Review: Live Girls by Ray Garton

Book info:
Form: e-book, pdf
Genre: vampire horror
Target audience: definitely and only adults

Synopsis:

Something is rotten in the city of New York.  People are found dead but their blood is missing. Corpses disappear from mortuaries. Ordinary, decent men keep returning to a certain seedy sex peep-show called Live Girls. The police know nothing and do even less.

When Walter Benedek, a respectable, middle-aged reporter working for the New York Times, finds his  sister and niece dead his world falls apart. He decides to spend the rest of his holiday looking for their potential murderer – his brother-in-law, Vernon Macy.  Vernon was last seen near Live Girls but Walter is strangely unwilling to go inside that establishment – he has a hunch and he is very healthily afraid.  Still while hanging around  he accosts Davey, a young, naive assistant editor who doesn’t hesitate to enter.  Davey has been dumped by his latest good-for-nothing girlfriend  and haven’t been promoted as he expected to – small wonder he tries to enliven his life by looking for some new experiences. A visit to an obscure peep-show? Why not? Plenty of people do it every day, right?

Soon enough Benedek and Casey, Davey’s friend and colleague, notice the man is changing and not for the best. He is losing weight. He becomes unhealthily pale. He doesn’t want to eat anything unless it is a piece of really rare meat…and he can’t stop thinking about Anya, the stripper that entertained him at Live Girls. 

What I liked:

This book was first published in 1987 so exactly  twenty five years ago. Taking it into account I was surprised how fresh it was. The vampires tended to be of the older, Bram Stoker kind – beautiful but  dangerous and rather unfriendly when it comes to the humankind – but it suited me fine. In fact the further a vampire is from the sick Twilight vision the better I like the book.  I also appreciated the fact that the author balanced nicely the advantages and disadvantages of being a vampire. So yes, you can live far longer than humans but you are very allergic to garlic, you should avoid ‘bad’ blood (e.g. tained with drugs) and certain illnesses. There’s no such a thing as free lunch, right?

The pair of main protagonists (Davey and Casey) were likeable enough but I must admit I preferred Davey (more about Casey in ‘dislikes’ section). He is a dynamic character with as many good as bad features. He is weak, he likes to play a hero and rescue different ladies who then exploit him and leave. He never notices and even if he does he wants to believe in his version of events – deluded and naïve until he gets bitten one time too many. Let me also add that, showing Davey’s unhealthy obsession Garton makes interesting points about why men let different ‘vampires’ (metaphorically speaking of course) drain themselves dry.

Finally the whole world building was done in an interesting way. The two main female baddies, Shideh and Anya, were those beautiful, sexy, ruthless vampire beasts everybody loves to hate but for me the ‘monster vampires’, creatures which were foolish enough  to drink ‘poisoned’ blood were the most interesting idea here and a great touch although also the most creepy. It is a horror story after all.
There was a lot of sex scenes in the story, pretty explicit at times (hetero and lesbian) , but when you write about bad  vampires who run a peep-show and a nightclub, I think that’s unavoidable. Some  scenes might be disturbing and even a little bit disgusting  (erotic dance with a cross, mind you, performed by vampires, biting male patrons’ penises or sucking the menstruation blood out of someone, yuck, but hey, if you remember 50 Shades you shouldn’t be that shocked).

What I didn’t like:

First of all let me tell you that it was sometimes very annoying how long it took Walter Benedek and Davey to recognize what they were dealing with. Nowadays, every person who watches TV and/or reads popular literature would cry ‘vampire alert!’ after just one or two pages. It was so plain obvious that almost funny but I don’t consider it a real flaw.  Once again you should take into account the age of this novel – I bet some of its adult readers are younger than it is. Reading it you only become aware that all these shows like ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ or ‘True Blood’ do nothing more than refresh and copy, in a more or less successful manner, the old ideas. Perhaps painful but true – neither of contemporary authors has invented the vampires. Or anything else.

What really got to me was the character of Casey. For an independent, strong heroine she was sometimes almost too stupid to live. An example? Casey finds out that Davey visited Anya again to have sex. She reproaches him saying: ‘if you wanted to get a blow job you could ask me. You know I am clean.’ Oh dear, girl, such an advanced stupidity should be punishable by law.

First of all, you might be as clean as a virgin but Davey is most certainly not – there was nothing about him using condoms and  you know pretty well what company he used to keep, right? All of his ex- girlfriends were tramps to say the least of it, the fact that he played a white knight didn’t mean he was also a monk. Now he’s visited that stripper several times and you still think he didn’t have any occasion to catch anything nasty? Secondly, in your case it really sounded out of character. You are supposed to be a respectable, sensible girl and what respectable girl would offer something like that ? Ok, you can be a modern woman without inhibitions but still you are not a prostitute, right? Not yet, anyway (no, not telling  more, it would be a spoiler). Finally, my dear, if you are such an experienced and blase creature who can offer her friend oral sex in a very offhand manner you should have known as well that it is really not all the same who performs these services, at least not to Davey.  He is the faithful one and he is infatuated with Anya. Haven’t you noticed?

Final verdict:

A very steamy and gritty but surprisingly good horror vampire novel with just few mistakes. Old school but better than many contemporary clones. I always like it when an author takes a great number of  commonplace myths about the vampires and turns them on their head. It was the nicest part of this read.
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