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Blood and Rust: Two Novels of the Cleveland Undead by S.A. Swiniarski
Review by Gayle Surrette
DAW Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756404161
Date: 06 March 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Page / Show Official Info /

Back in print, Raven and The Flesh, The Blood, and the Fire are about vampires in Cleveland, Ohio. What could be more radical than vampires in the heartland in an average American city of hardworking families? We've come to expect vampires in classy or classic locations: London, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles… But here we have vampires where they shouldn't be -- fitting in, among the everyday folks, trying to carve out a safe environment to where their dietary requirements won't raise eyebrows. It's even harder to do when you don't believe in vampires and yet you think you might be one, or if you believe with all your heart that vampires are Satan's tools only now you are one and you still have the same moral code you had before. Swiniarski explores the territory of the normal person in extraordinary circumstances.

In Raven, Damien Castle wakes in a sewer, freezing, covered in blood and with, you guessed it, amnesia. He starts piecing his life together from the bits of information found in his pockets, messages on his phone, and from his clothes. As he searches to find out who he is, he's also learning about what he has become and what he's willing to do to protect himself and those he cares about. The story is a powerful one of family, loyalty, and betrayal.

The Flesh, The Blood, and the Fire is a mix of history and fiction. Det. Stefan Ryzard and his partner Nuri Lapidos are investigating body parts which are showing up along the railroad tracks. As the bodies pile up the case becomes the Kingsbury Run Murders and rates a higher profile detective. It seems that Stefan's reports were reading more like fiction than police work even though he reported what he saw and what he heard and knew. Now you mix in the fact that at this time Elliot Ness was moving to Cleveland to clean up the corruption. Plus, there's a vampire who plans to take over the world one business and government agency at a time putting key people in thrall to him and using humanity as his worshippers. Swiniarski manages to pull it all together in a scarily logically possible manner -- it gave me the creeps.

The writing is tight and rich with people who have lives and breathe. They don't have simple parts they are richly written with the weight of a background and history. It's two novels in one but each could stand alone since one doesn't depend on the other. However, don't miss the chance to read both these books as they do bring up a lot of issues and examines the boundaries of the vampire mythos.

I'm not a real history buff so after finishing The Flesh, The Blood, and the Fire, I spent an evening Googling Elliot Ness, Cleveland, and The Kingsbury Run Murders. It's amazing how the story fits with the actuality with the frisson of could it have been.

Our Readers Respond

From: Michelle Swiniarski:
    As the wife of the author, I'd like to point out that the setting is CLEVELAND, Ohio, not Cincinnati. Other than that, we thank you for the review and kind words!
From Editor:
    Oops, that's a definite miss on our part -- fixed now. Thanks for the feedback.

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