By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added October 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm
“Lex awoke to the sound of crickets serenading the moon. His lips were cracked and dry, dripping sand like decay down his throat straight to his insides. The hour glass had finally run dry.”
So begins “The Vampire,” the debut of fledgling writer and Eastern Michigan University student Melissa Marguerite “Monster” Bowling.
Reading the somber and visceral opening to “The Vampire” and looking into the smiling face of Ms. Bowling, I’m struck by the stark juxtaposition. On one hand you have this bright, bubbly and introverted pixie-haired woman.
On the other hand you have her dark, ominous and, in some cases, horror-inducing prose.
When asked about the sharp difference, Bowling explained her method.
“I like portraying the world as I see it,” she said with a smile. “People often focus on the murder, but I like to focus on the extraordinary.”
When she stopped speaking, she looked down at the floor as if she was almost embarrassed by her process or inspiration. From the experience I have had with her writing she has nothing to be ashamed about.
Bowling’s “The Vampire” is quite unlike the vampire literature of yore, yet the maturity in the writing reminds me of world-famous authors like Edgar Allen Poe. Specifically, I’m reminded of the depth and longing evoked in “The Raven,” as well as the internal fear that is evoked in “The Cask of Amontillado.”
When compared to the current vampirism craze inspiring “Twilight” series or Sookie Stackhouse novels, it exceeds them on every level except length. But the writing is so engaging – when I read the “The Vampire”’s final words I cried out “Oh, no!” – with mourning and ache for characters whom I’d only met 12 pages earlier.
Had I stopped there with her work, I would herald her as the writer of the best independent fiction to come out of EMU in decades. But now that I’ve read her 2011 follow up “Hands in the Sky,” I would dare to expand to the entire state, if not the country. You might think that statement to be a bit of poetic narrative or hyperbole, but if you fail to find out for yourself you’ll miss out the single best piece of independent literature to pass across my desk in many years.
Allow me to explain my enthusiasm. Bowling’s work falls within the genre of horror, which, in modern literature, has come to mean macabre, gore or monster fiction. While those works are valid on their own, they often fail to fully capture the truly soul-disturbing, mind-altering horror authors like the aforementioned Poe and Bram Stoker used to define the genre.
While there is no way to objectively compare new literature to works with as much clout as those from Poe and Stoker, they are the closest comparison one could make. If you are looking for a more modern point of reference, you could look to “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” the 2004 macabre tour de force by Jeff Lindsay, which inspired the Showtime series “Dexter.” But even that fails to fully grasp the emotional pull of “The Vampire” and “Hands in the Sky.”
I would like to make sure not to overly inflate your expectations for these works. From my previous statements it could seem like I’m labeling Bowling as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I wouldn’t put that much pressure on this fledgling writer’s shoulders. Ms. Bowling still has a lot of room for growth, which is incredibly inspiring considering how much I have enjoyed her writing thus far.
Besides the quality writing, I find the personal attention she gives to each of her books to be a great feature of the pieces themselves. Bowling assembles each and every copy of “The Vampire” and “Hands in the Sky” by hand at her home.
“I thought homemade would be better because it’s more personal,” Bowling said.
As a physical book fan, it’s encouraging to see a young independent writer who has chosen to stay so connected with her work from conception to production.
It is a rare opportunity to get the chance to experience an author like Melissa Marguerite “Monster” Bowling. It was a treat to meet her, as well as read her work.
It’s almost comical to think her writing focuses on topics such as death, yet the outlook for the career of this new author seems to be so very much alive. Considering the huge dichotomy Bowling has proven to be thus far it’s no surprise she leaves us with one more.