Interview with the Vampire on TV

When my wife and I made our foray to Tombstone, Arizona back in October, something unusual happened. We actually caught the debut of a new TV series. In this case, it was AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Interview with the Vampire. Overall, we were both captivated by the acting and storytelling in this new adaptation. Admittedly it’s been over thirty years since I’ve read the novel, but I clearly recognized the differences, the most apparent being the change in time period. The novel’s early scenes are set in the 1790s while the TV series opens in the 1910s. Also, the setting of the framing story changed from a sleazy hotel room in San Francisco to a luxury apartment in Dubai, although it’s noted a 1970’s interview did happen in San Francisco. Because we don’t subscribe to AMC, we didn’t catch any further episodes until its release through Apple in December.

Now that I’ve watched the entire first season, I see that the plot largely follows that of the book through roughly the mid-point. We follow Louis de Pointe du Lac as he balances family and work life until his brother commits suicide, throwing Louis into a crisis. At this point, the vampire Lestat, who has been hovering nearby through the early pages of the story swoops in and seduces Louis into life as a vampire. Louis’s crisis only worsens. The power of being a vampire is seductive, but the power exists to make him a predator on human life. Later, in the midst of tragedy, Louis stumbles on a moment of potential redemption. He finds a girl named Claudia on the verge of dying. He hopes to save Claudia and Lestat makes her into a vampire as well. At this point, we have the story of three vampires trying to survive both as vampires and as a family.

It’s interesting to compare and contrast my memories of the novel with the 1994 Neil Jordan film and the new television series. Obviously the series goes into much greater depth and even reminds me of elements of the novel I’d forgotten. It also expands on the novel and depicts scenes the novel didn’t include. As I say, the change in time period is an obvious difference, but I deliberately avoided referring to the time period in my description of the plot. In a way, the story’s backdrop is incidental to the core story, which is an exploration of relationships and what happens when one realizes one must prey on other humans to survive. It’s easy to dismiss that as just part of the vampire fantasy, but it’s also an apt metaphor for life in a capitalist society. The fantastic, Faustian bargain of the vampire is the real American dream, the notion of staying young and beautiful forever. Rice explores the flaws of that dreams and even explores the question of how young is too young.

I think it’s fair to question why one should adapt a story to different media. Why can’t a novel remain a novel? Obviously people like seeing favorite characters from books brought to life in media. Also, putting a story into new media takes it to a wider audience. Perhaps the best reason for changing formats from an artistic viewpoint is that it allows the people who adapt the work to explore what they found important about it. Although Anne Rice passed away a little over a year ago, she’s credited as an executive producer on the TV series. Anyone who has looked at how long it takes to develop, film, and release a movie or TV series, knows that such an enterprise can easily take several years, so there’s good reason to think she was heavily involved in the development of the script along with her son, Christopher, who is also credited as an executive producer. So, the series seems to give us another window into Rice’s viewpoint on her own work.

As mentioned, I’ve been in the throes of working on my third vampire novel, Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. You can get behind-the-scenes looks at my work and additional insights into the creative process by supporting my Patreon at Supporting my Patreon also supports this blog and keeps it ad-free.

Story and History

While my wife and I were in Tombstone the first weekend of October, we realized we’d never seen the 1957 film, Gunfight at the OK Corral starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday. The movie also features DeForest Kelley, best known for playing Dr. McCoy in Star Trek, as Morgan Earp and Earl Holliman as Wyatt’s deputy, Charles Bassett. The year before Gunfight at the OK Corral, Holliman had appeared in Forbidden Planet as the cook on the spaceship C-57D. Much of The Gunfight at the OK Corral was filmed at Old Tucson Studios, where we’ve spent quite a bit of time at the Wild Wild West Con steampunk convention. We bought a copy of the Blu-ray at the OK Corral gift shop and brought it home.

Gunfight at the OK Corral Blu-Ray

I wasn’t expecting a historically accurate retelling of the real gunfight. After all, right there on the cover, Burt Lancaster lacked Wyatt Earp’s epic mustache! What’s more, the real gunfight was a messy thirty-second shootout that resulted from tensions brewing between two factions in Tombstone over the previous months. Most of the story’s drama is in the lead-up and the aftermath. When the movie is titled Gunfight at the OK Corral, you essentially know the gunfight itself is going to be the story’s big climactic scene. What surprised me was how much the movie diverged from history.

