Some days, it seems like everyone wants to get with a vampire. There are countless stories and books involving romance and vampires, from romantic comedies like Bloodsucking Fiends to the more serious and gothic Vampire Chronicles novels about the loves and lives of Lestat. It’s easy to see why, of course — vampires are arguably one of the most sapient and human-adjacent types of monsters, they have a long tradition as characters in gothic fiction (easily one of the most romantic and also most dramatic genres), and being ageless and immortal does leave one with a kind of craving for intimacy. But with all the romance out there, it’s easy to forget that vampires are undead monsters who crave blood. That’s a ton of red flags for a potential hookup. So with that in mind, here are several novels about vampires it would be an incredibly bad idea to romance.
‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King
Set in the small Maine town of Jerusalem’s Lot, previously the location of King’s William Hope Hodgson pastiche of the same name, ‘Salem’s Lot is the story of what happens to a small town when two newcomers move in, one a writer and former resident of the Lot, the other a strange gentleman who never goes outside in the daytime. This makes the list because while Stephen King is fairly well-known, ‘Salem’s Lot stands out for being an incredibly brutal and bleak take on the gothic novel, especially since King’s works trend more towards the optimistic or bittersweet. The vampires are irredeemably evil, there are more than a few deaths that manage to be tragic as well as horrifying (the staircase trap, the baby vampire), and the book is every bit as nasty as one would expect from ’70s horror, with all the fleshed-out portrait of suburbia King is known for. The result is a ruthless horror classic from the early days of a horror legend.
The Light at the End, Craig Spector & John Skipp
Another brutal horror novel, this time from the ’80s, The Light at the End begins with a massacre on board a train, the work of the “subway psycho,” a monstrous vampire who murders ten people with the help of a hypnotized, mind-controlled cop. This gory prelude (where the vampire is only referred to as “it”) is only the preamble to one of the earliest examples of “splatterpunk,” a subset of horror known for its anti-authority leanings, lower-class protagonists, and ’80s horror movie levels of gore. From that auspicious beginning, the book follows Rudy, a young artist turned into a vampire by the subway psycho, as he embarks on a campaign of terror, and the employees of a delivery and messenger firm as they attempt to hunt him down before he causes more damage. It might not be the deftest or most elegant of books, but Spector and Skipp’s gift for gruesome kill scenes and portraying the grime of New York in the mid-to-late ’80s imbue Light with a sense of place and atmosphere that make it worth a read.
Afterage, Yvonne Navarro
Two years after vampires took over the world from humans, turned the world into a deserted necropolis, and made blood a scarce and highly prized resource, a group of rebellious humans in Chicago band together to save some of their own from a barricaded superstore the vampires use as a blood farm. The novel leaps back and forth between the vampires, their collaborators, and the human resistance, highlighting the individual stories embroiled in the larger conflict as things get closer and closer to their eventual clash. While Afterage uses multiple genres and tropes to tell its story (most prominently dystopian, post-apocalypse, and horror, of course), Navarro has a gift for the individual perspective, sketching out portraits of people trying to go about their daily lives and routines in a world stripped of its natural resources and ravaged by the undead.
Enter, Night, Michael Rowe
Rowe, whose second novel October dropped just last year, came out swinging with his debut, a downbeat story of a serial murderer in service to something far, far darker. Richard Weal, a homicidal Renfield with a bag full of archeological tools, makes his way through 1970s Canada to the town of Parr’s Landing in the hopes of waking an ancient evil buried on the site of a former Jesuit mission to the Ojibwe. As he descends upon Parr’s Landing, numerous people including a widow and her family, and a man seeking answers in his father’s death, are similarly drawn to the town for their own answers, only to be drawn into the town’s intrigue and secrets as Weal closes in on his murderous goal. The book’s got a deliberate pace and takes a little to ramp up, but when it does hit, it’s hard, propulsive, and entirely worth it.
The Suicide Motor Club, Christopher Buehlman
In one corner, a group of muscle car-riding vampire nomads whose idea of fun is crashing their cars into unsuspecting motorists and killing those inside. In the other, the lone survivor of an attack, who spends her days working out the trauma from losing her husband and child to the vampires. When contacted by a group of vampire hunters known as The Bereaved who have their own grudges against the vampires prowling America’s highways. Buehlman writes vampires with a ton of punch and bite, and The Suicide Motor Club melds a certain B-movie leanness and meanness with equal quantities of heart and horror, creating a novel that feels of a piece with horror greats while still showing that it’s entirely its own thing.
Vlad, Carlos Fuentes
This shorter novel by acclaimed Mexican author and satirist Fuentes finds Dracula (the Vlad of the title) moving to Mexico City to take up residence in a new city. As he naturally needs help navigating this new world, he calls upon the narrator Yves and his wife to help him with various paperwork and getting settled in. The book moves quickly, but its comic flourishes are immediate, with the Count striking an off-kilter figure between his menacing aura, horrifying manservant, and penchant for awful hairpieces and dressing entirely in black; and the lively dialogue between characters keeps things moving along with a certain speed and dark humor. It might not be as horror-focused due to the quirkier moments, but Vlad is every bit as unnerving as any other vampire in Fuentes’ hands.