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The Vampire Tapestry

Suzy McKee Charnas is an author I'd not previously heard of. I came across her here on the FantasticFiction entry for Peter S. Beagle. Often these entries are accompanied by some book recommendations from said author (you have to scroll down to the bottom of each entry) and they're nearly always worth looking at. I've found a few decent books this way and this time it was The Vampire Tapestry.



I like the 'matter-of-fact' way this book starts:

"On Tuesday morning Katje discovered that Dr Weyland was a vampire, like the one in the movie she'd seen last week."

Well quite. ;-)


Dr Weyland *is* in fact a vampire, masquerading as a university professor, somewhere in upstate New York. Katje, is a late professor's wife who has been left in reduced circumstances and has to clean the campas social club for a living. At first she decides she must be mistaken about the doctor, then realises she isn't when the professor is obviously singling her out for something. He studies dreams and wants her to take part in his study but Katje realises that this is how he chooses his victims and tries to avoid him. Things come to a head in the car-park one night and... well after what happens Dr Weyland has to move on and we next meet him in a small appartment in New York city where he being held prisoner by 'Roger'. Roger is a bit of an odd ball and thinks there is a profit to be made out of 'his' vampire but his nephew, Mark, is appalled and slowly gets to know Weyland and tries to help him. Things turn very nasty when a dangerous friend of Roger's, who specialises in black magic, decides to put the doctor on show for his creepy friends...

The first thing to know about this book is that it isn't a novel in the traditional sense, it's really a series of five novellas that make a whole story. The first takes place as stated, in the university, the second in the appartment in NY, the third tells how he becomes a patient of a psycho-therapist, also in NY, after which he moves to New Mexico. Things do all tie up in the end but the joy of the story is in the journey so to speak.

The second thing to know is that this is not a cosy story. Dr Weyland is not a benevolent vampire, he's a hunter pure and simple. He's cold, manipulating, emotionless - lives only for his next meal and loves the hunt. And yet, oddly enough, it's still possible to empathise with him and even feel sorry for his plight! This is obviously due to the skilful writing of Suzy McKee Charnas - she writes well and keeps you turning the pages. The only section I did find ever so slightly tedious was the one based on a trip to see the opera, ' Tosca', in New Mexico. I'm not much into opera (even though I'm thoroughly enjoying 'Maestro' on TV) and there was a great deal about it in this part. But that's only a very minor quibble in an over-all enjoyable read.

Peter Beagle is quoted as saying it was the best vampire novel he'd ever read. I wouldn't quite say that - my favourites so far would be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Sunshine by Robin McKinley, not to mention Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. But The Vampire Tapestry is, nevertheless, excellent and definitely a keeper.

Comments

It might have been the best that Beagle had read at the time it was published. There wasn't a great deal knocking around in the early 80s (or was it late 70s?) that was worth reading. I liked this book. I thought it refreshingly different and well-written.
Published in 1980 and that's an extremely good point and probably spot on. Nice to know that someone has actually heard of this author because I get the feeling that most people, like me before I read this, haven't. Bit of a shame really.
I'd read her first two novels but in those days I was on the lookout for new vampire novels and snaffled that one the moment I saw it. She co-wrote a short story called 'Advocates' with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. It's what you might call a crossover of their two vampire universes.
Her sci fi novel, Walk to the End of the World, arrived in the post today and I see it also has Motherlines in it. I assume these are the two you read?

I see Advocates won the Bram Stoker award for 1992. Would it have been in an anthology called A Whisper of Blood?
It's in an anthology called Under the Fang, edited by Robert McCammon, and it's also in an anthology of Charnas' stories and essays. She did contribute a story to A Whisper of Blood but it wasn't that one.

Yes, those are the two. I remember nothing about them but there were two much later sequels, The Furies and The Conqueror's Child.
Under the Fang - excellent, have made a note of that and see if I can find it. Thanks!
This sounds interesting.
It was a good book to be honest, but only if you've a fan of quite hard-nosed vampire books. :-)
Omigosh, I'd forgotten about this book until I read your review! I read it back in the Day, and enjoyed it, but not excessively. It was just one of the vampire books, science fiction and so on I was reading my way through at the time.

The whole idea of an actual human vampire is hard to accept, but if there were to be one, this is a fairly logical scenario for what it might be like. I just don't find much in it to raise my empathy for any of the characters. As you say, it is NOT a cosy story. In fact, it's not all that far from being repellent, IMO.
You're not far from the truth when you say it's almost repellent. It is certainly a very stark story. And yet towards the end Weyland had enough feelings for Floria that he thought about warning her that Reese might come after her. Plus, I thought that even as a vampire he was a better person than Reese! But yes, not a nice person really, but interesting. I wonder if you'd feel slightly differently about it if you read it now?
I wonder if you'd feel slightly differently about it if you read it now?
Hmm. It's certainly possible; there are lots of things I saw or read as a young woman that I see differently now. F'rinstance: the movie Some Like It Hot. Even though it amused me then, it's many times better than I realized when I was young. It ran recently on one of the classic movie channels (TCM [Turner Classic Movies, I think), and I was amazed at the comic performances it included. Very subtle and clever.

But I dunno if I have enough curiosity to re-read a book I didn't think much of back then, just to see if I still feel the same. :)
She's on LJ, if you are interested: suzych. This is the woman who gives me that *AWESOME* tarot reading at wiscon every year. I'll admit, I haven't read many of her books although several are in my "to read" pile. And I *really* like this cover... It's interesting.

The one I liked a lot was her memoir about her father.
Oh goodness I didn't realise you'd met the author. What a coincidence.

Re: the cover. I actually thought it was John Castle at first. It isn't but I was sufficiently convinced to check imdb to see if a movie of this book had been made and he was in it...