The movie opens with Wyatt Earp as a US Marshal on the trail of bad guy Johnny Ringo. In a small town in Texas, he finds a sheriff has let him get away. However, the sheriff points Earp to Doc Holliday, who happens to be in town, for more information. It turns out a gunman has come to town to get revenge for Doc killing his brother after cheating at cards, which gives us the setup for our opening confrontation. After this is resolved, Wyatt returns home to Dodge City, Kansas and continues searching for clues about Ringo. In the meantime, he has a run-in with a lady gambler named Laura Denbow and a romance blossoms between them. Eventually, Wyatt gets a telegram from his brother Virgil in Tombstone. Johnny Ringo has joined forces with a group of ranchers called the Clantons.

I’m not really interested in nitpicking the movie for historical accuracy. It tells a solid, tight-knit tale about a good lawman doggedly chasing down his opponent culminating in a satisfying, cinematic gunfight. What did strike me was how it used a handful of carefully placed historical details to give it the sense of historical veracity, even though it diverged from history at many key points.

Because I spent my weekend in Tombstone working on a dieselpunk story, which was a work of historical fantasy based in a real location and inspired by a true story, I realized this movie did a lot of what I do when I’m writing these kinds of his historical fantasy stories. History may have served as a foundation, but the movie’s writer and director made sure that it told a solid, self-contained story. History is often messy with many unresolved threads. Real-life romances and relationships aren’t always easy to understand. The big difference between Gunfight at the OK Corral and the stories I write is that I typically signal my story isn’t literal history by including fantastical or science fictional elements such as airships that didn’t exist at the time or wandering alien travelers. I enjoyed Gunfight at the OK Corral, but might have enjoyed a fantastical take based, for example, on Emma Bull’s novel Territory, even more.

As it turns out, I set a portion of my Clockwork Legion series in the area around Tombstone, but I deliberately decided I didn’t want to retell the story of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Instead, in my alternate version of history, the Clantons and the Earps are barely aware of each other because the events in this world conspire to keep them on separate paths. Part of the novel Lightning Wolves is based on the story of the Clantons before Tombstone was founded. By Owl Riders, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday have shown up, but their business interests are unrelated to the Clantons. You can learn more about the series at:

Doc Holliday’s Faro Table

This weekend finds me in the midst of a long shift at Kitt Peak National Observatory. I’m working fifteen nights out of twenty-one with two three-night breaks. After the fire at Kitt Peak, we have a real risk of landslides if there’s rain. Because of that, those of us on staff have to convoy up the mountain at either 8:00am or 2:30pm and we can only leave the mountain at 3:45pm. So, if I finish a shift on Friday night, I can’t actually leave until 3:45pm on Saturday. The upshot is that three-day breaks are actually closer to two-day breaks and given that I have a five-hour drive home, a two day break rapidly becomes one day.

Because of this, and because I’m working on some short stories, my wife suggested a weekend a little closer to Tucson. So, we spent the first of my two breaks in Tombstone, Arizona, site of the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. I’ve been to Tombstone on other occasions and I enjoy the Old West ambience and the saloons that serve up a nice range of burgers and local beer. She found a new bed and breakfast in town called “The Dragon’s Keep Inn.” It seemed clear from the description that the owners were science fiction and fantasy fans near and dear to our heart. Currently the inn has two rooms and two RV spaces. They hope to open a small shop in the near future and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual Tombstone establishment that names everything after Wyatt Earp or Ike Clanton.

Kumie and I at The Dragon’s Keep in Tombstone

My goal for the weekend was mostly to write. I’m working on a story set on a railroad among the mining towns of Colorado, so being in a mining town in Arizona seemed like good ambience. The Dragon’s Keep proved a nice place to write and I made good progress on my story. Still, being in Tombstone, we wanted to see some of the sights. One place I hadn’t visited before was the Bird Cage Theatre, which is one of the few buildings in Tombstone that actually dates back to the time of the famous gunfight.

The Bird Cage Theatre

The Bird Cage Theatre also has a reputation as a very haunted place, so they offer nightly ghost tours. Since The Dragon’s Keep Inn is on the south end of Allen Street, not far from the Bird Cage, we decided to go on the ghost tour. One thing that made the ghost tour worthwhile is that it’s a small group. We were on the 9:30pm tour and we only had four people in our group. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable and I enjoyed learning about the history of the Bird Cage. You get to see the small rooms where bordello girls plied their trade. There are bullet holes in the ceiling where rowdy cowboys fired off their weapons during shows. They also have some artifacts from early Tombstone such as this Black Mariah hearse, which carried many of Tombstone’s residents on their last ride to Boot Hill.

