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Literature / The Vampire Files

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The Vampire Files is a series of books by P.N. Elrod. It is the memoirs of one Jack Fleming, vampire, private investigator and later club owner, set in 1930's Chicago, starting in 1936. The core cast consists of Jack Fleming, former reporter and current undead, Charles Escott, a British private agent and former theatrical actor, and Bobbi Smythe, Jack's girlfriend and former night club singer.


  • Bloodlist
  • Lifeblood
  • Bloodcircle
  • Art in the Blood
  • Fire in the Blood
  • Blood in the Water
  • Chill in the Blood
  • Dark Sleep
  • Lady Crymsyn
  • Cold Streets
  • Song in the Dark
  • Dark Road Rising


  • The Devil You Know

Short Stories:

  • "You'll Catch Your Death"
  • "A Night at the (Horse) Opera"
  • "The Quick Way Down"
  • "The Breath of Bast"
  • "Slaughter"
  • "Grave-Robbed"
  • "Her Mother's Daughter"
  • "Hecate's Golden Eye"
  • "The Company You Keep"
  • "Dark Lady"

A collection of all the above short stories and at least one new one is supposed to be released eventually. A spin-off series called Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire was also written by Elrod. It is currently four books long and tells the back story of a character introduced in Bloodcircle.

These books provide examples of:

