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Edward Cullen once told Bella Swan that she was his own
personal brand of heroin. Well, there are no heroin-brand Bellas, let alone any
sparkly vegetarian vampires, in KNUCKLE SUPPER (Alphar Publishing) by Drew
Stepek (pictured). Instead, the reader gets real-heroin-addicted Los Angeles
vampire gang members in the middle of a drug war and a young hooker down on her
KNUCKLE SUPPER is an unforgiving, vicious and realistic
horror story. Stepek explores chemical dependency, inner-city brutality,
religion, molestation, abortion and the very nature of evil itself—the evil not
necessarily being the undead.
R.J. is our antihero, a drug-loving member of The Knucklers,
a vampire gang who are constantly feuding with other creatures of the night in
LA. When R.J. stumbles across a bag of heroin and a 12-year-old prostitute
named Bait, he takes them both under his wing. Think Travis Bickle and Iris
from TAXI DRIVER. But soon things go way south for R.J. when Bait gets pregnant
after being raped by some defiant bloodsuckers and a drug deal goes south. The
Knucklers quickly end up with an unexpected windfall, and rival gangs (from Rastas
to transvestite prostitutes to sweater-wearing preppies) start taking revenge
and jockeying for pole position in the vampire-run LA drug trade.
To make matters worse, pulling the strings behind these
groups is a band of religious fanatics called The Cloth and a wannabe nun and
psychopath nicknamed The Habit, who seems to know anything and everything.
Ultimately, R.J. is forced to confront forces of evil even greater than
KNUCKLE SUPPER is packed with sleazy characters doing very
skeezy things, and while the gory details really amp up the action, the
dialogue has a tendency to drag things down at times and the details lose their
impact after a while.
Even though there are various types of exploitation involved
in the lives/backgrounds of almost all the players in this blood fest, Stepek
is masterful in enabling the reader to actually feel sorrow and empathy for a
few of the characters (not only R.J. and Bait) and to see the human in the
monsters and the monster in the humans. And the drug addiction, sadistic
violence and heavy-duty sex abuse with which the book is packed isn’t just
fiction—a point driven home by Stepek’s commitment to donate up to 10 percent
of the revenue from KNUCKLE SUPPER to Children of the Night, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to assisting youths between the ages of 11-17 who have
been forced into prostitution.
This novel is definitely not for children, or the faint of
heart, for that matter. But that’s the way Stepek wants it. It’s a deep
exploration into the lives of those who dwell on the street, and it’s grabbing
and touching at times. Stepek will surely make his name in the horror community
with KNUCKLE SUPPER, and many readers will wait with bated breath to see what
he writes next.
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