Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Dear the Dawn by Marc Eliot (1987): Have You Ever Heard of a Vampire?

You tell me: this cover art for a paperback unknown to me till just a couple weeks ago is by the same (sadly unknown) artist who produced one of the greatest horror movie posters of all time: for Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu... right? It's just that I can not, for the life of me (heh) find out just who produced either image. Alas. I found How Dear the Dawn (Ballantine/Aug 1987) for sale during a random eBay search and was captivated instantly by that cover art and that not unpoetic title. Didn't know who Marc Eliot was (my Google-fu served me well on that endeavor though: it is a pseudonym of Dave Pedneau [1947 - 1990]) but that didn't matter; I bought a copy immediately and dove in. For as one character improbably, impossibly, unbelievably, asks another, "Have you ever heard of a vampire?" Why yes, yes I have heard of a vampire! I suppose this is the book for me.

Once you get past the creepy cool heraldic and relevant imagery of the arty cover, though, you read the copy front and back then realize it's about as horror clichéd as horror cliché can get; virtually every phrase could be applied to one million horror novels, approximate. This one isn't that bad though: Eliot/Pedneau is a competent enough writer, slick even, occasionally producing an apt or unexpected image or bit of dialogue, and evokes enough of the Southern American coastline, its landscape and its weather, to lend some welcome atmosphere, but the logistics and the pacing of his tale are standard B-movie style. You'll gape in disbelief as a woman, concerned about her missing friend, is asked out by the cop who arrives to investigate (and she says yes! And they become the two main characters so you have to root for them!).

How Dear the Dawn is an unpretentious little novel, not 300 pages, of old-school vampire horror: no long-winded backstory to jam up the narrative flow nor any upending of accepted supernatural mythologies (interestingly the myth of the vampire is  presented by one character as a subset of the zombie). I dug how the head vamp, Sterg LeVeau, demands obeisance from his cohorts and gets really mad at the first woman he first bites after his reawakening because she keeps killing her prey—causing them to come back as vampires themselves of course—rather than just feeding on their blood. Ugh, noobs.

Scenes of throat-ripping gore and decay mingle with steamy if straightforward vampire eroticism; characters are perfunctory but individualized; dialogue is not embarrassing for the most part. All in all, not a bad vamp book at all. If only Pedneau had lived to write some sequels: How Nice the Night, How Mournful the Moon, How Horrible the Hunger...

On this wet, stormy night, they were to hunt as one, and she was to learn to sate her gnawing obsession without killing. Jo Ann, so new to her state, could not fathom LeVeau's reluctance to claim their puny lives. To her, they were pathetic creatures, livestock to be bled for sustenance. And the sensation she experienced in the process was ultra-orgasmic It reached its pinnacle at that moment when life ebbed from their bodies.... That her victims rose to become as she was, to her, a Mephistophelian magnificence. She yearned to spread her hellish splendor over the face of the Earth... Clad now in a black, mildewed dress she had found in a closet, she stood before a window, the flashes of lightning illuminating her fierce face. With each passing moment she became more rapacious...


6 comments:

Ron Clinton said...

Centipede Press used that same movie poster for the cover of its Paul Monette HC reprint of the movie tie-in novel of NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE. I checked the copyright page but unfortunately the artist's name is not disclosed. However, you may want to get ahold of Jerad, the owner/publisher of Centipede...presumably he would know who did the cover (of both books...yes, I agree the artist looks to be the same).

Will Errickson said...

Yeah, I've got the original Monette paperback.

Mark West said...

Apparently, the artist was Dave Palladini

http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2010/08/25/palladinis-zodiac/

MBoccardo said...

Dave Pedneau, aside from his police procedural titles from the '80s, also wrote one of the best werewolf novels I've ever read under the pseudonym, Lee Hawks. It's called Night, Winter, and Death. Check it out if you come across a copy. Happy to hear about this title since I enjoyed his other horror outing so many years ago

Will Errickson said...

Awesome thanks Mark! I remember he illustrated King's EYE OF THE DRAGON.

Will Errickson said...

I've heard of that one (memorable title) so thanks for the info. Will BOLO!