Friday, July 23, 2010

Baltimore - Bantam Books

A first rate read steeped in atmosphere.

If not for a three issue mini-series soon to be released by, Dark Horse comics, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would never have heard of this novel. If not for my fondness for the creative team of, Mike Mignola, (writer) and, Ben Steinbeck, (illustrator) I'd have simply dismissed, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, as yet one more vampire story in a market already over-saturated with tales of the blood-sucking night-stalkers. Only because of my fondness for, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck, did I decide to add the mini-series, based upon a novel I'd never heard of, to my pull file.

Not wishing to read a comic book based upon a novel I'd never read in the first place, I looked it up on,, found a copy of it for a fair price and ordered it forthwith. I started reading the novel the day it arrived in the mail and didn't put it down until I'd finished it. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, is as good a read as I've enjoyed in a very long time. This novel took me back to the days of my youth when the tales of, Edgar Allen Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft, introduced me to the horror genre. Like all good classic horror tales, Baltimore, begins on a moonless night in a field covered in fog. Men are at war, a human endeavor already fraught with unimaginable horrors, but on this particular night one soldier is about to come face to face with a horror that will change his life forever.

Wounded, slipping in and out of consciousness as he lies in a tangled heap of dead and dying soldiers, Baltimore, looks on in mounting terror as a strange flock of flying creatures descend upon the bodies strewn across the recent battlefield and begin feeding upon them. After drawing the attention of one of the winged monstrosities, Baltimore, finds himself fighting for his life against an ancient and fearsomely strong vampire. During the ensuing struggle, Baltimore, manages to inflict a terrible, but non-lethal wound to the face of his adversary. The enraged vampire leaves a wound of his own upon the thigh of, Baltimore, that will eventually cost him his leg.

Thus begins a tale I can only best describe as, Captain Ahab, versus the, Great White Wraith, that took his leg. Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire is a tale of revenge and retribution and the toll such pursuits take upon those who seek such bitter satisfactions. It is a good read that echos many of the great tomes that have preceded it in the genre of horror. The novel pays homage without copying or cloning other works. Once again, it is a good read and if you're planning on picking up the upcoming, Dark Horse mini-series, Baltimore, The Plague Ships, I would encourage you to find this book and read it in advance of, Mike Mignola and Ben Steinbeck's return to the world of, Henry Baltimore. If the comic book is even half as good as the novel, this will be a tale you won't want to miss.

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