Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today by Katherine Ramsland

While most people think of Dracula and late-night horror movies when considering the subject of vampires, Piercing the Darkness moves well beyond those basics and introduces the reader to modern-day vampires.

Reaching out to the vampire community to find information on a missing journalist, Katherine Ramsland instead becomes immersed in the subculture for a little over a year.

The more involved she becomes in the world of vampire chat rooms, vampire dance clubs and vampire societies, the more she realizes the diversity within the culture. There are role-players who are simply participating in a highly detailed game world and there are others who truly believe they are otherworldly creatures.

Some drink blood, some refuse to, and some only do it within safe circles. Some dress in Victorian-era fashions, some in fetish wear, and some in all black.

Many profiled vampires cry out for understanding and a sense of power. Ramsland frames her interviews and accounts with descriptions of the vampire image in society, ranging from the hated Other of Dracula to the sympathetic, romantic figure of Interview with the Vampire.

While at times using her status as an Anne Rice biographer to gain an interview or an invitation to an exclusive event, Ramsland makes real connections within the world of vampires, adding depth to the overall story.

Although encyclopedic in scope, Piercing the Darkness reads like a novel with a highly interesting cast of characters. Piercing the Darkness isn’t just a listing of vampire images and habits; it’s also a personal account of learning more about those who consider themselves creatures of the night.

Piercing the Darkness is certainly not for the squeamish, with images of blood play and murder, but Ramsland’s depiction is never sensationalized. At the same time, even when letting her true feelings be known, she doesn’t come across as judgmental. Ramsland brings a unique perspective to the subject as both a clinically trained psychologist and self-declared vampire fan.

Balancing observed details of vampire culture with personal memories and observations, she also considers the possible societal and psychological implications of vampire interest. All of these elements combine for a fascinating read.

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