Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today

Katherine M. Ramsland, Author HarperPrism $24 (371p) ISBN 978-0-06-105062-6
In 1996, when Ramsland (Dean Koontz: A Writer's Biography) decided to explore vampire culture, she faced a crucial choice. Should she observe it with scientific detachment or immerse herself in its netherland? No stranger to the outre due to her research for books including Prism of the Night, her acclaimed bio of Anne Rice, Ramsland chose the latter path--a wise choice, judging by this immensely insightful and exciting report on her journey into darkness. Ramsland relates her adventures among the vampires with a novelist's flair and skill. She frames it through her quest to find out what happened to a reporter who'd disappeared while investigating Manhattan's vampire cults. She paces it, in part, through her ever-closer encounters--through e-mail, phone, then in person--with a vampire known as Wraith. She personalizes it through a steady, honest sounding of her own responses to those she encounters (""the enticing feel of the experience that could seduce me toward my own destruction--and surrender to it utterly""). As she travels through the Internet and then America--and, despite the book's subtitle, Europe too--she encounters hundreds of vampires of every intensity: those who adapt vampire dress and, sometimes, custom-made fangs (Ramsland gets fitted with her own pair); those who lap blood from willing victims; and the few who believe themselves immortal, or at least other, and who ""prey"" upon hapless victims. Ramsland interviews psychologists, scholars, vampirologists and other experts who cast light on her subject from a variety of perspectives. Most important, despite her fear and occasional revulsion, she evinces a remarkable empathy for those who believe the blood is the life, allowing her psychological entree into what she calls the ""pulsing mystery"" of the vampire, and making her book, in addition to a riveting read, a model of engaged journalism. Author tour; dramatic rights: Lori Perkins. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 560 pages - 978-0-06-105945-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-694-52031-2
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