Black Mariah at the Bird Cage Theater

Admittedly, I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to ghosts. If the Bird Cage is haunted, the ghosts were rather quiet that night. The one odd occurrence I experienced happened while standing near the Black Mariah. I could swear I felt someone touching the back of my head. I looked around and no one was there. It was a very light touch, almost like I’d walked into a spider web, but I saw nothing to account for it. Perhaps my favorite artifact at the Bird Cage Theatre was the faro table used by Doc Holliday.

Doc Holliday’s Faro Table

I had a special connection to this faro table because when I wrote my novel Owl Riders, I made a point of writing in a couple of scenes where Doc Holliday and Ramon Morales play faro on an airship ride from New Orleans to Tucson. Of course, Doc couldn’t bring the full table along, but he had his shoe for shuffling cards and a mat for laying out the hands. I found it great fun to actually see a piece of history directly connected with something I had written about. You can learn more about Owl Riders at:

Tombstone Rashomon

I’ve been waiting for the DVD release of Tombstone Rashomon ever since I first heard about the movie, which was during its production. The movie stars my friend Eric Schumacher as Doc Holliday. It’s directed by Alex Cox, who directed Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, and tells the story of the infamous gunfight outside Tombstone’s OK Corral from the perspective of several of the participants in a style similar to Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Rashomon.

The gunfight at OK Corral is a tale worthy of a Rashomon-like treatment. It’s a difficult historical moment to understand because the people involved were tangled in so many ways. It wasn’t as simple as the Clantons vs. the Earps as many filmed versions would have you believe. Both sides had dealings that seem both shady and noble, and self-interests muddied up the lines of who was on what side at various points leading up to the affair. I researched the Earps and the Clantons quite a bit for my novels Lightning Wolves and Owl Riders. When I wrote Lightning Wolves and decided the Clantons needed to be part of it, I knew I was writing a period of history before the arrival of the Earps and Doc Holliday. So, my research focused on the family and their allies in the days before Tombstone’s founding. The events set up in that novel prevented Tombstone’s founding, which meant the two factions never came together and the gunfight never happened, but that didn’t prevent Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday from seeing business opportunities in Arizona Territory in Owl Riders. Eric’s research into Doc’s character for Tombstone Rashomon helped inform my portrayal of Doc.

The movie imagines that time travelers arrive in Tombstone the day after the gunfight. They interview Doc Holliday and his girlfriend, Kate Elder, along with Wyatt Earp, Sheriff John Behan, Ike Clanton, and a saloon owner named Hafford. I especially enjoyed Christine Doidge’s performance as Kate. In real life Kate was a Hungarian immigrant and Doidge played up that aspect. In Hungarian, there are not separate words for “he” and “she” and Kate gets flustered and often just uses “she” for both. Kate also seems to relish how this bothers people and refers to Doc as her “wife” even though there are separate words for husband and wife in Hungarian.

Eric played Doc Holliday as an educated man who will do anything he can to succeed in life and make a buck. As in real life, Doc was wracked with tuberculosis and Eric gives a moment that made me more sympathetic to his plight than Val Kilmer’s understated take in the movie Tombstone. The suggestion is made that Doc became a drinking man to dull the pain of the terminal disease. Of course, the movie is all about unreliable narrators.

At times, the film becomes almost impressionistic, mixing modern elements into the historical. There’s always a danger of this confusing an audience, but it can also be interesting to let it be a way of seeing older events through the lens of more familiar, contemporary icons. The film also literally takes you back in time by starting at modern Boot Hill just outside Tombstone, Arizona with tourists taking selfies in front of the Clantons’ tombstones and then dissolving back into the past.

In addition to Eric, I was excited to see Rogelio Camarillo in the film as Billy Claiborne. He was the sound man when we filmed the book trailer for my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. I was also delighted to see Bradford Trojan as Tom McLaury. I had a bit part in the movie Revenge of Zoe, which starred Bradford and Eric Schumacher. I’m still looking forward to that movie’s DVD release!

