The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

A Novel

eBook - 2020
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Steel Magnolias meets Dracula in this '90s-set horror novel about a women's book club that must do battle with a mysterious newcomer to their small Southern town, perfect for murderinos and fans of Stephen King. Patricia Campbell's life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she's always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they're as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families. One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor's handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn't felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in. Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia's life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won't surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 2020.
ISBN: 9781683691440
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Opinion

From Library Staff

"These vampires do not sparkle. Full of disturbing imagery. Maybe give to a bloodthirsty grandma in a book club."--Leslie for Holiday Gift Shelf Help at Kansas City Public Library


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Karlie85
Mar 21, 2021

I have conflicted feelings about this book. I was bored and/or annoyed for at least 60% of it. The characters are flat and I wasn't compelled by any of them. They just weren't fleshed out, not even the main character Patricia. The premise - a book club made up of Southern belles slaying vampires - is cool and exciting! But the plot was weak and disjointed. The author described many mundane things that were completely irrelevant to the plot or anything else. I don't like how he listed so many brand names of things as well. I know that is trivial, but it always distracts me from a book. The women, who are supposed to be the strong main characters of the book, didn't really seem to have true friendships between them. The book club is rarely used as a setting and is just a very thin way to "bond" the women together. And all of the men in the book.... yikes.

He also never met a comma he didn't like! Seriously, man. Use a period once in a while. "and" this "and" that "and" this "and" that. Awkward to read. Saying things like "It was a white monstrosity painted white" makes me roll my eyes. One part of the plot revolved around Halloween night. The next chapter is subtitled "Novemeber 1996." Mere pages later, he says "It was a cloudless, sunny October day." If I can notice small errors like this, how did it get past the author and the editor? Totally takes me out of the experience.

The book did start to get more exciting closer to the end, about 70% of the way through. There were some truly gross and creepy moments, and I did read it quickly because I wanted to find out what would happen. It entertained me at the end, but I still didn't really ~like~ the book.

The back cover of this book has one reviewer stating this is Grady Hendrix's "best book yet." If that is the case, I likely won't be reaching for his others anytime soon.

alburke47 Feb 14, 2021

This is my first ever Grady Hendrix novel. I’ve heard his name bandied about on the internet, seen his cool book titles and read some rave reviews, but I’ve been putting them on the long finger due to too many books and too little time. Then I discovered we had the e-audio of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires at my local library, and it was time to scratch my GH itch.

Disclaimer - I read this in June, so forgive me if I’m a little hazy on some of the details.

So, what’s it all about?

Patricia Campbell is new in Mount Pleasant, the kind of town one moves to so one can bring up ones kids in a safe environment. Moving to a new town is rarely what it purports to be, and Patricia finds herself bored. Her husband is hard-working, but often absent and leaves most of the “home stuff” to Patricia, including bringing up her two teens, both of whom are, well, teenagers. To find some entertainment and try to make friends, she joins the local book club chapter. The problem is, the woman who runs it wants to read classics, while Patricia and the others would rather read mysteries and true crime. Still, she does make some friends and everything is looking better. One night she gets attacked in her yard, having part of her ear bitten off in the process. The police come up with nothing, and Patrica begins to fear for her safety. Then she meets her new neighbour, who, despite some weird proclivities, is attentive to Patricia and relates well to her kids, things her husband isn’t. But things don’t get better, and Patricia’s life begins a downward spiral that has her question her sanity and fear for her and her families life.

Is it any good?

I have a confession to make - as much as I love horror, I’ve never really found any that particularly scares me. Sure, I’ve come across the odd one here and there, but they’re very few and far between. So Al, why do you read horror? Well, it’s watching the character arcs, how they deal with circumstances that defy explanation. TSBCGTSV does this really well, as the very engaging Patricia goes from bored housewife to victim to detective to vampire hunter. The move to Mount Pleasant was supposed to provide a better way of life, but instead, she finds herself lonely, struggling with her teens and workaholic husband. Just to rub salt in her wounds, it turns out Mt Pleasant could be better named as Mt Unpleasant as she digs into its history. Next door neighbour James is another good character. He’s weird, but he’s a friend to Patricia when she needs it most, which makes it all the harder when she starts to suspect him (if this is a spoiler, you’re not following the book). The Book Club on the surface seems like a bunch of thin stereotypes, but as the book progresses, Hendrix peels back the layers (thanks for the metaphor, Shrek) to show their depth. The take on vampirism is kinda cool, and the way they deal with it is kinda messed up. It is horror though, so expect some gruesome bits.

