I first came across the horror writer Thomas Emson back in 2008 or 2009 when I picked up his book Maneater about a kickass female werewolf, and his writing instantly hooked me. He has this style that’s like a movie in book form, you can really imagine the scenes playing out in your head as you read.
Anyway, I then went on to read his other book Skarlet, which was about vampires in London, I know, I know, you might say it’s been done a hundred times before, but Emson’s story just has that special something. The chapters are short and snappy, full of action, and I think this is the main reason why his books are so hard to put down, each short chapter ends on a cliffhanger. I actually wrote a review of this book back in ’09, which I’ve cut and pasted below, just in case you’re interested in what Skarlet’s all about.
This article is a review of the first of Thomas Emson’s vampire trinity novels Skarlet.
Scarlet is only the second book Welsh language author Thomas Emson has had published in English, which is a surprise considering he has been writing since the 1990’s, not to mention his dexterity and skill at writing in the language. His novel tells a tale of vampires and drugs upon the backdrop of London’s goth subculture. The action begins with a trip back in time to Romania in the early 1980’s to give the reader an understanding of the historical beginnings of the story that is to be told, before travelling forward to the present day.
A Brief Summary of the Story
It’s vampire night at the club “Religion” where the novel’s lead character Jake Lawton is working as a doorman, alongside his partner for the night, Cal Milo. They stand at the door as they watch the clubgoers queue up to get in. Milo says synically, “Here they come,”…”The gothed-up freaks. The bloodsuckers. The neck-biters.” His words cleverly employed by the author, anticipatory of what is to come, Milo ignorant and blissfully unaware.
When Fraser Lithgow, a well-known drug pusher approaches the club, Lawton becomes defensive, telling him he has been barred. However, unexpectedly the club manager, Nathan Holt, appears and instructs Lawton to allow Lithgow entrance. Lawton protests but then grudgingly accedes defeat and the drug dealer disappears into the crowds inside. Once inside, Lithgow begins to distribute a new kind of drug he has been given to sell, white pills with a mysterious “K” stamped into them. A few minutes after taking the drugs Clubbers begin to go into fit-like convulsions, before spurting blood and dying on the spot.
Presumed dead from taking bad pills, the incident that killed dozens of people at Religion is splashed all over the news. But what they don’t know is that the supposed dead aren’t really dead at all, and no less than 48 hours later they rise again, no longer human, but vampire. From here on out the action unfolds, as Lawton teams up with the unlikely Lithgow, and even more unlikely, the journalist that just about destroyed his life previously, Christine Murray, as they try and unfold the mystery of what happened to the people at Religion, but also to fight against what they had subsequently become.Is Scarlet a Book to Recommend?
Emson’s characterisation of Lawton is superbly executed, as he paints the ex-British army officer who was stationed in Basra, and wrongly accused of murdering an unarmed civilian. Lawton is world-weary, scarred, and disillusioned with life. He is the archetypal reluctant hero, he does not particularly care if he lives or dies, but somehow he finds himself fighting against the monsters that are terrorising London.
The novel is composed, for the most part, of short, fast-paced chapters, which keep the action moving and the reader’s attention focused. Emson also integrates ancient myth into his story, by connecting the events of Skarlet to the myth that Alexander the Great encountered vampires when he conquered Babylon. This novel will be a very enjoyable for those interested in vampire/horror/thriller typed fiction, and you will definitely be left wanting more by the end. It is not clear if our hero Lawton is alive or dead as the novel comes to a close, and there are many threads left untangled, indicating, hopefully, that there will be a sequel.
Scarlet published by Snowbooks, 2009. ISBN 978-1-905005-98-7
I can remember writing a fan mail to Emson a while back telling him I’m a writer myself, expressing my love of his books, and asking did he have any advice on a literary career. Lo and behold he actually wrote back a couple weeks later to say thanks for the email and also to give me some good advice. Maybe it helped, I don’t know, since I went from an English graduate hoping for a writing career to an English graduate with her own writing and editing business.So anyway, I kind of forgot about Emson for a while until I came across Krimson while browsing in the book shop last week, the sequel to Skarlet and second book in the Vampire Trinity. It took me a while to remember everything that happened in the first book and I was kind of disappointed when I realised that the main character Jake’s love interest Sassie Rae had been killed and turned into a vampire at the end of Skarlet. And the vampires in these books aren’t the loving kind, they’re the killing kind, nor is there any way to turn them back into humans, as in certain series'(ahem Vampire Academy, I do love it though, all kinds of books have a place in my heart) So Sassie was no more.
This book takes place three years after the previous one, with Jake and his new girlfriend Aliyah, acting like Buffy, and basically travelling around England killing as many vampires as they can get their hands on. They end up saving a young Chinese immigrant called Mei who sees whats happening in Britain and wants to help save it from the undead. She ends up starting her own army of foreigners who march to London to defend it from the attack of the vampires. I thought Emson did something very clever here, as he shows native Londoners running away from the city, while a thousand foreigners, who the natives regularly give out about, march towards the city in an effort to save it.
The villains are equally well-drawn in this book, Jacqueline Burrows, an MP who orchestrates herself into the position of interim Prime Minister by bringing several vampires into number 10 Downing Street and allowing them to slaughter the Prime Minister and everyone else in the building. I thought that this scene would work particularly well in a movie, just imagine it, vampires slaughtering humans in number 10.
If you like books that are fast paced, full of action, horror, intensity, and real human relationships, then this is the series for you. It has lovable reluctant heroes and despicable villains that you will truly hate and feel a sense of triumph when they meet their unpleasant end…
At the moment I’m working hard, but also editing one of my YA novels, A Strange Fire
, in preparation for the opening of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award at the end of the month. You can read the first page in the post below this, although I’ve changed it in the editing process since then, based on some of the feedback I’ve been given. I entered the competition last year, needless to say I didn’t win, didn’t even come close. I don’t think I’ll get very far this year, but I do love the excitement of taking part nonetheless. If you’re a writer with a completed manuscript you should definitely think about entering, all of the details can be found here on the Amazon website http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011
I’m extremely excited to see that Andrea Cremer’s on the judging panel this year as she’s one of my favourite YA authors, her books are like my own version of crack.
Until next time.
Don’t do anything I wouldn’t…