Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite, Matt Godfrey

I always refer to this book as my second most favorite book in the world (Geek Love by Katherine Dunn will always be my #1) but I haven’t read it since it was first released back in 1993 so I approached this recent audio release with equal amounts of joy and dread. Would it still be my almost favorite? Would I find giant flaws and pick it all to hell? Would I tarnish all of those memories of book perfection by reading it now when I’m all jaded and crabby(er)?

Everything I remembered loving about Drawing Blood was still here. Granted those memories were a little fuzzy around the edges but the impressions and the emotions felt left a mark on me and once I started listening, I was immediately transfixed and reminded of all the reasons why I held this book so close to my heart. It’s full of tragedy, dark romance, and real life horrors as well as some out there, woo-woo ones. If you like those things along with a well-drawn sense of place, gorgeously lush writing, flawed characters and you don’t mind explicit sex between two men (and lots and lots of it) you should give this a listen. Or a read. Or maybe both.

This is one of Brite’s (now Billy Martin) earlier works and it has all of the gothic trappings of that era. The characters have sharp edges, are ethereally young and beautiful, the sex is explicit and often and it’s always earthy and descriptive, the characters that populate this world drink and drug copiously, fall in love quickly and deeply as young lovers tend to do and music always plays a huge part in their lives. I’d say this tale is about 50% haunted house/dealing with your past shit and 50% dark and dangerous love story and it’s all beautifully gory and messy. 

Trevor is a young artist who returns to his hometown to face down the demons of his past and his demons are bad ones. Zach is a hacker on the run who lands in Missing Mile. Both have hellish pasts and when they meet everything clicks and feels right. Yes, folks, it is the dreaded insta-love in full bloom. And, yes, I am a big huge hypocrite because I typically knock off points for insta-love because it drives me crazy but in this case I JUST DIDN’T CARE. I loved them both too much to care. They don’t even meet until the book is at least a third of the way through (maybe more) but by then I knew them so well that when they finally meet it was a relief. They were both such broken souls when apart and together they just fit. They talked, they fought, they lived a lifetime of dysfunction in a few days and I will make no more excuses because, yeah, it’s insta-love and it was glorious and nothing anybody says will ever change my mind. 

It’s such an intoxicating read. The love story, the setting, the darkness. All of it. Brite assaults the senses with her prose and everything comes alive right down to the scents and tastes - no matter how gross! This isn’t a book for everyone and I’m not here to pretend that it is but if any of this sounds appealing to you, grab a copy and read that sucker until your eyeballs dry up. I don’t think you’ll regret it. 

If you’re an audio fan, I also highly recommend giving it a listen. Matt Godfrey’s narration is terrific. He creates distinctive voices for the characters. Zach’s voice is deeper and has just the slightest Cajun-esque accent to fit him and where he’s been, while Trevor comes off as more innocent/wide-eyed. How you express that with voice is way beyond me but Godfrey manages to do it. There are quite a few secondary characters that he voices very well too. 

Now I'm off to listen all over again :)