The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel
“These Southern Stepford wives will match Scarlett O’Hara for sheer determination and surpass Buffy the Vampire Slayer with their courage, while giving the reader an unexpected ironic chuckle or two along the way.”
In 1988, a group of Southern women decided to rebel against Marjorie Feltwell’s Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant. They didn’t want to read to improve their minds.
They want to read for fun.
So they formed their own book club.
“‘This isn’t a book club,’ Grace said. ‘We’re just getting together to talk about a paperback book we all happened to read.’
‘Whatever you say, Grace,’ Kitty said, thrusting mugs of wine into everyone’s hands.”
They read and talked about Silence of the Lambs, Helter Skelter and books that would make Marjorie blanch.
At one meeting, Patricia Campbell says: “‘Don’t you wish something exciting would happen around here? Just once?’
Grace raised her eyebrows. ‘You wish a gang of unwashed hippies would break into your house and murder your family and write death to pigs in human blood on your walls because you don’t want to pack bag lunches anymore?’
‘Well, when you put it like that . . .’ Patricia said.”
That night, Patricia got her wish; she was attacked by a neighbor as she put out the trash.
The medical opinion was that Ann Savage had blood poisoning and was dying and didn’t know what she was doing.
“‘She bit off part of my ear and swallowed it and the earring,’ Patricia said.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Slick said. ‘Those were nice earrings.’”
Now Ann’s house is empty except for her great-nephew who came to take care of her.
“‘Should I take him flowers or something to eat?” Patricia worries.
‘I’m not sure what the appropriate gesture is toward the family of a woman who bit off your ear, but if you feel absolutely compelled, I wouldn’t take food,’ Grace replied.”
And that’s the way Patricia meets James Harris. He’s well-mannered, and wanting to fit in. Before she knows it, she’s invited him to dinner and to their not-a-book-club meetings.
Then things change.
Mrs. Green, who tends Patricia’s enfeebled mother-in-law, tells her children in her neighborhood are disappearing. She has the tag number of a van seen in the vicinity, a number matching James Harris’ van.
Other grisly events occur, until Patricia’s convinced James is behind them.
No one will listen to her, not even her friends. Patricia’s psychiatrist husband Carter suggests she perhaps needs some mental treatment.
Patricia realizes she can’t fight James Harris alone, but he is now a fixture in their lives. The husbands don’t care what happens as long as it happens to someone else; their wives know better than to upset their respective apple carts with wild talk about vampires.
Then James goes too far. He attacks Patricia’s teenage daughter.
Family is sacred. The women have to act.
“‘We’re a book club, not a bunch of detectives,’ Maryellen said. “If he’s so much stronger than us, this is futile.’
‘You think we can’t match him?’ Slick asked. “He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: Nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something—there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”
James Harris is about to discover how true that statement is.
Some may consider this novel a long and rambling one. It is indeed long and it does seem to ramble, but in the end, every word and every digression comes into play and falls into place.
After all, it takes a bit to set the scene, to explain how Southern lifestyle, manners, and the place of women in that life fit together and enable the story to unfold as it does. Those Southern readers, especially of an older generation, will perhaps recognize themselves or family members, in the descriptions of Grace, Patricia, et al.
When James Harris arrives in their midst, so dramatically via the death of his great-aunt, the ladies welcome him in sympathy, but James is insidious. Slowly but surely, he takes over their lives, influencing them in small but important ways.
He is here to stay.
The husbands become his pets. As long as they “behave,” their businesses prosper, obstacles to their futures disappear or offer no resistance, The wives stay silent because they’re afraid and anyway, isn’t a wife supposed to support her husband in his endeavors, not throw roadblocks to his success?
Filled with tongue-in-cheek observations on Southern etiquette and a way of life slowly drawing to a close as the Eighties slide into the Nineties, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a refreshing change from the usual moldy castle escapee of a vampire tale. Goaded into action, these Southern Stepford wives will match Scarlett O’Hara for sheer determination and surpass Buffy the Vampire Slayer with their courage, while giving the reader an unexpected ironic chuckle or two along the way.