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Format: Paperback, 256pp
Pub. Date: January 2004
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Reviewed by Thumper
I love vampire tales with a passion. I'm always on the look out for new, well written, vampire adventures. I was anxious to read Brandon Massey's latest novel, Dark Corner, about vampires in an all black Mississippi town. The novel has both good and bad points. Fortunately, it doesn't have enough bad points that would turn me sour on reading future Brandon Massey novels or stories. Dark Corner is a trim here and a snip there away from being a remarkable novel.
The peace and tranquility of Mason's Corner, Mississippi (also known as Dark Corner because the entire population is African-American), is about to come to an end. In the late 1800s, Dark Corner was the place where, in his campaign to destroy all mankind, master vampire Diallo and his army were defeated. Diallo was not killed; he was put into deep sleep. Dark Corner is in for a repeat performance when Kyle Coiraut, the vampire son of Lisha (an ancient vampire) and Diallo, come to Mason's Corner to awaken the father he never knew. David Hunter, the son of the recently deceased writer Richard Hunter, is also on a quest to find any type of connection to his father. David comes to the Hunter family home in Dark Corner and discovers that he is the last descendant of the vampire hunter who destroyed Diallo. It is up to David to save the small town from an evil that his ancestor defeated many years ago.
Dark Corner has all of the elements I expect in a vampire novel: a tragic hero, silly thinking town folks, and a dynamic vampire antihero. The suspense and tension is built up nicely. The action scenes have plenty of action and Massey does not shy away from the violence. I like that a lot. Massey also adds a wonderful dimension to the novel by having a father-son theme laced throughout the plot. The main problem I have with Dark Corner is that Massey goes off track by including an ill-advised, nonsensical U-go-girl romance. When Massey sticks to the main plot, Dark Corner is really off the hook.
The strength of the novel is watered down considerably with the inclusion of a romance between David Hunter and Nia James. Nia, who was a teacher who ran from a psychotic stalker in Houston, had returned to her childhood home in Dark Corner. Nia falls in love with David at first sight. Not only does this romance, as well as the Nia stalking subplot, slow the pace of the novel to a painful crawl, but both are completely unnecessary.
Nia deserves a paragraph, in this review, because I hate her. I found Nia boring as hell and would have gleefully killed her myself. She is a stupid and highly unrealistic character. Peep this: Nia's stalker is Colin Morgan a teacher at the school Nia taught at in Houston. Colin Morgan finds Nia in Dark Corner. Colin breaks into Nia's mother's home. He beats up Nia's mother (bruises, black eye and all) and then ties her to a chair. Nia enters the house, pulls a gun out on Colin, and tells him to leave. Nia's last words, at the conclusion of this horrific event is the insipid "Mom, we'll let the police get him". WHAT?! Was I supposed to fall for that? *eyebrow raised* Come on now, Massey got me BENT! Hell, any person, out of G. P. (general principle), would have blown that son of a _itch away for jacking up his/her mama!
The rest of the characters in the book are a mixed bag of appealing and boring characters. Nia is not the only character that did not measure up. David Hunter got on my nerves too. Richard Hunter's death is the reason David goes to live in Dark Corner. Oddly enough, David did not seem too interested in talking with the town folk about his father. He wanted to do the impossible feat of trying to be inconspicuous in a small town where everybody knows everybody else. Basically, David is too slow on the uptake to be a good hero. I found myself saying to David on more than one occasion, "Man, buy a vowel and get a freaking clue."
On the other hand Van Jackson, the town's sheriff and his rebellious teenage son, Jahlil, were wonderful characters. The novel would have been tighter if Jahlil, going through all of his teenage angst, was the central character. Jahlil has more dramatic possibilities and more personality changes to go through than David, making him a far more dynamic character. Kyle Coiraut is an interesting character as well. Diallo, the master vampire, is a masterful creation, easily the most fascinating character in the novel. Diallo could be to Massey what Lestat is to Anne Rice, pure gold.
One of the jewels of Dark Corner is the different aspects of father-son relationships, which Massey explores. He renders the relationships of Van-Jahlil Jackson and Diallo-Kyle wonderfully. The relationship of David and Richard Hunter needs work. Richard was so much the absentee father that David showed little to no emotion over his death. I had a hard time understanding why David came to Dark Corner. The Richard-David relationship pales in comparison to the other two father-son unions. Well, I guess, two out of three ain't bad.
Vampires are popular in our culture. Bram Stoker's Dracula still defines our perceptions of vampires. Anyone entering into this arena must bring a fresh outlook to the table in order to make a positive impact. Anne Rice is successful in this genre because she recreated the vampire lore from the ground up. Others have been equally as winning: Jonathan Nasaw in his World on Blood two book series, Tananarive Due's My Soul to Keep, The Living Blood, and The Gilda Stories by Jewell Gomez; each gave unique perspective to the act of the passing of blood. I would have preferred it if Massey had spent more time defining his vampires; stating what their strengths and weaknesses are; and providing a brief history into their origins; thereby, creating his own twist.
With Anne Rice having recently published the last installment in her hugely
popular Vampire Chronicles, Dark Corner should have served as Massey's calling
card to Rice's audience. I have much hope for Massey's future in the horror
genre. There is time for him to fill the void left by Stephen King and Anne
Rice, but only if he remains true to the storyline and leave the crowd pleasing,
politically correct, U go girl stuff elsewhere.