In Drew Stepek’s “Knuckle Supper,” Los Angeles’ drugs are run by the undead. When the LA heroin-addicted vampire and gang leader named RJ reluctantly takes in a twelve year-old prostitute called Bait, humanity is introduced to his otherwise lifeless existence. An unforgiving, vicious and realistic horror story, Knuckle Supper explores chemical dependency, inner-city brutality, religion, molestation, abortion and the very nature of evil itself. Inside you’ll find Ryan Daley’s review of the indie book, which he recommends you check out.
I rarely bother to review independent horror fiction for B-D, only because most of it sucks. Don`t get me wrong, I do read a fair amount of indie horror each month–more than the average horror fan, I think. I regularly receive novels in the mail from ambitious authors, and I make an effort to purchase indie horror online several times a year. But it’s hard to get past the abundant typos, grammatical errors, and ages-old clichés that come with independently published horror. Frankly, the vast majority of indie horror seriously licks balls.
And yet there was something about Drew Stepek’s Knuckle Supper that really stuck with me. It’s a vampire novel, and yeah, I know, we’re all sick of fucking vampires. Who isn’t? But somehow Stepek’s novel–a splatterpunk foray into a Los Angeles packed with feuding vampire gangs–managed to stand apart from the rest. It’s a drug-fueled, modern-day vampire saga that reads like a bloodsucking sequel to 1979`s The Warriors written by James Ellroy. And fans of hardcore horror fiction take blissful note: Stepek’s wicked prose can cut awfully deep.
R.J. is the ultimate anti-hero, a drug-loving member of The Knucklers, a vampire gang of self-described “junkies and gangster motherfuckers” who are constantly feuding with other vampire gangs in L.A. Like the Blue Blooded Perrys, for instance, a gang of douchey, coked-up rich kids. Or the Battlesnakes, a stoner vampire gang “not known for their intelligence” who remain “brutal bad-ass fucks”, presumably through the power of weed. And even the Batwangers, a gang of tranny hooker vampires who feed by biting off their john’s weiners.
When R.J. stumbles across a bag of heroin and a 12-year-old prostie named Bait, he takes them both under his wing. But when Bait gets pregnant after getting raped by some defiant vampires, R.J. is forced to confront forces of evil even greater than himself. It’s a novel packed with very skeezy characters doing very skeezy things, and while a few gory set pieces really amp up the action, the dialogue has a tendency to drag things down at times. Not that Stepek’s dialogue is bad–it’s solidly-written and frequently very funny–but there sure is a hell of a lot of it. At times you find yourself wishing there was more action. And then Steepak finally starts describing a kill scene that’s so gruesome, you find yourself changing your mind. If Knuckle Supper were a movie, you would frequently find yourself clapping your hands over your eyes.
Although the book is packed with drug addiction, sadistic violence, and heavy-duty sex abuse, it’s only fiction, a point proven by Stepek’s commitment to donate up to 10% of the revenue of Knuckle Supper to Children of the Night , a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting childen between the ages of 11-17 who have been forced to prostitute. A pretty cool move on Stepek’s part. (Although I have to admit, I’m not sure what “up to” 10% really means….like, doesn’t “zero” qualify as “up to 10%”?)
Knuckle Supper is available for purchase November 16. The author also sent me a couple of signed copies (and t-shirts), so if you’re interested in receiving one, contact me through the website (member search “Ripvanryan” on the Community page) and I’ll pick a couple of lucky readers at random.