Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Pumpjack Press / 424 pages / 3d edition (February 22, 2014)


Go ahead. You’re trying not to laugh at the title. Let it out! It’s funny and so is the book. Get a few pages into The Cowboy And The Vampire and you’ll be laughing with them, not at them. This book is the story John Carpenter’s Vampires tried to be and failed so miserably. Here are your contemporary vampires and vampire hunters, fighting it out in the wild and woolly West.

Head white-hat: Tucker, a cowboy after any woman’s heart, and classic good-guy. His gal: Elizabeth Vaughn, reporter, New Yorker, and, just incidentally, heiress to a vampire legacy dating back millennia. They want only to be left alone to enjoy their newfound love and settle down in the Wyoming wilds. Count on the bad guys to completely screw that up.

Head of the black-hats (and largely black wardrobes): Julius, leader of the vampires, man who would be king of the world, and all-around villain. If things work out the way he plans, Lizzie will be ruling by his side. That idea doesn’t sit well with Elita, his consort of the last millennium or so, temptress extraordinaire, and extremely jealous bloodsucker. These more-than-evil-doers envision a brave new world under the control of Julius and his loathsome crew.

Doesn’t look like much of fair fight — puny humans versus superhuman/subhuman vampires — until Lazarus (yes, that Lazarus), leader of the “good” vampires, steps into the fray. Once again, he is emerging from his safe haven to do battle against Julius.

That makes things more equal, but will it be enough to overcome the forces of evil?

The Cowboy And The Vampire brings the armies of the undead together in a battle that may leave no one standing and civilization in ruins. Not that it would be their first experience with that kind of downfall.

However it works out, Lizzie has no intention of spending eternity with odious Julius. Tucker isn’t losing his true love, even if it costs him his life. And he’s got a small posse that will back him up to the end. Maybe the odds aren’t so unfair after all.

Hays and McFall have taken a grave situation and made it more than the standard vampire-worship tale. There is grief, loss, and pain on a human and inhuman scale, but there is so much more. The humour in The Cowboy And The Vampire is far from the slapstick of previous creations; the wit, sly and adult.

And, perhaps best of all, the characters are complex and unpredictable. Each creature is an individual, not a type, not a tin soldier to be moved around without thought.

So, save your video rental dollars. Nothing in the last few years is worth your hard-earned money; The Cowboy And The Vampire is well worth it. Yes, I’m aware that it’s a book, but you’re all intelligent people, and we all know the book is invariably better than the movie.