Gwendolyn Kiste Reluctant Immortals

Gwendolyn Kiste Reluctant Immortals

Immortal vampires are a natural fit for historical fiction.  As characters, it gives them a unique perspective.  In Reluctant Immortals, Gwendolyn Kiste manages to offer readers a mix of thrilling fun and acerbic asides that fit seamlessly into her propulsive plot.  It’s 1967, and Lucy Westerna, some 90 years out of Dracula along with Bertha Mason Rochester, out of the fires of Jane Eyre, are living in a ramshackle, run-down suburban house on the outskirts of LA. 

Lucy narrates the story in prose that’s a blast to read.  She’s a monster, yes, but as OK with it as she can be, fighting back the blood-urges as if she’s on a crash diet.  Bertha (Bee in the story), is something else entirely, the revelation of which helps drive the plot.   Kiste plays fast and loose with both the literary sources and the many given definitions of vampires and undeath here, but does so with glee.  How it all works out is revealed in the plot, not in lectures.  Lucy has been guarding urns that hold the remains of Dracula, keeping them apart so he can’t return from the dead.  Dracula whispers to her from the urns, and Rochester whispers to Bertha from wherever he is. It’s a supernatural version of First Wives Club, with events that send our heroines from Hollywood to Haight-Ashbury as they support one another in a quest to rid themselves and humanity of men so toxic that death is a mere speed-bump.

The plotting here is excellent, and the historical backdrop serves the story well.  Major and minor characters prove to be one hell of a lot of fun in every scene and on every page.  Kiste is clearly having fun as well, with a plot and a prose voice that enable her to use supernatural powers (and weaknesses) to externalize a host of 21st century concerns.  She’s so good in the prose and plotting that she’s able to directly discuss toxic males in a manner that’s refreshingly clear, even while it’s over-the-top, wildly weird. 

There are, of course, a variety of literary and not-so literary allusions here, as Kiste has her way with the source material.  What matters, though, is that while Kiste is playing literary games and speaking to the social ills and interests of today, the reader is engaged in a toe-tapping, page-turning good time.  Yes, there’s a lot of great writing going on here, but you don’t have to slow down to appreciate it.  Pull onto the 101 north, put your foot on the gas, and pedal-to-the-metal from the HOLLYWOOD sign to Haight-Ashbury.  Bring a towel. 

Speaking of fast-paced, here’s a link to my we’re-having-too-much-fun-at-this conversation with Gwendolyn Kiste. [Long i, like Kite.]  Or, pull over at one of those famous Highway 101 rest stops (I recommend the one at Gaviota), crack open a can of Burgie, recline the seat and give yourself a break. 

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