Book Review: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
“He thinks we’re what we look like on the outside: nice Southern ladies. Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires surprised me with how much it has to offer, which shouldn't have even been a surprise because I read Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism ("which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it's set in the Eighties") last year and felt the same way about that book too. Both could have just ridden a satisfying long, campy wave till the end, but both books dip deeper than mere camp, with Book Club touching upon the topics of patriarchy, classism, feminism, marriage, motherhood, sisterhood, victimhood, and race. Phew.
In Book Club, middle-aged housewife and mother of two Patricia is bored with the book club's choices of stale classics that don’t resonate with her life at all, what with all the carpooling and cooking and cleaning she has to do while her husband spends his days and nights at the hospital, sucking up for a new position in his field of psychiatrics. She can't bring herself to get past the first dull chapter of Cry, the Beloved Country, and the other ladies feel the same way. So they break off and start reading something they can all get into: page-turning, gooshy true crime books. Over time they become experts on Ted Bundy and Diane Downs, making their way through Anne Rule's bloody bibliography, and waxing nostalgic about the steamy Helter Skelter Summer of Love and Bloodshed. The ladies become such aficionados of serial killers that they find themselves applying the lessons of it to their lives, and, later, when sitting vigil with a sick friend, read aloud passages from In Cold Blood to provide comfort.
Then the mysterious, handsome nephew of Old Mrs. Savage shows up in their Charleston County, South Carolina, bedroom community called Old Village, flashing pearly whites at the women, promising fortunes to their men, preying on children in the poor part of town called Six Mile.
Grady Hendrix's inspiration for writing this book is that he "wanted to pit Dracula against my mom. As you'll see, it's not a fair fight.” So, for sure, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is campy and fun, but it’s pretty scary in parts, funny, touching, and very, VERY gory. Throw in some chilling backstory on the vampire and a little bit of paranoia a la The Stepford Wives and it's just an Old Country Buffet of deliciousness.
“Think of us what you will," she thought, "we made mistakes, and probably scarred our children for life, and we froze sandwiches, and forgot car pool, and got divorced. But when the time came, we went the distance.”