If you’re fascinated by the history surrounding the gunfight at OK Corral or would just like to see a non-traditional take on a western film, I recommend ordering a copy of the Tombstone Rashomon DVD. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, check out the links to my books below. On the page for The Astronomer’s Crypt, you’ll find the trailer that Eric and Rogelio helped me make.

Lightning Wolves on Audible

Lightning Wolves, the second novel in my Clockwork Legion steampunk series, is now available as an audiobook at In the novel, it’s 1877 and Russian forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

One thing that makes this release special is that I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m driving from my home in New Mexico to the observatory where I work in Arizona. Elements of this novel were inspired by the very same commute. Almost every week, I pass the Whetstone Mountains which house Kartchner Caverns State Park. I drive by the turnoff for Tombstone, famous for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I drive through the Dragoon Mountains where Apache warriors made camp. All of these locations feature in Lightning Wolves. I look forward to giving the book a listen during a couple of my upcoming commutes through the region. Here we have a look at one of the real-world settings in the novel.

As it turns out, I’m revisiting a lot of these same locations in the novel I’m currently writing. I left a few plot threads dangling at the end of Lightning Wolves which didn’t get resolved in The Brazen Shark because pirate captain Onofre Cisneros took my protagonists Ramon and Fatemeh first to Hawaii and then to Japan. Also, it seemed like it would be fun to leave those dangling plot threads alone for a few years worth of story time and see how they develop. The result is that Southern Arizona is in quite a mess by the opening of Owl Riders and you know Ramon and Fatemeh will be right in the middle of it, presuming other aspects of their life don’t get in the way.

The audiobook is narrated by Edward Mittelstedt who did a terrific job on Owl Dance. What’s more, Lightning Wolves was a top ten finisher in the best steampunk novel category of the 2014 Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll. My daughter Autumn created Larissa, the young inventor mentioned in the story’s description. She served as the model for Larissa on the book’s cover.

You can listen to a sample and buy a copy of the Lightning Wolves audiobook at:

Research Trip to Tombstone

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a sequel to my novel Owl Dance tentatively titled Wolf Posse. In the first novel, the Russians invade the United States in 1877. The second novel picks up where the first novel leaves off and explores the ramifications of the invasion.

One of the things that happens in Wolf Posse is that the characters of Professor Maravilla and Larissa Crimson explore a mystery that leads them to the mining camp that would eventually become Tombstone, Arizona. Of course, Tombstone is infamous as the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral. However, savvy readers will realize the gunfight happened in 1881 and my novel is set four years earlier. The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of interesting history that happened in Tombstone before the gunfight that I thought was worth exploring.

In 1877, Ed Shieffelin was prospecting for silver in an area called Goose Flats. Soldiers at Fort Huachuca told him that because of the terrible conditions and the Apaches in the area, all he’d ever find would be his Tombstone. Of course, when he found silver, that became the name of the mining camp. Because I wanted to know more about the silver mining in the area, I took a tour of the Good Enough Mine in Tombstone. Here’s a photo of my daughters by the entrance.

As my characters of Professor Maravilla and Larissa Crimson get to know Ed Shieffelin, they also get to know a mining engineer he worked with named Richard Gird. I found some good information in Tombstone about Gird. I also discovered that he had a house outside of Tombstone in the ghost town of Millville. It was a bit of a hike, but I made it out to see Gird’s house along with the remains of the mill where Tombstone’s silver was processed. Here’s the foundation of Gird’s house as it appears today:

One other site that I tentatively plan to include in the novel is the Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate. It’s one of the few surviving Spanish fortresses from the 18th century. Admittedly all that’s there now are a few walls and foundations, but still, I found it very informative to visit the site and see where it was located relative to the San Pedro River. Also, apparently enough of it was still surviving in 1878 that the U.S. Army briefly occupied the site.

When writing about a real location, there’s nothing like visiting that site so that you can understand what things look like and how a person might get from one place to another. Also, I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at a famous place like Tombstone and looking at those periods of time that have been neglected to see what history you might uncover. Tombstone has a lot of fun tourist attractions in town that are well worth visiting, but I highly recommend looking up the Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate and Millville and hiking the trails if you visit. Just remember to bring along plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug repellant! The trails are well maintained and there are lots of great signs with more information.

In the meantime, if you want to read Owl Dance so that you’re ready when Wolf Posse comes out, you can get more information, find out where to order, and read a sample chapter at: