© 2010, Drew Stepek
Los Angeles, present day. Gangs run rampant. Sex, money and drugs are the only economics. Gruesome serial murders, rape and robbery defile every street corner. The festering odor of blood shit and puke foul the air. So, you might as, “what’s makes this any different than reality?”
This time the whole fucking mess is controlled by brutal junkie vampires!
Erase any pictures you have of Lestat and his white ruffled Victorian charm or Edward with his dreamy tween-heartthrob looks. The vampires of Knuckle Supper are hardcore junkies that rape rob and kill for blood and drugs.
Drew Stepek’s gory depiction of modern vampire life delivers the reader into a world of factional gangs vying for control of the streets and the life-forestalling drugs. There is no glamor and no hope for immortality, only the next fix. The grim tale in Knuckle Supper centers around what can be best thought of as a two-bit gang of punks, goths and misfits, The Knucklers. In particular their leader RJ, a violent and grimy punk and his protégé Dez, a quick-tempered goth.
At the outset, RJ and Dez brutally murder and consume a pimp and kidnap his underage prostitute, Bait (short for jailbait). The original idea is to have the hooker lead johns back to their house to make the quest for blood and heroin, the Knuckler drug of choice much more clean and efficient. (Incidentally, their drug of choice is heroin, injected into the victim and then consumed during the imminent death. The consumption often takes to form of ripping off the victims arm and draining the drug laced blood from the end of a severed finger, the knuckle supper, if you will.)
Unsure of his reasons why, even after numerous provocations, RJ can’t or won’t bring himself to kill one of his latest victim, the young hooker. It is almost as if there he has a small spark of humanity. The developing relationship between RJ and Bait begins to unravel his other friendships and alienates Dez to an alarming degree.
Things go from bad to worse when The Knucklers end up with a bag or ill-gotten heroin and decide to sell it from underneath its rightful owner. The world as they know it starts to unravel. Rival vampires begin to battle for control of Los Angeles. The Knucklers are in danger of their very un-lives at the hands of the controlling gang, The Battlesnakes. The downward spiral culminates in a series of not necessarily expected twists.
At any rate, I enjoyed the book. I will state that it isn’t for the faint of heart, there are some serious depictions of violence and sexual abuse throughout the novel that may best be avoided by the sensitive. However, if you’re willing to get past that, there is a pretty good read lodged within. Think to yourself, West Side Story with vampires on heroin and without the music, or maybe its more like The Warriors.
On more of a critical note, I think that the characters were a bit shallow. Or perhaps it was that only the central characters of RJ and Bait were painted with much depth. All the rest seem almost as extras. Outside of that my other major gripe is with editing.
I caught a few text/typo variety errors, no big deal. What bothered me was that every so often a sentence would make a startling drop in continuity as though I had skipped a sentence. On more than one occasion I had to read and re-read the preceding material to be sure that I hadn’t missed something. This was even more awkward when it happened on a page turn.
Without creating too much of a spoiler, Knuckle Supper is a dark portrayal of addiction and life outside of mainstream society. It is potentially and allegory of man’s own inhumanity and the dearth of justice for the denizens of the edges.