by Drew Stepek

Alphar, $30.95, 338 pages

RJ is the leader of a vampire gang called The Knucklers, one of the many vampire gangs that make up the drug trafficking trade in Los Angeles. Addicted to heroin, the gang is vicious in their search for the next fix, tearing through people (literally) for sustenance and a high. Things change when RJ takes a 13-year-old runaway hooker, nicknamed Bait, under his wing, which plants a seed of humanity into RJ and causes issues within the gang as he risks more to keep her protected.

Not for the faint-hearted, Knuckle Supper is a thoroughly violent, grisly affair. Turning the popular romantic, moody vampire stories on their head, Drew Slepek has created a world of vampires that is violent, bloody, and heartless.  In between gang wars and hunting sprees, Slepek highlights the plight of runaway teens and their limited choices for survival, which often results in turning to prostitution and drug use. The character of Bait shows how limited the choices of these kids are, as she chooses to hang out with ruthless, violent addicts versus being out on the street. Knuckle Supper was an engrossing read and a refreshing change from the norm of the genre.

Reviewed by Barbara Cothern