Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Like 99.99% percent of the literate world, I first became aware of Seth Grahame-Smith when I came across his novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The first time I can remember picking that novel up was at Costco, where the first thing I always do is head to the book section. The cover was very neat looking, the title was great, and the premise was intriguing; Grahame-Smith had taken Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and re-imagined it with zombies. And then there was that wonderful opening line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." I'd never read Pride and Prejudice, despite taking a Women's Literature class in college (in which the featured novel was Jane Eyre) and, honestly, I've never been much engaged by most of the canon of classic literature, primarily because my tastes lean towards stories of a more fantastical nature (such as Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis). So, in that vein, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies appeared to be the perfect mashup, but, after a few chapters I realized I was simply reading Pride and Prejudice with an occasional smattering of zombies. I quickly became bored and did something I almost never do: I returned the book and got my money back.

A couple years later, I saw a book trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which seemed like one of the coolest, most original ideas I'd ever heard of it. I wasn't surprised to find out that it was written by Grahame-Smith, but I also became less interested.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

But, for months and months, it seemed to be turning up everywhere I went (i.e. the mall). Finally, I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised by the first couple of pages.

"Vampires exist. And Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest vampire hunters of his age. His journal—beginning in his twelfth year and continuing to the day of his assassination—is an altogether astonishing, heartbreaking, and revolutionary document. One that casts new light on many of the seminal events in American history and adds immeasurable complexity to a man already thought to be unusually complex."

Seth Grahame-Smith, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

While the same general formula was there—a mashup of something classical with something fantastic—I found the prose to be engaging, probably because Grahame-Smith wasn't simply painting silly mustaches on someone else's canvas. So, I bought the book and knew pretty quickly I was going to love it.

What's fun, even charming, about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is it reads like an earnest biography of Lincoln, chronicling his life from childhood to adulthood. Knowing very little about the man himself (save for trivial bits, like being on the penny), I actually learned a lot about him, which is a tremendous testmanet to Grahame-Smith's book. And it's that straight-forward biographical voice that makes the book so much fun, as it adds a tone of legitimacy to Lincoln's fictionalized life as a vampire hunter.

Grahame-Smith tells much of the story in Lincoln's "voice," purportedly pulled from a series of secret journal entries. These entries play a significant role in breathing life into this fictionalized view of history, such as the first time Lincoln attempts to kill a vampire.

"I threw myself at her with the last of my strength and thrust its blade into her belly. This only improved her good humor, for she grabbed my wrist and dragged it along her gut, cutting herself and laughing all the while. I felt my feet leave the deck; felt her hands on my throat."

Seth Grahame-Smith, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

What most any storyteller does when taking on the vampire genre is find a happy medium of paying homage to traditional vampire mythology, while adding their own wrinkles, essentially creating their own unique vampire world, which is what Grahame-Smith has done here.

The vampires in his book can be killed by sunlight, but the older they get the stronger their tolerance; after a century or so, they can walk outside during the day with dark glasses and a wide hat.

Since Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's publication, a movie has been adapted from it (which, as of this writing, I've yet to watch) produced by Tim Burton, using a screenplay written by Grahame-Smith. Around the same period of time, Burton directed an adaptation of the vampire television series Dark Shadows, using a script penned by Grahame-Smith.

My impression is he'll continue to work in Hollywood, as writing screenplays pays more than writing novels; but, thanks to Seth Grahame-Smith's flair for prose fiction, I'm certain that, as his career evolves, he'll never stray too far from the gal who brought him to the dance.