Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Post: William Meikle - WHY I WRITE ABOUT VAMPIRES

Today's market seems to wants vampires to be young, emotive and sparkly.

Don't teenage girls realize that vamp's hearts don't pump blood? No pump = no erections. The ultimate in safe sex.

Or maybe that's the point? Vamps have lost their balls and become metrosexual, safe boyfriends for the timid.

I hate it.

I grew up with the sixties explosion of popular culture embracing the supernatural and the weird. Hammer horror movies got me young. And the one that hooked me was Dracula.

I first saw this in about 1970, on BBC2, on an old black and white TV which was about 10 inches square and made everybody look like short fat cubes. But even that didn't detract from the power of this film.

This Hammer horror version sticks fairly closely to Stoker's original novel, and as such is a purist's dream.

Lee plays the Count as no one before or since. His flat demonic stare sems to ooze pure evil. The count has become a cultural icon in the past forty years, and has even been parodied and made fun of (Count Duckula anybody?) but I challenge anybody to look Lee in the eye when he's on the hunt and not feel a frisson of cold terror.

Vampires have been humanised recently (and have even got a soul in Angel's case), but it shouldn't be forgotten that they are bloodsucking bas*ards - that's what they are, that's what they do. The high cheekbones, sex-appeal and good clothes sense are just nice-to-have after thoughts. And in Lee's case you can believe that the bloodsucking is the important part, judging by the relish he shows for the deed.

And just because Buffy can stake a dozen or so without breaking sweat, it shouldn't be forgotten that the vampire is traditionally a great evil force of destruction. Lee never lets you forget it.

Which brings me round to The Watchers trilogy, my retelling of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion in Britain. Bonnie Prince Charlie, and all his highland army, are Vampires and are heading south to claim the British throne. The "Watchers" of the title are the guards of the old Roman wall built by Hadrian, now reinforced to keep the vamps out. It is constantly patrolled by officers of the Watch, two of whom become the main protagonists of the series. I got the idea on a walk along what is left of the wall, and by the time I'd had finished my walk and had a few beers the first part of the trilogy was fully formed in my head. Think "ZULU" or "Last of the Mohicans" with vamps and you'll get a feel of what I was trying to do.

I was dealing with a retelling of the Bonnie Prince Charlie story, where romantic myths have subsumed the harsh reality of a coup gone badly wrong. I needed to strip all the romance out of the Highlanders and build them up from the bottom. Making them a shambling army of vamps and mindless drones seemed an obvious place to start. The Watchers series is a swashbuckler, but there is little lace and finery. What I do have is blood and thunder, death and glory in big scale battles and small scale heartbreak. I love it.

Watchers: The Coming of the King is out new in print and ebook


A free ebook of Watchers: The Coming of the King (MOBI, EPUB or PDF ) will be awarded to the best comment relating to this blog post, to be judged by William Meikle


  1. You are very correct in the way vampires are depicted in today's novels. Even back to Anne Rice who was my first vampire read when I was a teenager. The forbidden power of sex mixed with danger and morbidity is too compelling to many readers.

    This novel sounds very intriguing with the romantic aspect down and the true nature of vampires depicted!

    I would have to drop whatever I was reading if I won a copy!!

  2. Bonnie Prince Charlie AND Vampires. Wow.

    I do prefer the old school Dracula to almost any other sort of vampire, although I admit to a soft spot for the campy appeal of Buffy. Stoker's version is one of my favorite books ever. There's something thrilling about a real monster written well.

  3. I don't know why you up and comings want so desperately to move away from the established time and tested vampire model.

    I am a purist. I've been a diehard vampire fan for a number of years, and think I speak for the community when I say that when I pick up a vampire book, I don't want to read about violence, plotting, and intrigue.

    I really don't even want to know that the characters are vampires, for the most part. I don't think it should be a trait that is character defining. I mean, yeah, you are dead, get over it. You have to make your characters relateable!

    As far as movies are concerned, I really think you are better off just making a romance movie and then CGing in a glimpse of fang every now and then. You are now aware that A Walk to Remember was a vampire tale. It even works with romantic comedies. You remember Edward from Pretty Woman? Vampire.

    I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when I went to see 30 Days of Night. I sat through a quarter of the movie before I realized that it wasn't a sequel to 40 Days and 40 Nights. It was a perfect set up for a romantic comedy completely wasted.

  4. "I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when I went to see 30 Days of Night. I sat through a quarter of the movie before I realized that it wasn't a sequel to 40 Days and 40 Nights. It was a perfect set up for a romantic comedy completely wasted."

    I agree. The filmmakers should have known there would be confusion with the Hartnett connection amongst romcom fans such as myself.

  5. Personally, I prefer the blood sucking, vicious variety of Vamp. I like the True Blood T.V. series because while the Vamps are sexy, they are psycho!

    30 days of Night blew me away. So much so that watched the web series and bought the Graphic Novels.