Desire and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat – Jeff Mann (Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press)

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Buy it direct from Lethe Press

If there’s anything I hate, it’s those damn Twilight
twink vampires. Vampires should be men with attitude. Men with purpose. Men
with the confidence and surety of the long undead. Men like Derek Maclaine, the
Scottish vampire who figures in Jeff Mann’s compilation of Maclaine tales, Desire
and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat
.

This hearty volume of bloodlust begins with “Derek &
Angus,” which explores Maclaine’s roots and his love affair with Angus
McCormick, the son of a crofter who works the land for his laird, Maclaine’s
father. Their bond lasts some thirteen years, always broaching discovery, until
one Beltane night when they are making love outside in the standing stones and
are set upon by their archenemies, the Macdonalds. Angus is killed in the
fracas, and Derek is mortally wounded. He is saved, however, by a Nordic
vampire named Sigurd, who makes him one of the Immortals, enabling Derek to
take his revenge on the men who murdered his lover.

The longest story in the book, “Derek & Angus” is less a
vampire story than a bloody tale of revenge which serves as a base for the
further exploits of Derek. And those exploits take him to very interesting
places, such as Vienna (the short yet delicious “The Last Crumbs of Sacher
Torte”), northern England (“Whitby”) and Rome (“Black Sambuca”). These tales
have all the atmosphere and sense of place I’ve come to expect of Mann, and
each one deepens Maclaine’s character.

The rest of the time, Maclaine stays in his new home of
America, draining mountain boys dry, sometimes with the assistance of his
partner Matt (apparently, Maclaine has taken several human lovers). Of these
domestic stories, I particularly liked “Hemlock Lake” and “Wolf Moon/Hunger
Moon,” which has Maclaine and Matt in a three-way with were-cub Donnie. And
Mann gets unexpectedly political with “Saving Tobias,” an expertly done piece
which sees Maclaine giving just desserts to a country singer turned conservative
politician.

Mann ravishes these stories, giving each its own spin yet
bringing it all back to Maclaine in the end—a fascinating character worthy of a
longer, less fractured narrative. Mann clearly enjoys writing him, and he
embodies the deep connection between Celts and the American South. Mann’s
penchant for BDSM kink is also present, though rarely brought to the forefront.
In short, if you’re a fan of his, this is one volume you’ll relish.

And if you’re not, it’s a perfect  place to start.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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