Verdict
On the surface, a fun vampire-hunting adventure, but Hendrix also pulls the covers off small-town Americana.

h
Hcc_
Jan 24, 2021

Perfect story for a cosy day at home. Why can't I join a book club like theirs :). Horror (but not horrifying), some backstabbing (not just the vampire) and a group of (not so perfect) housewives.

l
lukasevansherman
Jan 23, 2021

The title promises a lot more than this anemic novel delivers.

s
Speckledgirl
Jan 20, 2021

I like Grady Hendrix’s other books so I was very excited at the chance to read another one, but WOW what a boring and cliche story. Nothing about this story is shocking (especially for a horror fan) and anyone could see that this plot was going nowhere...slowly. Save yourself from disappointment and skip this one.

j
jarvi207
Dec 07, 2020

I really did not enjoy this book and I find it difficult to see why others were able to super enjoy it, honestly.

First of all, big trigger warnings in this book for rape, borderline pedophilia, abuse, and attempted suicide.

There's literally one vampire in this book and he doesn't even call himself a vampire. He feeds off CHILDREN by snacking on their femoral arteries which obviously is very sexual in nature - looks a lot like he's (reminder that he's 400 years old!!!!!) going down on them - and y'all don't see a problem with that??? There are few people of colour in this book and when there are, they're all Black and I have a feeling it's specifically because this is set in the '90s and '00s south lmao. These characters are exclusively in servant- or caregiver-type positions. One of them dies in a pretty abusive way; he's framed by the white vampire and then murdered by that same guy under a peach tree. This made me feel really yucky given the history of "Strange Fruit" and the explicit racial overtones of a Black man's framed murder being associated with a peach tree, and then using THAT symbolism for the cover? Maybe I'm reading too into this but I really don't feel like I am lol.

It felt like this book was maybe trying to make comments on racism or SOMETHING (I am seriously reaching here for something to justify y'all) but there was absolutely nothing done with the idea beyond just making a vampire maybe racist so big, fat raspberry noise to that. Do better.

Sidebar - for what it's worth this really didn't feel like a book club about slaying vampires. The ladies in the book club didn't even believe the one member about the vampires for nearly the entire novel. They don't even talk about slaying vampires until maybe the last 100 pages, it's absurd. And the description saying it's a mix of Fried Green Tomatoes????? BRUH? That book is about lesbians like where?? Because Southern Book Club is also set in the deep south? What a joke !!!!

I also had a massive issue with the misogyny. Everyone seems to be thinking the women in this book have a tonne of agency, but I really did not feel that way. It was this thin veneer of feminism but when you actually look past the surface, it's incredibly hollow. EVERY single woman was married to a massive dick. In fact, this book features one of my least favourite tropes, which is bored-housewife-not-listened-to-by-her-husband-ever. She ends up unintentionally attempting suicide because her psychiatrist husband literally never listens to her and what happens? The plot jumps forward SIX (yes, six) years out of nowhere and he continues to gaslight her. None of the characters really differed in this respect and the women were all kind of terrible to each other. Not to mention when it's heavily your women and Black characters that experience physical and sexual abuse? That's not feminism and that's not diversity.

This is also a minor complaint, but sometimes I really dislike the way men horror authors write. At one point near the end of the this book when the vampire is lying naked in a tub, the author felt compelled to describe "his pink nipples" and the way "his penis flopped on his blonde pubic hair", like necessary? It's literally just bad writing. You can describe nakedness in literally any other way lol it was just needless graphic description of unnecessary details that ended up bordering on lewd. Stephen King writes in a very similar way, which is also why I dislike him.

tl;dr the first maybe 100-200 pages were interested and I was intrigued. Once the vampire got introduced it quickly went downhill with poor pacing and the lack of any interesting characters that could carry a plot that felt weaker with every page made this really not worth it. It got really weird really quickly, and when you add in the diversity and misogyny issues, I was outta there asap. Last 2 hours of the audiobook felt like a punishment to be honest!

JessicaGma Nov 19, 2020

It's a unique take on vampires and a good horror story as it's just normal enough, and yet, completely off the wall. Patricia is a great main character and the setting of the 1980s adds another dimension to the setting. It's a fun read.

i
IntrovertReader
Nov 19, 2020

Patricia Campbell is a stereotypical ‘80s-‘90s Charleston doctor’s wife. She has the right look and the right hair, she lives in the right neighborhood, her kids go to the right schools, she has the right friends, and she’s bravely taking care of her senile mother-in-law to boot. It’s all a little…stifling. Her one outlet is her book club. Unbeknownst to their husbands, Patricia and her friends love to meet and drink and read “trashy” true crime novels. So you’d think they’d be ready to investigate when children start disappearing from the nearby Black community. Some of them want to help, they really do, but the stakes are high and getting higher. And it’s easy to ignore what isn’t happening in your own neighborhood–until it is.

Whoa! I somehow expected this to be funny as well as scary. Look at that title. Can’t you just see the ‘80s moms with their big hair going after the bad guy? Maybe staking him with a stiletto heel after a cocktail party? It had its moments but mostly it was really, really dark. Like, really dark. And trigger-ish for some readers.

