GHOST DANCE by Rod Marsden
Night to Dawn Books
P.O. Box 643, Abington, PA 19001, USA (www.bloodredshadow.com)
The second novel in Rod Marsden’s Australia-based vampire series sees his ‘Secret Compass’ organization once more at odds with the forces of the undead, and once again the battle is not so simple as straightforward good-versus-evil. Petra, the chief vampire involved, is a more sympathetic character than her ‘all-vampires-must-die (again) ‘antagonists. And going by David L. Transue’s gorgeous full-colour cover, a damn sight better looking, too like a young Joanna Lumley in pre-blonde days. Petra was a Vamp in her pre-vampire days, and is still a bit of a swinger in 1975, the setting of the tale. She might be a threat to the wellbeing of humanity (though she tries not to kill when she feeds), but you can’t help liking her.
But there’s more to it than that. Vampires there are, and other wandering spirits, but just to up the ante, there’s now a twenty-one year old newly-turned lycanthrope, Frank, and a warlock, Hercule Morgan, needing vampire and werewolf blood for his ‘experiment’ to reduce world population (not in the nicest way). Just to speed things along he has a golem slave made from clay with ruby eyes. This Hercule’s little grey cells are more than a little deranged.
Not to be outdone, the forces for ‘good’ – or at least mortality – are augmented in Ghost Dance by Gypsy fortune tellers, gun-toting monks from the Vatican’s New Inquisition (less incendiary than the Old Inquisition) and a branch of the Secret Compass from Knightswood, Scotland (the same north-west district of Glasgow where I am sitting now, writing this review, and once Knights Templar land). And the posse comes armed with all manner of anti-vampire weaponry such as Bram Stoker never dreamt of. At one point, operatives are kitted out with devices by a posh London colleague, in a scene reminiscent of James Bond being primed by ‘Q’.
These are the ingredients in a plot which readers must unravel for themselves. This story is set in the year immediately preceding events in the earlier novel, Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand, which contains a lot more background to the Secret Compass. However, Ghost Dance stands perfectly well on its own – no further reading required for its enjoyment – and is consequently faster-paced than its predecessor.
As with Disco Evil, this novel has a ‘both-sides-to-the-story’ aspect which leaves one inevitably unable to take sides. As in life, no one is either all good or all bad – though, as the title indicates, there is a remorseless sense of destiny involved. Also as in life, actions can have long-lasting consequences, especially where “the supernatural is an extension of the natural and always has been”.
Inventive, colourful, thought-provoking, and above all fun – you’ve got to read Ghost Dance by Rod Marsden while you have the chance. After all, you’re a long time dead.
Reviewed by: NEIL K. HENDERSON (author of An English Summer in Scotland & Other Unlikely Events)
Knightswood, Glasgow, Scotland