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Dead Red Heart: Australian Vampire Tales
edited by Russell B. Farr
Ticonderoga Publications, 502 pages

Dead Red Heart: Australian Vampire Tales
Russell B. Farr
Russell B. Farr was born in Perth, Western Australia. He is the Managing Editor of Ticonderoga Publications, publishing writers including Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Stephen Dedman, Sean Williams and Simon Brown. In 1999 he founded TiconderogaOnline, which has overcome a sporadic start to become a regular quarterly publication, latest issue March 2007. He is the author of over 100 stories, articles, reviews and essays published in Australia, the United States and Norway. Russell lives in Northam, Western Australia.

Russell B. Farr Website
ISFDB Bibliography

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A review by Mario Guslandi

As sick as I am of reading fiction about vampires, I couldn't miss the opportunity to get a copy of an Australian anthology whose contributors were (with the notable exception of Angela Slatter) completely unknown to me. My hope was to get a refreshing view of an old and overused topic by a bunch of writers not belonging to the circle of the usual suspects from the USA or the UK.

In a way, my desire has been fulfilled. The hefty volume published by Ticonderoga Books assembles thirty-three stories where diversity is the main feature. Some tales have a distinct Aussie taste in terms of location and local sub-culture, which contributes to shed a new light on vampires, their habits and their personalities. Other stories, by contrast, could easily have been produced by any horror writer, the Australian nature of the characters and the plot being indirectly indicated mostly by some exotic landscape.

Needless to say, the quality of the material included in such a massive anthology is also considerably varied, so I'll mention only the stories that I've found more accomplished.

"Sun Falls" by Angela Slatter is quite an original piece where a vampire "assistant" helps her master to regenerate himself in exchange to her freedom.

In Jeremy Sadler's "Such is Life," a disquieting tale full of chiaroscuro literary effects, the Ned Kelly myth blends with the vampire canon.

"Punishment of the Sun" by Alan Baxter is a nasty piece of fiction depicting vampires as they were originally supposed to be: a bunch of murderous, fiendish creatures. On the other hand in the graphic, powerful "Red Delicious" by Felicity Dowker, vampires, after all, still exhibit human vices and frailties.

Marty Young contributes "Desert Blood," an insightful, vivid tale featuring a vampire-like creature and a man undergoing an unforeseen transformation from his original human condition.

In the tense, excellent "Coming Home" Kathryn Hore portrays a woman, turned into a vampire, going back home to visit her husband. Gore and violence blends perfectly with love, a sentiment able to survive even the inhuman changeover.

The terrifying "The Little Red Man " by Ray Gates features, instead of a traditional vampire, a related kind of hungry, deadly creature.

To me the highlight of the book is Simon Brown's "Thin Air." Partly a vampire tale, partly a crime story, quite simply a truly outstanding piece of fiction by an excellent writer.

In short, an interesting anthology graced by a few, memorable gems.

Copyright © 2011 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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