Back before there was a sub-genre called “urban fantasy,” I fell in love with a 30s-era vampire named Jack Fleming. He was a suave investigative journalist who had the misfortune of running afoul of the mob. He came back from a hit and pairs up with a private investigator to discover the whos and the whys of his own murder.
I read these way back in the 90s when they were first released and they’re still some of my favorite vampire books. I’ve mentioned a time or three that I grew up reading noir-style mysteries—Perry Mason and Nero Wolfe and the like. Jack was a lot like those guys, only a whole lot deader. He’s a traditional sort of vampire. He doesn’t have a reflection, can turn into mist, and can’t tolerate running water. All the sorts of things you’d expect from Dracula except…the way he was turned.
See, Jack fell in love with a girl, Maureen. A very lovely, very dead girl. They had the sort of fun two consenting adults have (even in the 30s) which included a bit of biting. Jack didn’t really think about the whole vamp thing. It wasn’t a guarantee that when he died, he’d turn and both assumed she’d be there with him when he did. Except she wasn’t. Maureen disappeared. Then he woke up dead.
He pairs up with Charles Escott, a very British Private Investigator who becomes one of his closest friends, and together they try to figure out who ordered the hit while Jack’s trying to figure out the whole vampire thing he’s got going.
Throughout the series, you get glimpses of Jack’s past with Maureen along with hints of where she might have gone and why. He struggles to make some sort of future with his nightclub-singing girlfriend, Bobbi, and maintain both a working relationship and friendship with Charles.
Jack isn’t infallible and he isn’t invincible. Like many heroes of the era, he gets his ass kicked on the regular and ends up in some pretty bad jams. He makes it out alive (or, whatever) through a mixture of luck, skill, and his friends.
I can’t recommend these books enough. They’re out of print individually, though you may be able to find them in used bookstores or thrift shops that have old paperbacks for a quarter or whatever. Ebay is another option. No, you can’t have mine. The compilations are available in ebook format. I don’t have those (yet) but they’re definitely on my radar.
If you can find them, give them a try!
The Vampire Files –
Number of Books: Thirteen
- Art in the Blood
- Fire in the Blood
- Blood on the Water
- Chill in the Blood
- Dark Sleep
- Lady Crymsyn
- Cold Streets
- Song in the Dark
- Dark Road Rising
- The Devil You Know (Signed, limited-edition novella – print & ebook)
For ebook editions:
- Vampire Files Vol. 1, Books 1-3
- Vampire Files Vol. 2, Books 4-6
- Vampire Files Vol. 3, Books 7, 8
- Vampire Files Vol. 4, Books 9, 10
- Vampire Files Vol. 5, Books 11,12
Number of Extras: Nine
- *”You’ll Catch Your Death”, Vampire Detectives
- *”The Quick Way Down”, Mob Magic
- *”The Breath of Bast”, Kittens, Cats, and Crime
- “Slaughter”, The Repentant
- “Grave-robbed”, Many Bloody Returns
- “Vampires Prefer Blondes”, Chicks Kick Butt
- “The Company You Keep”, Vampires: Dracula and the Undead Legions
- “Dark Lady”, Dark and Stormy Knights
- “Outside the Box”, Hex Appeal
- * These books may not contain a Vampires Files story. The titles/dates are correct, but the listings don’t include PN Elrod as a contributing author.
Complete? Yes (at least, there’s been nothing since 2009)