The pacing of the story was great for me, starting off a little slow, a little questioning, then building to small peaks of nail-biting suspense, easing off a bit, and repeating and getting more and more suspenseful until the big finale. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. And is there room for a sequel? I’m not sure….

Aside from the vampire horror story, there was (and still is) a lot wrong in this town. The police just wrote off all the disappearances from the Black community. The kids must have been on drugs, or run away, or gotten themselves killed for a crime they must have committed, right? Grrr…. And the women’s husbands! I wanted to smack them all upside the head a few (dozen) times. They were so chauvinistic, controlling, and condescending! At least the vampire is just doing what vampires do. What excuse do misogynist racists have? It all makes you wonder (as I feel the author intended) who the real villain of the piece is.

Don’t go into this thinking that it’s a fun horror-lite novel. This is real horror on a lot of levels. It does contain triggers for some readers. It can be read for straight entertainment or for a discussion of what exactly is monstrous in our society. I obviously can’t recommend it unilaterally but it worked for me in quite unexpected ways. Pick it up if the synopsis interests you. I’d love to know what you think.

s
smoini
Nov 17, 2020

This was a stunning horror novel that cleverly used the vampire trope as a vehicle to force the reader to confront some uncomfortable truths about the pervasive culture of white supremacy and patriarchy. There were many gory moments that freaked me out, but what truly set my hair on edge were moments involving the husbands, secure in the knowledge of their superiority, patronizing and manipulating their wives - dismissing their concerns outright - to protect one of their own.
Mrs. Greene is such a powerful character, but we only see her on the fringes as this book is told in the first person with our protagonist being a middle-class Southern white woman who is primed to not pay much attention to a Black woman she hires to care for her mother-in-law. The fact that Patricia even deigns to follow-up on Mrs. Greene is more attention than any of her friends would have paid, and *yet it is still insufficient* as Patricia cannot be goaded into action until the danger comes for her.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires is such a clever indictment of white culture. Grady Hendrix has brought a fresh new twist to the horror genre with this book!

l
LadyKatka
Nov 15, 2020

sigh ... I had high and campy hopes for this book. The title and cover art, if you will excuse the pun, sucked me in. I was expecting some unbreakable female friendships and was hoping to read about a group of stay at home moms who show up to a vampire-slaying wearing a baby carrier on their chest.

"You can't bring a baby to a vampire staking Carol."

"The babysitter canceled, what was I supposed to do?" as she gently bounces the sleeping baby.

Or something like that.

however when one of the ladies says "There is nothing nice about Southern ladies" she is correct. These ladies betray and backstab each other all throughout the book. Are they even friends? What the heck.

They all seem to be in terrible marriages. Seriously, there is nobody to cheer for in this entire book.

Actually, that is false. There is one character, Mrs. Greene. That lady is a badass, and she is barely in the book, and almost doesn't even get a first name. There is no justice. I walked away wishing this story had been about her instead.

Major spoilers and sensitive trigging topics ahead

First of all, the pedophile metaphor in this book is not very subtle and pretty gross. The vampire appears to only feed on children, but where he feeds is overly sexual. It is the inner thigh, but it is so close to the genitals that there are some descriptions of them in the book. Also, the book claims that feeding on the children gives them such a euphoric high that it is addicting and they want it.

*and cue me vomiting*

Secondly, the trope of raping a woman in order to punish her or teach her a lesson needs to die and never be used again. Period.

Lastly, this book is a classic white savior complex story. Bad guy is killing/hurting/hunting children in a black neighbourhood but do the black people do anything about it? Nope. It is the middle class suburban white lady who comes in and promises to save the day. Boy are they ever relieved that the white lady is going to save them.

Then when the white lady fails to save them, they disappear from the story for three plus years. They aren't mentioned again until the white children are threatened and the main white lady needs the help of the barely named black lady. Seriously, Mrs. Greene's first name gets mentioned all of once and is never used again. What is with that?

Then when they decided to finally kill the vampire, the main white woman is unconscious for the entire battle (thanks for helping, useless) and the other white ladies can't finish the dirty deed. So Mrs. Greene steps up.

I want to read a book about Mrs. Greene, because any woman who can dismember a human body not only while it is still alive, but also talking to you is one hell of a badass. Why didn't she take matters into her own hands earlier instead of waiting for a white saviour to come? WHY?

If this vampire was killing/hurting/hunting black children, why isn't this story about the black mothers banding together to take down the threat? They get tired of the police not believing them, or ignoring them, not showing up when they call, so clearly they can only rely on themselves. Therefore they hunt down this vampire on their own. I would read that story.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Green was done dirty, this was also not a silly romp about white stay at home moms trying to find a sitter so they can hunt vampires under the guise of meeting for bookclub either.

Needless to say, I am left feeling very disappointed.

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