A lot of the reviews of Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto have applauded the action and suspense contained in the novel. Other reviewers have said they liked the Mordecai Slate character, the setting and the plot. But one review mentioned something that most of the others overlooked. Blackgate’s Ron Crankshaw mentioned the relationship between the main villain, Dax Manion, and his loyal sideman, Del Cobre, the Apache half-breed. Crankshaw said. “Cobre is probably the most interesting of the villains, a human intensely loyal to a vampire who otherwise hates all humans. The relationship between them would be touching, if it weren’t dedicated to turning the Southwest into a wasteland ruled by the undead.”
I think one of the unique features of the book is the way it delves into the psyches of the main characters. Not just the protagonist, but also the villain–something you don’t often find in books of this type. The special relationship between Manion and Del Cobre is revealed in some depth in this scene from Chapter 29. Dax and his vampire riders have slept during the day at an abandoned Indian pueblo. As the sun sets Dax rises, and greets the loyal, but enigmatic half-breed:
Dax Manion appeared in the doorway of the pueblo. “Anything?” he asked.
“Not even a jack rabbit,” Del Cobre said. He picked up a large leather pouch from the ground and slung it over his shoulder. “A dead place.”
Dax looked around and saw the dark shadows of his men stepping out of the other nearby buildings. “You speak the truth,” he said. “I could feel the dead all around me, while I slept. This pueblo has been here a long time. Long before the white man, before the Spanish, even before the Apaches. There are many that have died in this place. I could feel them.” He looked up at the few early evening stars. “And I envy them,” he said. “I envy those who have truly died, who close their eyes on their last day never to open them again. To sleep forever. A dreamless sleep. How peaceful it must be.”
He stepped away from the adobe dwelling. “But even here,” he said, “even in the silence of the long dead, there are whispers. There are the restless ones who still haunt this pueblo.”
Del Cobre looked up at the moon now higher in the sky. “It is the Wolf Moon,” he said. “At last. The Dark Magic is strong now.”
Dax peered up at the big yellow orb. “Yes,” he said. “I can feel it. A power.” He smiled. “Only you know of these things. You know there is more in this world than what we can see, and hear and touch.” He looked across the pueblo and saw his men coming out of their make-shift crypts. “They don’t understand. They only understand the hunt for blood and gold. Their hearts are ruled by lust for these things. Even Kord, my brother, is no different from them. But you. You are different. You are more like my brother.”
Del Cobre stood up.
“But tell me something,” Dax said. “There is one thing I don’t understand. You know what I am. What we are. You know that I am a killer of men. That because of what I am, I hate mankind. I live only to destroy them. I seek to conquer their piety and their belief in goodness. I want them to share the pain of the wicked. I want them to suffer and die, because of what was done to me. Knowing this, why do you serve me? You are not Undead. Why do you stay with me? I have told you, you are free to go.”
Del Cobre shrugged. “That day you saved me from the Mescalero hunting party,” he said. “I had run from my village in Old Mexico. I was an outcast from my own tribe. The Federales hunted me for crimes I did not even commit. I was half-breed. Hated by everyone. Neither Coyotera nor Mexican. In everyone’s eyes I was the worst of both. I ran across the border hoping I could find a place where the sight of me did not make men angry and women fear me. But here it is the same. I was driven from what the white man calls civilization. I rode into the desert and was captured by the Mescalero. It was worse with them. They said I should have been killed the moment I was born, that my parents were animals who didn’t know any better.
“They tied me down on an anthill and burned me with flaming sticks for three days. I was so close to dying that I thought I had entered the spirit world. I felt my spirit enter the dark cave that my father’s people say leads down to the land of the dead. Then you came. You killed the Mescalero. You and your men. You pulled my spirit back from the cave of death. But I wasn’t the same anymore. I was more like a ghost than a man. Your men wanted to finish me. But you didn’t let them. You say you hate all mankind, but you spared me.”
He stared up at the moon . “You ask why I do not leave,” Del Cobre said. “How can I leave the side of the only person on this earth who looks on me without hate in his eyes? Who doesn’t want to kill me or drive me away. You brought me back to this world from the cave of death. I will stay with you until it is time for me to return.”
Dax nodded. He knew Del Cobre spoke true, and he knew that the day they parted would be the last day for either of them on this earth. The others were coming out of their sleeping places. Dax called them to gather around.
So you see these are not the type of characters you might expect to find in a story of this kind. They are not character types. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Begin with an individual and you find you have created a type. Begin with a type and you find you have created nothing.” Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto is available as a Kindle book from Amazon.com.