If you’re looking for a romantic tale of whimsical and virtuous vampires, this sure as hell is not the book for you. As a horror fan, I have ingested countless vampire stories; Books, movies, TV shows, graphic novels, gaming, you name it, someone has found a way to stick a blood-sucker in it. So when this subgenre manages to surprise me by taking the tropes in an unpredictable direction, I am overjoyed. Drew Stepek’s vamps are not the tried and true lost boys of yesteryear. They are, well...junkies. Not to mention obscene, murderous, deviant, nasty, gory, violent, and just unremorseful gangsters. The best part of all? I absolutely loved them. I hope you will too.
This is a spoiler free review, but I have to be upfront about a couple of things as this novel is going to set off triggers for some readers out there. Allow me to be a responsible reviewer and run down the touchy topics. Knuckle Supper does contain substance abuse, sexual assault towards adults, plus sexual and physical violence towards children. For me personally, I did not feel that the author used these devices to be exploitative. Instead, these devices drive major plot and character development points. Drew Stepek also clearly knows that these devastating issues affect REAL minors out there. The book opens with a note about a charitable organization called Children of The Night. This group is dedicated to rescuing kids across America, who are forced into prostitution, and helping them get on track to living the lives they deserve to have. Up to 10% of the revenue from this novel goes to the Children of The Night.
Knuckle Supper is narrated by our antihero, a heroin-addicted, vampire gang leader named RJ. This guy is a crusty punk who's more at home in band tees and combat boots than silk blouses and capes. He’s funny and likeable...for a ruthless killer. RJ runs a gang of undead fellas he named "The Knucklers." All of Los Angeles is divvied up into territories of other vamps who not only run drugs, but are addicted to the drugs they're running. A night of routine murder and heroin goes awry when RJ and his accomplice, Dez, abduct a pimp and prostitute and get more than they bargained for. It turns out the girl is just a child of twelve that (sickeningly) goes by the name "Bait." Overcome by some wave of compassion, RJ refuses to kill the kid. It looks like this badass vampire junkie just became a surrogate father figure. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Keep in mind this book is not for those who find themselves easily offended by what they read. The prose is ripe with curse words and derogatory phrases. The blood and viscera practically splatters off the pages, and no details are spared for the sake of your stomach. Let me say, this horror bookworm could not get enough. I cringed, I “ewww’ed,” and I ACTUALLY laughed out loud so many times I lost count. I know I have never read a book that alternated so dramatically and frequently between gross and hilarious. Most impressively, Knuckle Supper also has heart and depth without being corny or predictable. Take a step out of your comfort zone and devour this novel like I did. Just don’t say Drew and I didn’t warn you.