Genres: Fiction, Horror, Comedy
“Midwestern nice” is hard to pull off when you’re a bloodthirsty monster.
Poor Herb isn’t even sure how he got vamped in the first place. With no one to guide him, Herb fumbles into his newfound abilities, courting disaster with each bumbling step. Sure, there are some perks. The local stripper wants him, he can do this whammy mind-control thing, and he is getting a lot better at bowling. But he can’t drink beer, the bodies are piling up, and his best friend Dallas is getting suspicious. When Herb and Dallas go for the same girl, keeping his dark secret becomes the least of Herb’s concerns.
Booze, billiards, babes, blood, bake sales, bowling, bar fights and karaoke. Who would’ve thought that being undead would make life so interesting?
Red tears flowing freely, he sat in the middle of the carnage, trying to sort-out just how in the hell he managed to get half a petting zoo into his house. The phone rang and rang again, causing Herb’s head to swing in a dazed circle, bringing his eyes to bear on where the phone stuck out from beneath most of a dead grouse.
“Um, hello. You’ve reached the Knudsen residence. Um. The Knudsen, Herb, I mean me, well it’s a recording of Herb. Me. Oh crap. Does this rewind? Uff dah. Aaah crap. Oh, ok. Sorry! Can’t take your call! I’d sure love to, and I hope I can take your call again. Later. When I call you back. Um. Ok den, thanks! So wait for the beep… um, the beep. It should be this one. Oh for chrissakes…” Beeeep!
It had been a long time since Herb had listened to his answering machine greeting, and found himself wondering when the suave and self-confident message he remembered had been replaced by a drunken Ole impersonator.
“Herb? Herb! Are you there? Why aren’t you at work? Ronnie’s furious and Hector is exhausted ‘cause he’s been here since like five o’clock last night.” Lois’s voice floated from the tinny speakers of the RadioShack machine, leaving Herb in awestruck wonder. She called me, thought Herb. She’s worried about me and she called. A smile cracked the caked blood around Herb’s mouth as he leaned toward the voice.
“Ronnie’s making me call since you haven’t picked up your phone all morning. He’s been calling and calling and thinks you’re trying to ruin him or something. You’d better call back or get your ass in here pronto, ok Herby? Seriously, it’s like 10:45 in the A. M. Just…”
Herb knocked the remains of the grouse off the phone and grabbed the receiver. “Lois! Hi, Lois. Um. Wow. Hi there. It’s Herb. Me. I’m Herb. Um…” Herb squeezed his eyes shut, slowly pounded his forehead on the lifeless grouse and took a deep breath.
“So. I’m here. You called. Me. Lois. Um, how are you?”
“How am I? Oh just peachy, thanks so much for asking. It’s busier than heck here but our morning cook has apparently decided to take the morning off, which means the exhausted overnight cook can’t leave since Ronnie only knows how to make Rice-A-Roni.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, Ronnie calls it ‘Rice-A-Ronnie.’ He ah. Adds cilantro, dill, some mayo. He thinks it makes it fancier.”
“Roni, Ronnie, whatever. Hector burned his hand when he dozed off near the deep fryer half an hour ago. Seriously, I don’t know what your deal is, but you really gotta get to work.”
For a few treasured moments after the phone was slammed into the cradle, Lois’s voice flittered on Cupid-wings through the fog in Herb’s brain. Gone were the dead animals, the blood-soaked couch, the gore-spattered Brett Favre bobble-head doll. Even Lady, Jerry and Pam’s poor little pug, flew from his conscious mind like dandelion fluff on a warm summer breeze. Herb bobbed in a sea of bliss, looking at the phone that had recently held her angel voice. Gently setting the receiver down on its cradle, he caressed it with a grimy finger.
A red 11 blinked at him from the answering machine, a stark reminder of the ten angry Ronnie’s and one blissful Lois waiting for his attention. Herb quickly stumbled to his feet, hit play and delete in rapid sequence, turning Ronnie’s messages into a staccato of angry reproachment.
