If like me, of the two major vampire films released in 1987, you prefer the Kathryn Bigelow directed Near Dark over Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, Knuckle Supper is the vampire novel for you. The Lost Boys may have had the audience and the soundtrack, but Near Dark had the brutality, originality, and grittiness that befitted the monsters at the heart of the story. Knuckle Supper carries that tradition into 21st-century horror literature.
Stepek writes vampires the way one might expect from someone who wants to take the monsters back from the L. J. Smiths and Stephenie Meyers of the world, restoring them to the darkness and underground where they belong. It’s difficult for me to describe what he’s put together in these pages that race past the reader at a rapid-fire pace. Knuckle Supper is, in effect, Anne Rice meets Irvine Welsh, Near Dark meets Requiem for a Dream, and a little bit The Warriors meets 30 Days of Night. If that doesn’t intrigue you, I honestly don’t know how else I can try to describe it without just reading the book to you, and we know I’m not going to do that.
We meet RJ and Dez as they’re preparing to murder a pimp in the home they’re squatting in, a steadily depreciating house once belonging to a former child star turned heroin addict.
RJ, Dez, and the rest of the Knucklers aren’t your typical Hollywood vampires, even though they live in Los Angeles. Blood isn’t their only addiction. They need heroin to survive. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as spiking a needle into their veins to get their fix. They need blood to carry the high into their starving, desiccated internal organs. Enter the pimp they’re about to have for supper.
The (almost) 13-year-old prostitute carelessly tossed into the bathroom is all but forgotten as RJ and Dez make a mess of the place in their desperate chase for a fix. Against his better judgment, and displaying more humanity than his peers, RJ decides not to kill the young girl. This act of uncharacteristic decency is how Bait becomes part of his family. It’s also how everything begins to spiral out of control, ultimately bringing RJ face-to-face with The Cloth, an organization he’d dismissed as nothing but a vampire’s boogeyman, and the painful truth at the core of what RJ actually is.
Drew Stepek introduces readers to a Los Angeles populated by a different sort of gang, consisting of a wholly different kind of gangster from what we’ve become familiar with from popular culture. The city is divided up between tenuously allied gangs of vampires, each feeding and dealing on their own turf. Brutal, far from immortal, and impulsive, Stepek’s vampires are prone to massive errors in judgment, and it’s only a matter of time before the flimsy alliances fracture and violence ensues.
There’s more to this story than drug addiction and graphic violence, though there’s plenty of both. There’s also a depth and character to this story that underscores the superficial, splattery elements of the narrative.
You can obtain a copy of Knuckle Supper as well as the sequel, Knuckle Balled, by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your preferred mobile device: The link to this title on both Godless and Amazon are below: