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Robert McCammon
I Travel By Night
Subterranean Press
US Deluxe Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-59606-537-6
Publication Date:05-31-2013
152 Pages; $35

Date Reviewed: 01-29-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction  

Trevor Lawson waits in a hotel in New Orleans for his client; it's July 15th, 1886. David Kingsley's daughter, Eva has been kidnapped, and the note required delivery of the ransom by Lawson. It's a set-up, of course. Kingsley and his daughter are pawns caught in the fray between Lawson and his enemies. There's little hope for anyone in the story. Readers, however, are a different story. In 'I Travel By Night' Robert McCammon brings on the atmosphere, the tension, the imagination and the fun as he introduces what most readers will hope by the end of the book is only the beginning of a series.

In the 1980's, McCammon turned a lot of heads with a string of novels that, in many ways, perfectly refined the best elements of American horror fiction. His vampire novel, 'They Thirst' unleashed vampires in Los Angeles; his werewolf novel, 'The Wolf's Hour,' pitted an allied spy who was a werewolf against the Nazis. To these and other novels, he brought a rich, atmospheric imagination, vivid characters and an expertly paced plot. McCammon's novels were unabashedly commercial, generally available first as mass-market paperbacks and one hundred percent fun. He took his work seriously enough to make it real, and the resulting books were the very essence of the eighties horror ripping yarn.

That sensibility is all over his latest book from Subterranean Press 'I Travel By Night.' In a tight, smartly-written novella, readers get the Trevor Lawson's back story, his quest, the limits of his abilities and lots of glimpses into the larger world that McCammon is building. Lawson is a vampire for hire, a night-haunting gunslinger who solves the sort of problems that most folks don't survive — many of which are the result of his decision to try to avert the fate that awaits him. McCammonn does a great job of crafting a character we love who is flawed as hell.

McCammon's world-building superb. The Dark Society, that is, the vampire empire that is hidden within our world, has a great history that is shrouded in just the right amount of mystery. In any vampire novel, the real test is how the author evokes his creatures of the night. McCammon did outstanding job in 'They Thirst,' and he's in top form here. The layers of plot integrate seamlessly with the levels of monstrosity on display, and let McCammon have one hell of a good time with his villains. He does just as well with the victims and in particular his hero, who has many shades of grey, properly woven in evocative prose. Readers can't help but like Trevor Lawson,, and his struggle to stay human has resonances beyond the printed page. It's well-crafted character work and a richly-conceived historical setting.

For all the literary skills that McCammon brings to the novella, the most important is his ability to put them all together with a sense of fun. Yes, he takes his characters and his world seriously, but there's a devil-may-care attitude at work here as well. 'I Travel By Night' knows precisely what it is and it hits that target so easily that readers might not notice all the perfectly-aligned pieces of the puzzle. 'I Travel by Night' is bound to make you smile — and wish that you had fangs to smile with.

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