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A Whisper of Blood

Edited by Ellen Datlow

WM Morrow Publishing

US Trade Hardcover Edition

ISBN 0-688-10361-8

288 pages; $22.00

Date Reviewed: 02-28-1992

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



I have to admit it. Having just finished "Under the Fang", I wasn't necessarily drooling to read "A Whisper of Blood". I mean, how many vampire stories can a guy take? I'm only human. Really. But push came to shove, my editor asked for some more recent releases, and "A Whisper of Blood" was recent and had all the pedigree a horror anthology could handle. Ellen Datlow, the ringlet-haired editor of "Omni" Magazine in a JK Potter portrait on the back cover. A track record that made Dan Simmons' "Carrion Comfort" a multi-award nominee. New stories by Thomas Ligotti and Jonathan Carroll. I have to admit, it wasn't that hard to get around to reading this collection.

The idea here is the vampire is cast more as a metaphor than as a bloodsucking fiend. But no matter how noble the idea, in horror especially, it's always the execution that counts. The executions in "A Whisper of Blood" are many and excellent. Suzy McKee Charnas' "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" starts things off with an almost traditional vampire sketched by an old woman with an almost Sartre-like wit. Woody Allen directs a Jewish Vampirella played by Jessica Tandy. Suffice it to say that the entire anthology, as well as the opening story, is long on entertainment value.

But what "A Whisper of Blood" really excels at is getting the very best out of every writer in a literate though sometimes explosive contribution. Karl Edward Wagner's "The Slug" is one of the cleanest, best-wrought metaphorical vampires ever to intrude on the printed page. Thomas Ligotti's story, "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel", creates a magnificent sense of Lovecraftian fear while David J. Schow unleashes his drop-dead sense of acidic humor on the media in "A Week in The Unlife". Hovering over it all is a quiet sense of quality, a restraint that reveals the strength of each author's craft.

Like "Blood Is Not Enough", this anthology concludes with a novella, in this case "The Ragthorn Tree" by British writers Robert Holdstock and Gary Kilworth. It's a fabulous, complex English mini-epic, stretching from the 1850's into the present, bridging ancient Egypt and modern England. For those who enjoy the historical horror fiction of writers like Brian Stableford and Tim Powers, "The Ragthorn Tree" is a treat, enough to make you go out and investigate the other works of its intriguing authors. Of couse this is true of most of the stories in this collection. The vampire may be dead, but if anyone can resurrect the dead with a horror anthology, it's Ellen Datlow. There need to be more collections. "A Whisper of Blood" is simply not enough.