First published back in December of 2013, the novella ‘Bite’ formed the first instalment in P. Gardner Goldsmith’s gritty vampire series.  Alongside an introduction by the author, the book also contains two of the Goldsmith’s previously published short stories.

DLS Synopsis:
Sylvester Cole had decided that enough was enough.  He’d booked his flight and was finally getting away from Vegas and everything that he’d had to deal with there.  After all, as far as he was concerned he’d neutralised the threat that had been plaguing the darkened backstreets of the city.  Incinerated those that had been feeding off the innocent in a fiery warehouse blaze.

He’d gone to Honcho’s for one last drink and maybe even a little female companionship for the night.  However, there in the shadowy corner of the bar, he saw the woman who would change everything.  Wearing a flower print sun dress and a lime green shawl, she introduced herself as Ashely Courtland.  And she had a proposition for Cole.  She needed his help.

It turns out that Cole had killed the vampire that murdered her twin sister, Sandy.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  For some reason the chain hadn’t been broken.  And now she was being stalked by one of the men that her sister had herself corrupted.  She was now being hunted by one of the bloodthirsty undead.

And so that’s why she was had come to Honcho’s that night.  She knew who Cole was.  She knew he was part of a professional underground network of mercenaries.  But what she didn’t know was that Sylvester Cole had had enough.  He was done with it all.  He wanted out and away from Vegas for good.

But something’s are hard to turn your back on.  And sometimes you have to follow more than just your gut instinct.  In the end, something’s were worth staying on for…

DLS Review:
Dirtied with the built-up grime from a city’s dark underbelly, P. Gardner Goldsmith’s novella is one that basks in the seething stench of Vegas’ gutter; where the opportunities for a gritty horror plot are practically unavoidable.   And Goldsmith utilises this backdrop to full effect – offering up a harsh and suitably-grimy horror story that carves through the fifth with the rusty blade of a cut-throat crime thriller.

However, it’s not the seedy backdrop that makes Goldsmith’s story such an outrageously compelling read.  Nor is it down to the adrenaline-fuelled pace that he manages to maintain throughout.  Although these all play a strong part in the overall success of the novella, its instant draw is undoubtedly down to the incredible prose that Goldsmith wields with a seemingly effortless grace.

Scenes are set with a solid realness to them.  Atmospheres are formed with a near-palpable presence.  And characters are established that seem to have always been known to you.  It’s crazy how intimate a story can feel purely through the style in which it was written.  How the simple choice of word can make a tale feel more in-tune with you.  How everything in the story becomes more vibrant, more vivid, and more immediate – just through the way in which it is told.  And it’s a rare skill that Goldsmith exhibits throughout his work.

The plot itself is very close to the likes of Stephen Norrington’s ‘Blade’ (1998), although with a Gary McMahon style grimness enveloping the whole thing.  In fact, if you heaped a hefty helping of Serenity J. Banks’ ‘The Left Hand’ (2011) alongside a good-old-portion of David Wellington’s ‘13 Bullets’ (2006) into the whole mix, then you probably wouldn’t be all that far off this rough and raw contemporary vampire offering.

For its length Goldsmith has certainly crammed in more than his fair share of action and intensity.  There’s barely time to come up for air between the heart-pounding pursuits and adrenaline-pumping fight sequences.  And amongst all of that you have the scum of the city.  The real underbelly.  The low of the low.  God is it a disgustingly good read.

Alone – 4 Pages
He was alone.  Outside the world had gone to hell.  Inside was all he had left now.  Cowering behind boarded-up windows and doors; left with nothing but his thoughts and his memories.  The stench of his dead family heavy in the air.  His days were numbered.  He could very possibly be the last one left alive…

First published in Tracy L Carbone’s anthology ‘Epitaphs’ (2011), Goldsmith’s short piece of flash fiction is more about creating a ‘I Am Legend’ (1954) bitterly bleak atmosphere rather than attempting to concoct anything that resembles a storyline or plot.  And in such a short space of time Goldsmith manages to establish a veritable fog of oppressive claustrophobia in his downbeat snippet of one final last man alive.

Sigil – 7 Pages
Hidden away in a small solitary cabin in the tranquillity afforded by the New England outback, he lives out the rest of his day in a quiet and lonely existence.  His life now is simple.  His days spent just with the chores of living where he is.  But it’s at night, in the comfort of his cabin, that his mind wonders back to his past.  And on the pages of his aging diary, his past is far from forgotten…

First published within Michael Bailey’s ‘Chiral Mad’ (2012) anthology, Goldsmith’s offering is one that would perhaps be more perfectly at home in an Ambrose Bierce collection.  Indeed, it’s one of those shorts that edges along at its own creeping pace, tantalising the reader with a cautiously-paced horror story that’s designed to quietly unsettle the reader.  The story has a purposefully dated feel, harping back to those bygone days of penny dreadfuls and collected periodicals, whereby such snippets of something supernatural would spark the reader’s imagination.  A perfect little read for a few minutes spent in front of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night.

The book runs for a total of 78 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

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