  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Gabriel Kroun.
  • Anti-Hero: Jack. Escott definitely has shades of this.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Escott is uncomfortable with the idea that ghosts could exist. This despite the fact that he works with Jack. Also, both Escott and Jack are quick to dismiss the idea of a cursed diamond in "Hecate's Golden Eye," and it's left ambiguous as to whether it's real or not.
  • Ax-Crazy: Norma, from Lifeblood. And when in the mood, Marian Pierce.
  • Badass Normal: Charles Escott, private agent.
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  • Batter Up!: Happens three times in "Her Mother's Daughter". The first is when Becker, one of Huffman's men, conks Jack over the head with a bat. The second time happens when Jack returns the favor. Finally, when they need to beat the location of Dot's new husband out of Becker, but neither Cooley nor Jack can do it thanks to gang politics, Dot is more than willing to pick up the bat herself.
  • Berserk Button: For Jack, hurting Bobbi or Escott, or, ya know, killing him. And don't try to cheat Escott, or call him something a private investigator.
  • Big Applesauce: Jack used to work as a reporter in New York. He moved to Chicago shortly before dying. The Nightcrawler and its owners are tied to New York gang politics as well.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Escott and Jack find Dugan's editorials in the origami animals he has around his house.
    Giraffes were concerned with sociology, cranes were history, pelicans current events, boats were about euthanasia of inferior human species as a means to improve the breed.
  • Cement Shoes: Jack pretends to do this to Nevis and Upshaw in Lady Crymsyn at the Stockyards. Instead, they end up stuck in two feet of animal waste products.
  • Character Tics: Alex Adrian twists his wedding band around his finger. We can tell he's feeling better in the epilogue when we're told he doesn't do it anymore.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: "Buckwheats" in Cold Streets. Also what Paco and Slick did to Jack for days before finally killing him.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Some of the bad guys do just shoot Jack, not that it helps against a vampire.
  • The Comically Serious: Opal, due both to being Literal-Minded and used to being a constant Butt-Monkey.
  • Continuity Nod: Jack encounters works of art by the artists he met in "Art in the Blood" several times.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Escott. He carries dynamite in his car.
  • Cursed With Awesome / Blessed with Suck: Being a vampire. Sure you're super strong, super fast, have super senses, can turn invisible, have eternal youth, and can bend puny mortals' minds to your will, but you have to lie utterly helpless on a pile of dirt during the day, you can't use mirrors (an obvious sign of what you are, plus it makes shaving and clothes shopping really hard), even a tiny bit of sunlight can make you blind, just smelling food makes you nauseous (which makes socializing over food awkward and a pain), when you're invisible you're also blind, if anyone knew you from when you were alive you have to explain why you look so young, and you can accidentally drive someone insane. Jack himself angsts briefly on most of these issues (particularly the accidental Mind Rape), but is generally happy with his existence. For the most part, he finds the detriments annoying, not depressing.
  • Dead to Begin With: Jack, the title vampire.
  • Deus ex Machina: Jack's instinctual ability to transport himself from the bottom of a river to the nearest shore, despite the fact that he is severely weakened by even touching running water, let alone being submersed in it. It's happened twice as of Blood in the Water.
    • Also, one could say that the friendly ghost Myrna is this too.
  • Dhampyr: Not a hybrid, but Gabriel Kroun's condition is similar, his undead transformation having been impaired by the bullet that remains lodged in his skull. Sharing Jack's limitations and hypnotic gaze, but lacking the power to vanish, he casts a ghostly reflection in mirrors.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happens to Jack a lot, with Bobbi and other women. So much with Escott in Lady Crymsyn.
  • Do Wrong, Right: When Mrs. Huffman (the bride's mother) and Mrs. Schubert catch Dot in the middle of interrogating Becker with a baseball bat in "Her Mother's Daughter", Mrs. Huffman pulls some of the tarps over Becker off, commenting that he won't feel anything with that much in the way, and gives her daughter tips on the best places to hit him.
  • Does Not Understand Sarcasm: Madison, the main reason why he's the only person who can stand Marza.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Escott. Just Escott. His father's best friend is a doctor and 'Escott' is a name Sherlock Holmes used in the United States
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Subverted in Lifeblood, when Gaylen forces Jack to drink her blood and then drink his, acts which replace sex for vampires. The way he describes his body betraying him by enjoying it is a dead ringer for how rape victims sometimes orgasm despite themselves. He even describes the event as "a kind of rape" in Art in the Blood.
  • Driven to Suicide: Celia Adrian. Except she wasn't. Jack also made Laura drink too many sleeping pills, since she'd never actually feel any guilt for her crimes, being as screwed up as she is.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jack's relative invulnerability allows the author to put him through six kinds of hell without killing him off. In the Story Arc running from Fire in the Blood through Chill in the Blood, Jack is shot more than a dozen times, poisoned twice, falls into Lake Michigan's running water in January, catches shrapnel from a grenade, is whacked on the head more times than he can count, is set on fire and starves nearly into incoherence. And that's just the physical abuse he suffers, all over the course of about a week, to protect his friends and get safely home to Bobbi.
  • Evil Feels Good: From Fire in the Blood, when Jack nearly drains Doreen Grey dry.
  • Fang Thpeak: Jack does this when his fangs come out, which happens when he's hungry or horny.
  • Fantastic Arousal: Not so much in how to turn a vampire on but what happens when you do: their fangs extend and they lisp when trying to talk around them.
  • Flashback Echo: Jack has a couple in the first book about his own brutal murder.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Jack has one early in the first book, again about his own murder, before he gets himself some of his home earth. Escott has these too, when he can't get his "dark sleep."
    • Gabriel Kroun gets these from sleeping without his earth also, and actually seeks them out as a source of information about his forgotten past as Whitey.
  • Freak Out: Escott had one years ago when he discovered his acting troupe (basically his family) slaughtered in a cabin.
  • Gangsterland: Set in 1930's Chicago.
  • Ghost Amnesia: In the beginning of Bloodlist, Jack can't remember the days leading up to his death, so he doesn't know who or why, or even when or how, exactly.
    • Eleven books later, we see Gabriel Kroun coping with an even stronger case of this.
  • Gilded Cage: Marian claims she's in one.
  • Glamour Failure: Vampires can become intangible and invisible to direct sight, but their intangible forms' reflections are visible as clouds of mist. It takes quite a few books for the vampire protagonist to discover this, as his normal solid form casts no reflection at all, so he normally avoids mirrors altogether.
  • Good with Numbers: Opal. It's why she's a Living Macguffin.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The motive behind Maureen, Emily, and Barrett's murders by Laura. Also why Leighton killed Sandra, but over her artistic talent.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Alex after his wife Celia's suicide. Evan and Alex after Sandra Robley's murder. It should be noted that Jack can't hypnotize someone when they're like this.
    • Jack at the end of Cold Streets and all through Song in the Dark, following Bristow's round of "buckwheats."
