically potent and stylishly polished, Christian marries suspense, terror, black humour and romance intelligently and wittily making The Very Bloody Marys a smart and fun addition to the bloodsuckingly camp vampire genre.
- GayDar Nation
$7.99 (ebook edition, all formats)