“Come on, come on!” Jittering with anticipation, he hit play, delete. Play, delete. Reaching the final truncated message, he stopped, quivering in anticipation, and gently, reverently hit play. Lois’s voice again filled his senses, buckled his knees, and sent him sliding back to the floor. Oblivious to the fact that he was sitting in a half-congealed puddle of blood, Herb smiled, contentment incarnate. She had called him. Called his phone to talk to him. And she was waiting for him. All he had to do was get in the Pinto, go to work and…
Reality crashed down like kitchen knives from an overturned drawer.
Scott lives in the Midwest with his wife, Liz and their Staffordshire Terrier, Frank. Raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he spent many summer weekends in rural Wisconsin where a friend’s dad had about 50 acres of wooded land near a small town. Those magical summer days of Scott’s youth were spent shooting pop cans with a .22, playing Frisbee golf amongst the trees and sticking the collected wood ticks to rolls of duct tape on the fridge. Wisconsin came to represent idle days and entertaining nights, simple times complete with good friends and beef jerky.
Years later (1998 to be exact), Scott had made a mess of college and moved to Chicago, IL. For six years, Scott drove back and forth between Minneapolis and Chicago. More than once, he wondered what it would be like to just take the next exit, drive north into the woods and settle down. He dreamt of running a small bar or bowling alley, living in a little rambler in the trees, and amassing a daunting collection of cassette tapes and flannels. Somewhere in those musings, the seeds for Wisconsin Vamp were planted, although Herb Knudsen wouldn’t appear for many, many years.
Scott moved to Los Angeles, CA in late 2003. He quickly realized that only people who had written a screenplay were allowed to live in L.A., so he set about whipping one up. Looking for some easy subject matter, Scott catalogued the things he enjoyed. Drinking, bowling, karaoke, pining for cute waitresses and funny horror flicks topped his list. After not nearly enough consideration, Scott wrote half a screenplay about the things he enjoyed, set in the northwoods of Wisconsin and featuring a very atypical vampire named Herb.
Since he didn’t finish the screenplay, he was politely asked to leave L.A. Returning to Minneapolis with his wife, he converted what he had to novel format. The rest is, as they say, is available for the reasonable price of $2.99.
So, the last few years we’ve seen a bumper crop of paranormal stories, most notably with vampires as the main creature of the night. And sure, we’ve been swayed by the smooth talking Jean-Claude and Eric Northman; turned on yet slightly repulsed by Asher; and possibly wondered what the big fuss was about a sparkly vampire (or was that just me?)
Anyway, yeah, those stories were good; sometimes better than good, but they all seem to be somewhat the same: the pale yet ethereal, tall, slim but lean with hair better than a Pantene commercial model whose eyes can peer so deep into you he (or she) can see into your not-yet-anywhere-close-to-being born great-grandchildren’s souls, who, at the beginning of the story is so foul and vile not even Hell wants them, but because of the genuine love of some poor, unsuspecting tasty little meal who they probably thralled along the way ends up the wonderful hero by the end of the book where angels are singing their praises. Sound like a familiar story line?
Let me introduce you to Herb, a somewhat less-than-average cook at “Ronnie’s Famous Truck-stop, Grill, Bait Shop and Gift Emporium” located in some small town in Wisconsin. Herb doesn’t have it going on. At. All. He drives a Pinto and needs three different alarm clocks just to help him get up in the mornings. Through a weird twist of fate (and I mean weird), Herb becomes the newest citizen of the undead society. And oh what a journey it is! True to form, Herb doesn’t experience the transformation of waking up 3 days later looking like a Calvin Klein underwear model. No, his transformation is more Tales from the Crypt than America’s Next Top Model.
Scott Burtness has given us a book with a definitely unique twist on the paranormal vampire story with one of the most untypical protagonist in Herb. Despite the changes in his body, there is still a bit of goodness left in him that he tries to hold onto; which isn’t easy considering his best friend Dallas is becoming more and more suspicious of Herb, not to mention both Herb and Dallas are competing for the attentions of local waitress Lois.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Win one of three autographed copies of Wisconsin Vampire, each will include a Wisconsin themed postcard from the main character, Herb. This giveaway is restricted to USA only, please! Enter through Goodreads.