I don’t know why, but there seems to be this media-wide conspiracy to ensure that every vampire story set in the 20th and 21st centuries has a mystery element to it. Some are police procedurals with fangs, some have the immortal undead seeking vengeance for the innocent and wronged as detectives and vigilantes, and some focus on supernatural conflicts and personal conundrums in the vampire’s life. But make no mistake – there are a ton of vampire detective stories out there.
Off the top of my head I can think of Dracula: the Series, Forever Knight, The Anita Blake books, The Vampire Files, Angel: The Series, Dark Shadows, Moonlight, Nightwalker, Master of Mosquiton, Michael Morbius, and Blood Ties (both television and books). And that’s without bringing up Wikipedia or Google.
So of course when I was writing my master’s thesis project on Mary Sues and self-representative characters in fanfiction, and I was asked to write a few fanfics of my own demonstrating the principal of the paper, my mind leapt back to my first fandom love – Nicholas de Brabant aka Detective Nick Knight of the Metro Toronto Police Department. I was young, impressionable, and hooked on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles when one of my cousins introduced me to the Canadian television series Forever Knight.
I tracked down every episode, recorded them onto blank VHS tapes, and watched and rewatched, and rerewatched the weekly mysteries that Detective Knight solved – both legal and supernatural – in the quest to redeem his soul as penance for the lives he’d taken as a young vampire during the Crusades. (Those VHS tapes, by the way, have since been donated to the film department of my undergrad alma mater for research material. The commercials that aired around the show are what’s important to scholars now.) Watching the DVD box set of the episodes while doing my Master’s, I saw that the show didn’t hold up as well as my nostalgia wished. But Geriant Wyn Davies was still dreamy.
And I did notice something else –the pattern. The trope. The stereotype of the vampire who, for some reason or other, decides that it’s his duty to ‘repay society for his sins’, and chooses the path of protecting the innocent and avenging wrongs. To become the Thing That Goes Bump In The Night That Bumps Back. To be a bully bigger and badder than the regular bullies. To use their considerable powers, and memory, and experiences not to exploit, but to protect. And to brood artfully while doing so.
Why was that, I wondered.
Do we humans know that despite our bravado, we are all, in the end, still prey? Prey to one another, to random acts of god, to circumstance and terrorism, war and disease? And do we seek protection so badly that we’re willing to turn to –to have the gall to imagine – a predator willing to guard rather than eat us?
Or is there something titillating about walking that knife-edge of danger? Of knowing that at any moment, the protector could become the stalker, the murderer, the seducer?
The more I thought about it, the more I decided that this is what I had to write about for my thesis project. The trope of the wolf turned shepherd, the stereotype of the vampire detective, and the stock characters that routinely surround him. And as I was working as a production assistant on a made-for-TV film at the time, making my lead protagonist, my Mary Sue, a PA seemed like the most appropriate decision.
Thus “City By Night” was born. Originally meant to be a photo-graphic novel where I would pull the ultimate self-representative stunt and model for the Mary Sue character, the project fell through and I revamped (pun intended) the tale into a prose novella. This gave me a lot more opportunity to develop the backstories and characters, which I jumped into with glee.
Writing “City By Night” felt a lot like writing fanfic of my favourite media texts, but it also gave me one of my first opportunities to flex my own creative wings and start to find my own voice. This was the first instance of the meta-textual storytelling I love to employ, which you’ll find more polished in my The Accidental Turn fantasy series.
And of course, it gave me lots of excuses to reread and rewatch my favourite vampires and swoon, squee, and sigh.
Though I have my theories, I don’t actually know why we love vampire detectives so much. But I’m sure as heck not complaining. And I hope that adding Richmond and Mary to the pantheon makes you swoon, squee and sigh too.