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Generally I am not a fan of vampire novels or films. It might be more accurate to say that I am selective. Books? ’SALEM’S LOT. Movies? 30 Days of Night, Near Dark and, yes, ’Salem’s Lot. I am adding the newly published ROVERS to the book list. It has been rolling around in my head like marbles in a boxcar since I finished reading it.

Richard Lange generally writes dark crime fiction, which is exactly what this novel is. It’s full of bad and dangerous people going at each other and everyone else who happens to cross their paths. Add the vampire element, and you have one of the best literary parties you will come across during this or any summer. Before we start, there are three things you should know: 1) The title of this wild tale is the term that vampires generally use to refer to themselves. 2) The book takes place in the American west, primarily in Nevada and Arizona. 3) It is set in 1976 in the runup to the United States bicentennial.

"Think of Stephen King collaborating with Joe R. Lansdale, and it will give you a fair idea of what is going on here, though the end result is all Lange."

Three primary storylines run through ROVERS. One involves a notorious group of rover bikers who call themselves the Fiends. It’s a gang of eight, and when we meet them, they are on the verge of being hired for a bit of over-the-top nastiness with even nastier, over-the-top compensation that had me screaming. Seriously. Another revolves around a pair of rover brothers, with Jesse being a bit older and much smarter than Edgar. There’s some tension between them, caused by Jesse having to boss around Edgar, who doesn’t like it one bit. The third concerns Charles Sanders, a grieving father whose son was murdered by a rover. He conducted his own investigation; after discovering the existence of rovers, he is on the hunt, driving around the west and passing out flyers while seeking information and hoping to exact vengeance.

Lange does not waste a whole lot of time bringing these storylines together. First, Jesse, Edgar and a young woman out for some thrills interrupt the Fiends just as they are completing their latest mission and get the whole gang after them, hell-bent on revenge. Sanders kind of stumbles into the middle of things at a later point, and the result is combustible, to say the least. Lange borrows from traditional and contemporary vampire lore but throws a few hand grenades of his own into the mix. All the while, he hints and foreshadows while providing plenty of gore, which adds to but does not overwhelm this compelling and surprisingly literate story. Think of Stephen King collaborating with Joe R. Lansdale, and it will give you a fair idea of what is going on here, though the end result is all Lange.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that ROVERS hews pretty much to my own worldview that there are folks on the fringes who have been among us for a while and stay in the shadows until they don’t. So I hesitate to call the book “fiction,” but I’ll go with that for now. Regardless of what you or I might believe, this is an addictive, one-sit read that will echo in your head just like it does in mine.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 7, 2021

by Richard Lange