Anne Billson, Suckers (Atheneum, 1993)
[originally posted 12Jun2000]
I picked this one up figuring it’d be a quick, superfluous read that would help me increase the hit rate this year and not spend too much time floating around in my skull. And that’s exactly what I got, though I didn’t expect it to be quite so good. Billson is a writer of the McInerney/Ellis/Janowitz stripe, and must have gotten this MS. in just before the cutoff for eighties-style fiction guillotined across the publishing landscape. However, Billson keeps the greed-is-good atmosphere to just that–an atmosphere. When she needs to drop names, she makes them up rather than sounding like an overworked Sharper Image catalog, as most of her contemporaries do.
The story centers around Duncan and Dora, a not-quite-couple who, thirteen years ago, were part of a love triangle with a vampire. The vampire was found out, staked, dismembered, and scattered. Problem is… she seems to be back, under another name and with a whole lot more power, as the head of a publishing empire. What’s worse, the publishing empire happens to run a major fashion magazine… and so everyone starts dressing, looking, sounding, and otherwise behaving like vampires. It’s comedy, but it’s black comedy of the blackest stripe. Billson’s publishers were going for the heavy-lit crowd, and so the blurbs on the jacket are from writers like Salman Rushdie instead of Stephen King. And, oddly, despite this being a comedy/horror novel with a decidedly eighties bent… it might not be too out of place in the heavy-lit world. Billson’s writing is crisp, while of that same easy-to-read stripe that distinguishes less heavily-marketed horror novels. Her satire, both of the vampire-novel genre and of the time, is spot-on.
If you like vampires, hey, it’s worth a couple of days. ***