Published 2005 277 pages
Joe Pitt is a detective living in New York. He’s an unofficial private investigator and a heavy who gets his hands dirty doing unpleasant jobs. Oh, and he’s also a Vampyre.
The vampyres of New York are split into Clans, each have their own territory and their own rules. There are a few rogues, vampyres without any Clan affiliation, but they are quite rare and don’t tend to survive very long. Joe is a rogue vampyre but his independence has been bought at a price. That price is that he makes himself useful for both of the largest Clans, “the Coalition” and “the Society” operating in both their territories and doing jobs that they can’t or don’t want to be involved with.
The book starts with his hunt for some shamblers, that’s nasty brain eating zombies to you or me, or VOZs (victims of zombification) to the politically correct vampyre clan “the Society”. He tracks the shamblers back to their lair and kills them as they snack on their latest victim but he is unable to find the carrier (the zombie who started the infection.)
He is called to Coalition headquarters and told that he must find a missing teenage girl. Amanda Horde is not your usual teenage runaway; she is the daughter of one of New York’s top society families. Even while he wonders why he has been given the job, no vampire refuses a request from the Coalition unless they have a burning desire to be staked to a hillside in New Jersey to watch the sunrise.
It doesn’t take Joe long to realize that there are connections between the runaway girl and zombie outbreak but finding out who he can trust takes longer and trusting the wrong person could get him killed - if he wasn’t Already Dead.
Charlie Huston has delivered a slice of hardboiled detective fiction perfectly paired with vampire myth. Right from the start of the book the story explodes into bloody violence that fans of either genre should enjoy.
I think this mixture works well because the cause of the vampirism is scientific rather that mystical in origin. The vampyres are all infected by the Vyrus, which feeds on fresh blood. It is the vyrus that gives them their predatory abilities and compels them to drink blood in order for them to provide it with a fresh supply of food. The vyrus makes drinking blood a necessary addiction, without it the vyrus soon starts to eat its host body.
Similarly you get zombies when a human is infected by a nasty brain eating bacteria. When the author introduces a mystical element to the story, a mysterious wraith and the need for a new vampire messiah, it seems somewhat superfluous. There is enough evil and nastiness perpetrated by humans in this story (whether they are infected by bacteria or not) that you really don’t need the paranormal.
The writing style is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, only our flawed vampire hero likes to drown his troubles with blood rather than booze, the classic prop of choice for most hardboiled detectives. Unfortunately this is a problem for Joe because someone has stolen his blood stash.
We get to experience his rising blood lust as he searches for the missing girl and the source of the zombie infection. As in all good detective novels the plot threads start to weave together and eventually collide in an unexpected and gruesome fashion. Joe gets beaten up a lot as he travels through the less salubrious streets of Manhattan and it’s lucky for him that he is a vampire and can take that kind of abuse.
This book is the perfect antidote to the romanticised vampire. There is nothing vaguely sexy about how Joe became a vampire, I won’t spoil the plot for you by telling you exactly how it happened but yuck - toilet floors are nasty! There is little romance in this story - Joe has a girlfriend who has HIV and refuses to have sex with him, which is fine by him because he has the vyrus and doesn’t have sex either. He won’t risk spreading the infection even though it could save her life (although technically she’d be undead).
Already Dead is an original take on both the hardboiled detective thriller and the vampire novel. Gory, bloody, gruesome and full of profanities it’s not for the faint hearted - but it is pulp fiction at its best. Highly recommended reading.
LoveVampires Review Rating:
Charlie Huston kindly consented to be interviewed by LoveVampires. Read Charlie's interview.
Check out Charlie Huston’s web site to find out more about Joe Pitt and read an excerpt from Already Dead. Plus there is information on the other books written by the author.