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Purple Faeries, The Undead, and Talking Rats

Immortal Lies - S.L. Gray

"Immortal Lies" by S. L. Gray has a cinematic quality; so much so that it often reads like a TV pilot in disguise. But it also works as a love story in disguise. Granted, not many love stories feature a vampire with cafe au lait skin, good shoulders, and a lithe 25-year-old body (though he is actually 86). The eternal youth is easily explained: he was Turned toward the vampire lifestyle back in 1953. Tybalt Jones (Ty for short), the narrator, cares about grammar, sex, good wine, and helping people, and has a purple girl friend with pointed ears, curly silver hair, and a fondness for milk. Her name is Violet (Vi for short).


The strong suit of this novel is how the plot unfolds. We're told just enough to keep us engaged in Ty's problems, which seem quite real, yet not so much that the resolution of those problems becomes predictable. The problems are dire, if not horrific.


They involve deadlines (literally), an avenging angel (Sylvia), a brooding werewolf (Brannock), an ultra-evil magician (Jameson Robuck), witches, gypsies and talking rats. All are denizens of St. Sebastian, a grim city where other-worldly types keep in touch through cell phones as well as instinct. This decaying urban setting is appropriately decadent and not further defined. Yet, for all the heaviness of the subject matter, the author writes with a knowing wink and provides her lead characters with plenty of banter which lightens the tone.


Amidst the banter she fits Chandleresque phrases: our hero, Ty, "...could go to sleep each morning guilt free on that account"; he worries that his evil adversary would "...smell fear on me like a bad cologne"; when Ty comes to an impasse, he plops into a chair and "...sat like a puppet with its strings cut"; during one of his innumerable spats with Vi, he "...bit back an apology I didn't owe and she didn't want to hear"; but when they make up, Ty realizes that "...as long as I had her, the where didn't matter."


It turns out that Vi is not just the girl friend along for the ride, but plays a decisive role. This gives the book a feminist thrust to go along with its inter-racial (inter-species?) grounding, and lifts it firmly into the mainstream of modern social concerns, despite a venerable backstory about the undead and their unusual feeding habits.