John‘s Review of Big Crimson by F.C. Schaefer
My first impression of Big Crimson by F.C. Schaefer was totally wrong. I didn’t find frilly speech and fancy-pants descriptions in line with a slick and sexy vampire book. There was no angsty teen drama. There was no cute or funny vampy satire. No supernatural superhero. No fallen-hero-turned-monster-seeking-redemption. Instead of a castle or a big city skyline there was a low-rent shotgun-style house with beer bottles and mac and cheese and a cast of hard-boiled characters that could have moved in from a Noir novel written a century earlier. I began to worry that the plain descriptions of the bleak surroundings signaled a weakness in Schaefer’s style. Where were the poetic images? The scenery? Couldn’t he afford better special effects?
Then I noticed I was already on page five. The protagonist Kyle was in trouble at work with his corrupt boss. I was beginning to see that Kyle’s integrity was the keystone to his personality.
Schaefer wrote like a classical Russian; cutting away fancy speech and all the trappings we call style while laying down his story like a mason, brick by brick using the humblest of objects and the simplest of emotions.
By the time I came to this insight I was on page ten, then fifteen, then twenty and it struck me that Big Crimson was like a freight train; at a distance it seems to be rolling slowly but when you’re close to it you find you have to run until you’re out of breath to catch up to it. It was a fast read.
Kyle saves a vampire from the True Death, setting in motion a host of life-changing events.
I kept looking for a character I could fall in love with, but while the hard-boiled characters were often interesting, they were not always likeable. Just as in life, any one of them can be an asshole at times. Their cynically materialistic relationships usually revolved around sex, money, or comfort. I wanted to see some kind of deeper bond, but I recognize that in a vampire book this may be more feature than flaw. Anyone can die at any time. It put me in mind of the movie Dusk to Dawn, where the patrons of the shady truck stop Tittie Twister were mostly awful, but fun to watch. While I wanted more out of Big Crimson’s characters, such as the protagonist Kyle or his neighbor Jennifer, they were believable and consistent. They could be my actual neighbors.
Schaefer grounds the story in starkly normal details, but when the action starts, it is fluid and cinematic. Kyle killing a powerful vampire in a shocking upset was not surprising given the story, but it was very well done. Schaefer doesn’t overdo the supernatural but uses it sparingly so it carries a lot of force.
By the time I reached the end of Big Crimson, events were just reaching top speed with imminent collisions, teeing up Big Crimson Book Two: The Vampire Next Door. If you’re looking for a story about forbidden eternal love or complex relationships, I’d say go elsewhere, but if you want a satisfying vampire yarn where common people are caught up in the machinations of powerful monsters, Big Crimson might be the book for you.