I bought Brawn Stroker’s Dragula, by indie author Nicole Antonia Carro on a whim. When I read the title, I was expecting something incredibly camp and lightweight, but that is certainly not what I got. Instead, I found a tale full of people I could call friends, and situations I hope my friends never find themselves in!
Ybor City, Florida. November 1999
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, lowly female impersonator Chris Reynolds brings a mysterious stranger home. In the four-day weekend which follows, Chris and his friends become embroiled in the secret world of Dr. Stephen Bartow, a reluctant & incompetent vampire who only wants his humanity restored so he can return to his one true love. Yet they are all in danger when a demon from Dr. Stephen’s past returns to destroy them.
One romantic evening gone wrong for Chris and his alter ego Dee Flaytable is forever transformed into a formidable creature of the night– fabulous and seductive, her siren’s song captivates every audience. But can she triumph in the face of true evil?
When the Vampire Queens battle, who will win?
As I said at the outset, I picked this up looking for a light, quick read, but ended up staying up to 2:30 a.m. to finish it. The tale is told through the journal entries of Chris Reynolds, and Dr. Stephen Bartow, which I found interesting.
In 1999 Florida, Chris lives in a slightly skewed reality, performing as a drag-queen. He has talent, but he's no RuPaul, and he knows it. His off-and-on boyfriend, Billy, plans to be a preacher and is afraid to come out of the closet.
Chris himself can’t tell his parents what he does for a living, as they would crap their southern middle-class baptist pants. His female roommate is his shield, giving him the appearance of heterosexuality for his folks, who were so afraid he was gay that her being black is no problem. When Chris is accidentally turned into a vampire, things go horribly awry.
This is far more than a tale of a Drag Queen of the Damned. Carro takes on obsession, rape, grinding poverty, racism, homophobia, and all stops between.
This particular book actually follows Dr. Stephen's tale more than Chris's, but i think it works well, as without knowing what happened to Stephen, we can't know why Chris has to fight the Evil Vampiress. Through Dr. Stephen’s journal we are taken back to the post WWII south. We are introduced to his spurned ex-fiancée and see the lengths she will go to have revenge on him. Dr. Stephen is a competent enough physician, but though he is not really a heroic man, he is turned into a vampire with a mission.
The horror is well balanced with humor. It is both graphic and violent, and is not a book for those who want their vampires sparkly and their entertainment sanitized. This a book for smart, thinking people who also like vampires.
I believe a second book is in the works and I hope it will focus more on Chris, as he is an awesome character, but wherever the author goes with this tale I will definitely buy it.