The central idea behind Vampyres of Hollywood (St. Martin's Press), credited to actress Adrienne Barbeau & Michael Scott, is an admittedly amusing one: it's that most of the big names in Hollywood, the glamorous ones who never really seem to age, are in fact vampyres. Many of the legends that Hollywood has concocted about the creatures were created by real-life Tinseltown bloodsuckers (Dracula director Tod Browning among 'em), while even Bram Stoker's original novel was influenced by a lovely vampyress who Stoker called "my Lucy." The increased otherworldly look that many big stars get over time isn't the result of excess plastic surgery but physical manifestations of their vampyre nature becoming more apparent as they age. The reason Orson Welles wore capes during the latter years of his career, we're told, was to hide a growing tail.
The Chatelaine of Hollywood – the one responsible for turning Welles and Browning, Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentine (who chafed at having to fake his own death) – is a sexy genre actress named Ovsanna Moore. Moore has managed the neat trick of "killing" herself and coming back as her own actor daughter twice, thus sustaining a career in the movie biz that goes back all the way to the silent era. That she's been able to get away with this under public scrutiny can in part be explained by the fact that the present Ovsanna primarily labors in self-produced horror flicks with titles like Tell Me What You've Seen and Vatican Vampires. It's not as if she's under a hyper-intense A-List entertainment news spotlight.
That situation changes, though, once a series of murders attached to Ovsanna's movie company, Anticipation Studios, begins. Promising young vampyre actors who were themselves turned by the scream queen start showing up dead for real at the hands of a serial killer called the Cinema Slayer. The increased attention makes more than a few Hollywood vamps nervous, and, when a high-profile homicide detective named Peter King gets assigned the case, Ovsanna is given a deadline to herself solve the murders. As the body count grows, it seems increasingly less likely that our heroine will be able to keep her secret from at least getting uncovered by the hard-nosed police detective.
Barbeau & Scott keep it all moving quickly, troweling on the sardonic movie biz wit and occasionally sneaking in a decent little in-joke. At one point, for instance, the narrating Ovsanna notes of HBO, "I think they lost their touch when they canceled Carnivale." The book's narration alternates between Ovsanna and our seen-it-all copper, and, though the writers try to spice up the human's part of the story by making him a movie buff whose mother sells movie memorabilia, the fact remains that it's the shrewd vampire businesswoman who keep the story truly moving. If Vampyres had contained a genuine mystery we might have cared more strongly about Detective King, but the writers are more concerned with serving up and skewering Hollywood attitude than they are with inventing a truly twisty whodunit.
That noted, Vampyres of Hollywood proves a diverting zippy read: nicely gory, if not particularly scary, with beaucoup hard-earned industry cynicism. I could see Barbeau's former hubby John Carpenter (who provides the obligatory back cover blurb for the book) having a ball with this material. Perhaps they could pull the undead Orson Welles out of seclusion to play himself?