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Pretty Young Things
Dominic McDonagh
Telos paperback £7.99

review by Gary McMahon

Usually, I run a mile from anything that can be described as 'vampire fiction'. I'm not knocking it, but in my opinion this particular subgenre of the horror field has been mined for all it's worth. I'm sick and tired of wan, pasty-faced pretty boys whining about the life eternal, or pale, romantic counts trailing the back alleys of European cities in search of fresh and preferably virgin blood.

We all know that Dr John Polidori and Bram Stoker started it all, but for me the last truly great works of vampire fiction were Theodore Sturgeon's incredible Some Of Your Blood and Richard Matheson's masterful I Am Legend. There was a brief resurgence, of course, with the sheer back-to-basics nastiness of Stephen King's modern classic Salem's Lot and Robert R. McCammon's wonderful They Thirst, but since then vampires have become a rather gaunt shadow of Stoker's original malevolent entities and turned into the literary equivalent of pop music's boy bands.

But this brings us to Dominic McDonagh's very fine and exciting novella, Pretty Young Things, published by the award-winning UK independent publisher Telos. Having stated all of the above, this nifty little book gave me something that might just force me to eat my words.

Chelsea lives in Manchester, sharing a house with a bunch of far from traditional "lesbian rave bunny vampires." Together, this motley group of aggressively feminist monsters raid the local pubs and clubs and take home men to string up in the basement and use as 'bloodcalves'. One night, Chelsea pops downstairs for a quick snack, only to discover that her ex-boyfriend Jared is occupying space in the larder. Still retaining feelings for Jared, she decides to free him and use the situation to make her escape from the clutches of this tight-knit and demanding group of matriarchal bloodsuckers.

What follows is a breathless chase through a nicely realised sub culture of sex, music and bloodlust, involving guns, vengeful vampires, a dopey drug dealer and the best character in the book by far - a sadistic failed doctor called Leonard who wants to utilise the biological secrets of the vampires for his own needs.

McDonagh's neat and tidy prose is ice cool, and packed with plenty of cultural references but no unnecessary bloat or redundant backstory. The pacing of his story can only be described as breakneck; the reader is dragged through the dark world the author has created, and left with no time to catch his or her breath. This book exists in the moment, and for the duration of the story we are there too, staring into the face of sudden death or dismemberment, and risking our life alongside Chelsea and her erstwhile companions.

I genuinely enjoyed this book; and yes, yes, damn it, I admit that there might still be some blood left to drain from the tired vampire mythos.
Pretty Young Things

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