Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Ray Garton
Published by Leisure Books
I really don’t want to just come out and say that Ray Garton wrote Night Life as a cash-in on the newfound popularity of Live Girls (review) because that’s more than a little disrespectful. I’ve never met the man but I hear he’s very cool in person and I would hate to piss him off before I got the chance to come face-to-face with him. But just try and get through Night Life and tell me it doesn’t feel empty and devoid of pretty much all the intensity that existed in Live Girls, which Night Life is a direct sequel to. It just feels so much like a cash-in … but I won’t call it that.
It’s made even worse by the fact that I just read Live Girls for the first time when Leisure released it a few months back and loved it. It had grittiness, realism and told a vampire story (something I usually loathe out of the box) in a new and interesting way. The characters were solid, the action was believable … Night Life is just lacking in anything that worked so well in Live Girls other than vampires, and it’s a damn shame.
Our story picks up in present day. Davey, the former proprietor of the 42nd Street peep show called Live Girls and now a full-fledged vampire, is living with his wife in Los Angeles writing scripts, romantic comedies to be specific and they’re vampires. Nice, peaceful vampires who want nothing more than to live a normal life and have normal jobs. Their simple lives are shattered when a pair of private investigators show up at their door to find out about vampires. They were hired by Mr. Benedek, a very rich and very famous horror author who has been following vampires since the report that showed up in New York papers shortly after the incident at Live Girls back in 1987.
Their snooping gets one man killed, the hero of Live Girls and author of the aforementioned article, who has been living in isolation these past 20 years until the investigators draw attention to him. Sucks to be him, I guess. Shortly after that Davey’s wife and one of the investigators, a woman of course, are captured by Brutals, those vampires who want to live like the movies show them, killing and drinking gallons of blood on a whim. Davey and the other PI must go in to rescue them, but the way is treacherous. Sound familiar? It should, as it’s almost exactly what happened in Live Girls without any of he emotion that made it work so well.
Though I seriously doubt you’ll be able to get that far into Night Life before moving on to something more entertaining. Something has been lost in Garton’s writing in the last few decades; hell something’s been lost since The Loveliest Dead (review) was published, and I’m not sure what it is. His descriptions of violence and torture at the hands of the brutals is clinical at best, utterly devoid of emotion or any kind of resonance so it come across as an automaton repeating the information rather than a talented author writing about it.
But this detached storytelling doesn’t just crop up during moments of violence, oh no. It’s present throughout the entire book, so I was never able to feel any sympathy or empathy for these characters at all which, as we all know by now, is the key factor in making horror work; you have a give a shit about what happens to the persons in danger. I was never able to make any emotional connection with anyone in Night Life so I was just hoping for it to be over as quick as possible. As is always the case with bad books that didn’t happen; indeed it took seemingly forever to finish Night Life.
If you’re a fan of Garton’s do yourself a favor and skip this one all together. Go back and read Live Girls again and revel in a master storyteller at his prime. Night Life will likely only serve to frustrate and disappoint you and life is too damn short for that, right? Right.
1/2 out of 5
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