"I know fucking well there's a God because I kill vampires for a living. Are you listening? I kill vampires for money. A lot of it. So don't tell me there ain't no God. I know fucking well there's a God. I just don't understand him." -Jack Crow
Released in 1990, John Steakley's second (and as far as I know final) novel after Armor, Vampire$ is a great action book that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. With arguably less philosophy but more action than Steakley's first novel, Vampire$ (spelled "Vampires" on the new book cover) will never the less keep you hooked till the end. Serious, yet frequently funny; highly profane, graphically violent, and often sensual, this book is definitely not for younger readers. The movie John Carpenter's Vampires was based loosely on this book.
The book follows the story of Team Crow, a group of mercenaries hired by the Vatican to kill vampires throughout North America. But now the vampires have gotten a bit organized, and they know who the hunters are, and now the hunters have become the hunted. While old school methods such as stakes and pikes are still used effectively against the timeless foe, the weapon of choice for the team is plastique. Standard armament of a team member consists of a personalized stake (which is more symbolic, and used only as a desperation weapon), a pike, a 9mm pistol, and for a lucky few, a crossbow "the size of a swing set" that shoots a bolt the size of a baseball bat. Ouch.
The team works for about $100,000 grand a job and usually finds themselves in Smalltown, USA. Most of their money though, is subsidized from the Catholic Church who pays quite gererously knowing that the team members will never survive long enough to accumulate it. Despite three years in the business, the members of Vampire$ Inc. know very little about the enemy and each new encounter brings a sense of uncertainty to it. After each mission they are video taped under hypnosis to retell the story and then the videos are sent to the Vatican to be analyzed for any knowledge that can be gained.
The vampires themselves come in a few different types including people who are just under their control, people who have been killed by them and turned into "goons" (which are basically just zombies that eat blood) and then master vampires, which can move like a blur, toss cars around, and do all sorts of other stuff bad for those on the receiving end. They can be temporarily pained by conventional weapons but the wounds heal almost instantly-and then itch for a few minutes.
Jack Crow: The leader of Team Crow. He served in Vietnam, and was also a member of the CIA, NSA, and DSEA. Despite the bravado he presents to his teamates he is actually very afraid, because everybody trusts him for answers, but he really does not understand the vampires at all. He hates having to recruit the best men he can find "They always said yes..." and then leading them into a job which will inevitably kill them, and his ability to do so is wearing thin. Despite this he still takes satisfaction in his work knowing that he is fighting against Evil on the side of Good. He is the symbol of the team though, and his friends would follow him to Hell and back. He is armed with the crossbow.
Cat: Cat isn't his real name, but since Catlin is his last name that's what they all call him. He is an older member of the team (30ish) and not the greatest athlete. He has never the less been around for most of it. An ex-corporate lawyer, turned science-fiction book cover illustrator, turned Vampire killer, all of his confidence is derived from Jack who he believes will never lead them wrong. He is a total womanizer, and he tries to be the comic relief for the group under stressful situations.
Carl: Carl Joplin is fat, pushing sixty, is never allowed to see combat-and is probably the most indispensible member of the team. He builds and maintains all the special equipment used by the team, as well as inventing new tools for the fight such as vampire detectors. Jack keeps him away from the front lines in anticipation of the day when the team is wiped out and Carl must take his knowledge to form a new team.
Father Adam: Born in Berkely, California, Father Adam used to be the official Vatican tape analyzer for Team Crow's missions. But after some casualties, he is sent as a valuable replacement who is quickly accepted to the team because of his tenacity and the comfort he brings to the soldiers. He is a courageous fighter who thoroughly believes he is doing God's will in destroying evil.
Annabelle: Basically like the team mascot, she is blonde, slightly but not grossly overweight, and is older than even Carl. She is not a fighting member of the team and instead takes care of day to day things like paying bar tabs (which there are a LOT of), moving their belongings from home to home, and applying hugs to whoever needs it. She considers herself a reminder to the team of why they fight at all, of what they are trying to protect, and she is.
Davette: A young investigative journalist who becomes a de facto member of the team, she was born and raised in the Dallas, Texas aristocracy and supposedly had a falling out with her family. She is very, very beautiful and despite Jack's misgivings she follows them on their mission acting like a second version of Annabelle.
Felix: Born a Dallas aristocrat himself, Felix has about four names, but his last name is Felix, and when they don't simply refer to him as "the Gunman" members of Team Crow call him Felix. "Like the cat." Felix is a former drug dealer who got out of the business because he did not like the dealings or the substance. He is a master gunman who carries a 9mm because it is the smallest gun he can carry in one hand. Despite his gift he hates using his talent, even on vampires, and he hates Jack for bringing him into the business. He soon becomes the most important fighting member of the team (tactically if not symbolically) and the Team soon begins to look to him in Jack's weak moments. He is very afraid and looks to Jack for confidence as much as anybody else.
Deputy Kirk: Young and red haired, he is not an official member of Team Crow in the beginning. His aide with the team's mission in the town under his jurisdiction proved invaluable though, and he chooses to follow them on their quest. His will and courage is never in doubt, and he becomes a valuable member of the team.
The Man: Not a member of the team at all, the Pope is the one who is in charge of the drive to eliminate vampires. Crow meets with him frequently and he feels very guilty about sending good men on a suicide mission for God. While he has utmost faith that vampires will eventually be wiped out, he has no illusions about the chances of Crow and his team living to see that day-they won't.