Vampire Detectives of the Page

Like sonetka, I too have been thinking about vampires. In part this is due to the recent resurgence of immortality on TV, (namely CBS’s Moonlight,) but I’ve actually had vampires, and more specifically vampire detectives, in my life since high school, so I’m going to backtrack and look at this weird theme from the beginning, starting where sonetka left off, in books.

My first encounter with the combination of vampire and detective fiction came through my high school enjoyment of Mercedes Lackey‘s books. Her Valdemar series is gaining something of the never-ending quality of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, but, also like McCaffrey, she has been prolific in other series as well. One of those other series was the Diana Tregarde Investigations set. There were only three books in the series, Children of the Night, Burning Water, and Jinx High, due to, I kid you not, unbalanced fans threatening Lackey for revealing the truth of occult police work (and a bunch of other stuff.)

In any case, Lackey’s main character, Diana Tregarde, is a Guardian, who guards the force, fights evil, etc., etc. She must solve occult-based mysteries to save the world, which makes for some weird and wacky plots, but with some good fantasy/horror suspension of disbelief, everything makes sense within the context of the book. They’re fast-paced, like any good adventure mystery, and not nearly as cheesy as they sound initially. But what does Diana do to pay the bills when she’s not out fighting monsters? She writes romance novels. And who does she meet in the first book, who helps her gain insight into the dark side of the occult world, and also happens to be tall, dark, devastatingly handsome, and averse to sunlight? A vampire boyfriend, of course. Sound familiar? The vampire boyfriend turned out to be one of the more interesting side characters, but given that the next two mysteries took place out of town, he mostly became relegated to phone conversations and textual references, and then the series ended and we heard of him no more. Alas.

Enter Tanya Huff! Another author I discovered in high school, one much more comfortable in the fantasy/horror genre than Lackey, and happily also not afraid of humor. One of her early series was the Blood quintet. These books featured an ex-police, now private, detective, Vicki Nelson, who becomes entangled with vampire Henry Fitzroy. In an amusing coincidence, in these books, it’s the vampire who writes the historical romances to pay the bills, a career that comes quite naturally to the bastard son of Henry VIII. One fun plot element that comes up frequently is Vicki’s complete night blindness, which doesn’t work well with Henry’s inability to deal with daylight. This does of course make solving crimes jointly a breeze.

It’s been a while since I read these books, so I don’t remember all the details of what happened in which book. At various points they must deal with demons, werewolves, zombies, and ghosts, all linked with Toronto-area homicides. More ethical issues of vampirism show up in this series than in Lackey’s, though, because eventually things come to the point where Henry must decide whether to save (or “save,” depending on your point of view) Vicki’s life by turning her. There are also more complicated relationships, because Vicki’s ex-partner from the police force, Mike, is also a romantic interest who feels replaced by Henry, and Henry’s relationships with humans often have more to do with physical hunger and lust (conveniently combined) than what most people would think of as love. Plus he’s got the whole son-of-a-king, obligation-to-protect-the-peasants kind of chivalry thing going on at times. These books were turned into a TV series for Lifetime, though I admit I never saw it.

The end of the Blood Books has Henry and Tony, his young street-kid protege, moving across Canada to Vancouver. This gives rise to the spin-off series, the Shadow Trilogy. Again Henry takes the sidekick role as Tony makes his way into the film industry and finds any number of bizarre intersections with the occult. The special effects master is actually a wizard? Okay, sure, his ex-boyfriend is a vampire. They need to save the city from a demon? Fine. The old house being used as a set is being possessed by malignant spirits? Why do these things always happen to him? This series is much more lighthearted than the Blood Books and get a lot more laughs. Henry’s character, though still secondary, does get to come forth a little more. Tony likes to point out some of Henry’s more arrogant moments, labeling them either Prince of Darkness or Prince of Man moments, and Tony frequently struggles to feel fully independent of Henry, while always finding himself in situations in which he needs his supernatural help.

I grant you this last series moves away from the usual pattern that sonetka introduced, of the seductive vampire with the young woman, but all three of these series are dealing with adults rather than teenagers, and it’s nice to see that the “vampire as lover” theme can be carried across the heterosexual/homosexual divide.

None of these relationships ever got serious enough to address the immortal/mortal aging together problem, which is a ripe source for angst and drama, as mentioned by sonetka. And what better place for angst and drama than TV? Next time: Vampire Detectives of the Small Screen.

-posted by Dana

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8 Responses to Vampire Detectives of the Page

  1. Alder says:

    I haven’t read a ton of vampire novels, but one I really liked was Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. It is set in a more magic-inhabited world than this one after a big crisis involving demons and such. A young woman with an affinity for sunlight (and baking) has to make an unexpected alliance with a semi-good (or at least not all bad) vampire. I get the feeling that the author had read a lot of the kinds of vampire books you folks are talking about, and plays off of them, but the book strikes me as more of a Robin McKinley book than a vampire book. Still– I think fans of both would like it 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    Alder,

    A Robin McKinley book I haven’t read?! How dare she continue to write interesting things while I wasn’t paying attention. I must read this book immediately.

    To the library!

  3. Alder says:

    Dana– Yes! This is my favorite of her more recent books (I still have a soft spot in my heart for The Blue Sword, the first of her books I ever read). She’s written another one recently, too, Dragonhaven, but it is a little bit stream-of-consciousnessy for me (and not about vampires at all, for the purposes of this blog post).

  4. Sonetka says:

    So Henry Fitzroy didn’t actually die at 18? Or is this the classic “turned at the moment of death” plot? I must know more of this!

    (Also looking forward to the post on angsty relationship aging questions – specifically, is there one that involves a female vampire and male human? I can’t think of one).

  5. Dana says:

    Sonetka,

    On the female vampire/male human thing, it does come up, but only as a side plot involving a non-main character.

    I can’t remember how and when Henry said he was turned. Clearly, I need to reread those books.

    Alder,

    I loved The Blue Sword best, too. I liked it a lot more than The Hero and the Crown. I still reread it on a semi-regular basis.

  6. […] Detectives of the Small Screen Where was I? Oh, yes, the angst and drama surrounding vampire/mortal relationships. As it turns out, TV has been […]

  7. […] whole series of posts on vampire fiction, but here I am, adding to it again. (Previous posts here, here, and here.) I picked up The Historian to take with me on my long business trip in large part […]

  8. Toni Andrade says:

    Several years ago, maybe 15 or more, I read a book or two that reatured a vampire who was a policeman and moved from city to city. He protected humans and would dispatch rogue vampires to somewhere…an island or a dungeon…to be imprisioned, but also worked as a regular homicide detective. Am trying to find out who this author was…any suggestions?

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