Vampire stories have universal appeal, and almost every culture has its vampire stories
Wednesday evening at the High Noon Saloon, Madison author Fred Schepartz will throw a party to celebrate his new novel, Vampire Cabbie. For entertainment there will be belly dancing and the music of Knuckel Drager, the Madison combo that wears horror masks and fright wigs as they churn out eerie surf rock.
"What band is more perfect for a book release party for a vampire book?" asks Schepartz, 45. He pauses a moment, then answers his own question. "Actually, the Cramps and Bauhaus, but they weren't available."
Vampire Cabbie (published by Literary Road) is the story of a 1,000-year-old vampire who, impoverished by the 1987 stock market crash, takes a job with a Madison cab company. "He'd been wealthy a long time, and he'd become a classist, pretty much," says Schepartz of his protagonist. "So here he is, working side by side with people who he thought were his inferiors. But he learns to appreciate his coworkers."
A Madisonian of 28 years, Schepartz drives a taxi himself, for Union Cab. The work is often -- appropriately enough for vampires, and vampire authors -- nocturnal. Not that Schepartz strictly enforces the rule saying that vampires can only go out at night. "He can walk in the light of day," he says of his vampire cabbie. "But it has to be pretty late in the day."
Any vampire writer must grapple with the rules of the genre, notes Schepartz, though there is not general agreement on what the rules even are. "You can make up your own rules," he says, "but you have to be consistent, and you have to try to stay within the standard tropes. Then you're in pretty good shape."
For example: How do vampires come to be vampires? "You have some writers who say you become one if you're bitten by one," he says. "I don't like that idea, because it's illogical. If a vampire has to feed every day or every few days, there's going to be a lot of vampires." In Schepartz' telling, people must drink vampire blood to become vampires -- as in the books of vampire-fiction doyennes Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
Vampire stories have universal appeal, notes Schepartz, and almost every culture has its vampire stories. What is so enduring about this lore? The vampire is "the parasite that sits above us on the food chain, and that terrifies us," he says.
"We're on top of the food chain, and we don't like to think about not being on top of the food chain. It's a primal fear, and it's fun -- that's horror [fiction] when it's done well. It deals with the things that scare us."
The trouble for horror authors nowadays, according to Schepartz, is that truth can be more horrifying than fiction. "It's harder to find scary stories nowadays, since reality is so scary," he says. "Think of Dick Cheney being a heartbeat away from the presidency."
At 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Fred Schepartz celebrates the publication of Vampire Cabbie with a party at the High Noon Saloon, 701A E. Washington Ave. Admission is $5. On Oct. 31 at 7 p.m., Schepartz will read from Vampire Cabbie at Avol's Book Store, 315 W. Gorham St.