In 1976, two brothers, Jesse and Edgar, who are vampire-like creatures called rovers, wander the Southwest in search of victims in Lange’s Rovers (Little, Brown, July.).
What inspired this novel?
Rovers started out as a screenplay many years ago. That’s where the idea of following two brothers who must consume human blood in order to survive as they roam around the Southwest came from. The intention behind both the script and the book was to use the vampire mythology in a new way, to bring it down to earth and set the story in a world I’ve been writing about in all my books.
Jesse and Edgar certainly fit the mold of the ultimate outcasts, but at least they have each other.
The earliest thought I had about this story was that it would be Of Mice and Men with vampires. Yet even though the brothers travel together, they’re still alone in some ways. Both live solitary existences inside their heads, and both feel lonely at times. It’s the same with the rover biker gang, the Fiends. On the surface they’re a team, united against the world, but in fact the members are at one another’s throats and on the verge of dissolution.
Ted Bundy and other serial killers were terrorizing the nation around this time. Is there a connection?
The original reason for setting the book in 1976 was precisely because that was the heyday of roaming serial killers, which are basically what rovers are. It was a scary time in a lot of ways, the last gasp of the wild, violent, slightly psychotic West. I also thought it would be fun to set a vampire story in the desert, where the sun is a danger even to normal humans.
Did you consciously decide to mostly avoid the V word?
As a challenge to myself, I was originally not going to use the word vampire anywhere in the book, but it quickly became clear this would be impossible when telling a story involving creatures who consume human blood and live by night. In the end, I decided to let chips fall where they will. My first three novels were more or less crime fiction, so this one is a bit of swerve, but it’s set in the same milieu as the others, on the margins of society, and has the same sorts of characters—outlaws and outsiders, the desperate and the dangerous. Rovers is a vampire revenge thriller, but it’s also about family, regret, loneliness, fear, and endless wandering.