I’m lucky enough to live near a little old place in Naperville called Anderson’s Bookshop. It’s an independent bookstore known for constantly bringing around guest authors to present their new book. Sometimes they even get pretty big names, ranging from Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting,) to Lois Lowry, (The Giver.) I’m not able to go as often as I’d like, as I usually work during these events, and calling in sick to work four nights in a row would eventually look bad. Luck struck me though, just those few days ago, when I got to see none other than Seth Grahame-Smith promoting his new book The Last American Vampire.
Now to some of you, the ones that bothered to use Google, might’ve recognized the name as the man responsible for the classic Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the book and film version of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Most people are surprised when I explain to them that there was in fact a book, and a freaking spectacular one as I continue to insist, that inspired that movie they generally remember as an utterly ridiculous CGI besmirching of a perfectly good president’s name with a bizarre Gothic back story. I will address those accusations a bit later, but not before I explain why this guy and his books are so important to me.
You see, to some, maybe even most of you, this guy is just some bizarre niche writer, but to me he is the man who provided me with the definitive Spider-man Handbook , the Ultimate Training Manual in middle school, when I truly wanted nothing more than to become that famous wall crawler. I might still have it somewhere, but it would be seriously worn down, possibly even some weird stains on the dog-eared pages from attempts at making my own web fluid. Really, though, the thing that made me come back to that book again and again that it would continue to make me laugh even after the umpteenth time I read it, often enough in class too, when I was supposed to be quiet and should have been perfectly capable of doing so reading the same joke about dying from exposure to a radioactive spider bite again. The guy was a god in my mind at that point for sure, but then in high school I went a bit dark and gothic, especially on the rebound from my Twilight phase, and found his book How to Survive a Horror Movie. I died laughing, yet again, and carefully navigated my way through a high school rendered slightly more interesting when I felt like I should keep my eye out for creepy omen kids or a friend trying to invite to read Latin out of this old book they found in the sewer. Those two books made Seth Grahame Smith a permanent spot on my favorite book shelf for most of my puberty.
Then he did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and that was as close as I ever came to reading a Jane Austen novel for fun in my teen years. Yeah, I guess I might be confusing some people right now so just let me pause to affirm to people that I am actually a grown female women, not a slightly immature teenage boy. Shame on you with your traditional gender role images and whatnot. Anyhow, I soon also came across Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and found a surprisingly serious and historically accurate book. Seriously, this was a character driven horror/action/drama about Abraham Lincoln avenging the death of his father and his first love by killing every single vampire he could lay his hands on, and ultimately becoming president to stop the vampire scourge.
If I’ve hurt my credit so much by discussing this possibly unsettling connection to this, allow me to further intrigue you by saying that after I suggested the book, my mother of all people fell in love with it. She legitimately cared for the characters, and was compelled by the prose. My mother is many wonderful things, but a fan of history and bloody vampire horror mash ups is not one of them. She didn’t even get into Twilight as much as my dad did. So trust me then, this book is special, and that’s why I was so excited to visit the man the myth the Smith himself, (ooh, that’s good, I’ll copyright that and make him pay me to use it.)
So yeah, all that’s the set up to why I was so weirdly excited to this man and his new book, The Last American Vampire. I was hoping this sequel to his Lincoln book would redeem the fate of that poor silver screen attempt. Of course, I also had teeny tiny part of myself that wanted to run up to him and say “Oh my God, Spiderman guy! You’re so funny and now I fight crime on the weekends because of you! You changed my life!” That was a speech I’d carefully composed in my 7th grade Health Class spiral notebook, but not one I ultimately decided to give. In fact, at the start of his talk, Sethie (I’m allowed to call him that now because I met him,) explained how he’d written a number of books at the beginning of his career just for the money, the Spider-man and Horror Movie books included, and didn’t feel too much of a prideful connection to them.
I said nothing, but inside my inner child shrieked like she’d just seen Santa Claus stab her favorite Beanie Baby, Derby the Horse, into a pile of bean bits and fabric. Sure, I knew deep down that beanie baby came from China and Santa probably just had his elves order a shipment of Derbys from a factory that employed only orphans, and Santa might not have been necessarily proud of that, but Derby was everything to me. I was no longer sure I could even speak to this man, who probably didn’t even know Spiderman or Peter Parker personally. He was going to sign our books though. I had to! Agh, such conflict built in the social anxiety/ hero worship part of my brain that when I inevitably just walked up, said hi and sat down, my brain took a moment to realize it was over.
So, yeah, I awkwardly greeted a guy that I knew in my grown up mind I should feel anything but intimidated by, and got my new book signed. I did not mention Spiderman and then sat back down to start reading the book. Maybe someday I’ll find the courage to tell that guy the ridiculous level of influence he had on my puberty years with his early-year drivel, but for now I’ll be catching up on his latest books, this Last American Vampire and his Unholy Night book, a take on the birth of Jesus.
Yeah, I didn’t go too much into detail about the book itself, but if my emotional heart-pouring above and the kick-ass cover below won’t convince you to read and love the book, I don’t know what will. I can’t say I worship the guy like a God in my adult life, but damn if he doesn’t know how to make a book that makes interviewing a vampire sound infinitely more bad ass than Anne Rice, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt have made us feel it is over the years. Plus, c’mon, just look at the cover. Look at it. Rar.