  • Hope Spot: In Lifeblood, Jack is forced to drink Gaylen's blood, and tries to drink her dry, but her henchman Malcolm whacks him upside the head with a wooden cane, incapacitating him. He is very slowly regaining the ability to move, but before he can he is stabbed through the heart with a wooden stake and left to die at sunrise.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Vampires have these. But depending on the emotional state and willpower, it can be difficult or impossible to use on certain people, particularly the insane or sociopathic. Generally, Jack needs people to be calm but unsuspecting in order to easily go under. Even then, a person's own twisted logic can make it tricky to get what he wants out of them.
  • Identical Stranger: Escott and Jack, though described as similar and not identical (possibly would have been identical before Jack's eternal youth kicked in). It figures into the plot a few times, specifically when someone is after one but finds the other.
  • Idiot Ball: Jack is occasionally guilty of this, especially with the more unsavory gangsters. Even when he's not subverting Thou Shalt Not Kill, you sometimes wonder why he doesn't just hypnotize them. Then again, depending on where you are in the story, Jack may be angsting about hypnotism or murder.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Why Laura eventually tries to kill Barrett.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Averted. Jack was in love with Maureen. He felt betrayed and hurt when she left, but never hated her. In fact, it seems like none of the vampires in this series feel this way.
    • Except for Gaylen, who tried to have Jack killed after forcing him to convert her.
    • Half-played straight with Dugan, who tried the same thing but failed in both endeavors and got decapitated by Jack before he could rise.
  • I Love You, Vampire Son: The situation behind most vampire sirings, particularly those of Jack, Maureen, Emily, and (maybe, we don't know if it'll take yet) Bobbi. Barrett tried to do this several times before it eventually took.
    • Averted big-time with Gaylen, who forced Jack to turn her and whom he tracked down and helped kill.
  • I Love the Dead: Jack encounters someone like this in the short story "You'll Catch Your Death". After he's been paralyzed by wood. It's...disturbing.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty:
    • If you start off as older than that when you die, you appear to be in your early twenties if you come back as a vampire.
    • Subverted with Gabriel Kroun, whose undead resurrection was impaired by a bullet lodged in his brain. One reason Jack didn't initially realize what Kroun was is that he looks older than a vampire should.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Jack wanted to be one, but it doesn't seem like he ever got a huge scoop. He's got the instincts of one though, which helps with his current job. It does occasionally get him into trouble, though.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Grimmer usage than normal, as it's usually someone dismissing Hitler as a jumped-up blowhard who'll either retire or get booted out of office any day now.
  • Jerkass: Marza Chevreaux. Gets a little Jerkass Woobie moment before going right back to this with a vengeance.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: Jack's been "rewired" to use this as a substitute, and mentions on a few occasions that it's even better the new way. And if he drinks from them first, his human lover can return the favor.
    • Granted, Jack does engage in a lot of conventional foreplay as a precursor to neck-nibbling. When he spies on another vampire/human couple who play out this trope without any such buildup, he considers it a bit too sedate for his liking.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Done by the characters, especially Jack, to Dracula.
  • Literal-Minded: Opal, to the point where some readers wonder if she's autistic.
  • Living MacGuffin: Opal, Kyler's genius but highly sheltered accountant.
  • Love at First Sight: Jack all but names this trope when he talks about when he met Maureen.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Laura from Bloodcircle. She murdered four people, two of which were relatives that took her into their homes, because they were getting between her and Barrett, who she also tried to kill, and would have succeeded if Jack and Escott hadn't saved him. She also tried to kill Jack, bringing her intended body count up to six.
  • MacGuffin: In the first book, all the trouble is over the titular list. Escott does find some uses for it later, though.
  • Made of Iron: Jack. Even before he became a vampire. He was tortured for days before he was killed, giving the bad guys nothing. And he wasn't expecting to come back.
  • The Mafia: It's 1930's Chicago. Jack runs into them a few times.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: How most vampire-human romances turn out, since most humans are immune to becoming vampires.
  • Mind Rape: Unlike most examples, Jack does this. The first time is an accident, but he later does it on purpose.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Rather, the mirror shows your intangible self, as Jack's otherwise-invisible form while "vanished" shows up in reflections. (As he's blind when intangible and his solid form doesn't cast a reflection at all, it takes Jack quite a while to realize this.)
  • Missing Mom: Maureen, in that she's Jack's sire. At the beginning of the book she's been missing for five years.
  • Morality Pet: Bobbi is this to Jack sometimes.
  • Mundane Utility: Who needs keys when you can just slip inside?
    • Who needs advertising when you can whammy your club's customers into having a good time?
  • Never Bareheaded: Whitey Kroun got his nickname because he always wore a white hat, even as a teenager.
  • Noble Shoplifter: Jack has to do his clothes-shopping after hours to avoid dressing-room mirrors, but he always leaves money on the counter.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Escott deliberately pushes Jack into this to snap him out of his post-buckwheats Heroic BSOD, ending up in the hospital and nearly dying as a result.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Holy goodness, Escott. Even when he has half the employees in a brothel hanging all over him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Gordy.
  • Older Than They Look: Happens with most vampires, most conspicuously with Gaylen, who'd been a senior citizen beforehand. Jack is regularly called "kid" by people who don't suspect his real age, and is unable to visit his parents because they'd be shocked by how much younger he looks.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Like many vampires, Jack is super humanly strong and fast, has a Healing Factor, can mesmerize people with eye contact, has problems traveling over moving water, and needs to drink blood, although animal blood suffices. Unlike many vampires, he can turn invisible and intangible, although when he does he's also blind. Also, he cannot turn into or control bats, rats, wolves, or other vermin, nor does he need an invitation to enter a dwelling. As mentioned in Wrong Genre Savvy below, most of the characters use Dracula as a point of reference. As of Dark Road Rising, they can apparently heal people with their blood.
    • Dracula actually exists in this universe, somehow. In one of her other series, Elrod has the character Quincy Morris from Dracula turn into a vampire like Fleming, after having had an affair with the same woman that turned Barrett some time before the books.
      • It is explained that Dracula is a different 'breed' of vampire than the regular protagonists, and it is maybe implied that he got his powers by making a bargain, or other occult means.
  • Overprotective Dad: Marian complains that her dad is one. He seems to keep a close eye on her but not interfere with her love life, but we don't see enough of him to be sure. When you think about it he really can't be, considering the shit his daughter gets into without his knowledge.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Jack muses on the risk of him turning into a voyeur, having long nights to fill and the power to intrude on people undetected. Also, his lack of a reflection when making out with Bobbi by the dressing room mirror makes for some... interesting views.
  • Private Detective: Escott is one, but he prefers "private agent." Jack is basically one, but in truth he's more like Escott's assistant, if incredibly valuable and experienced.
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: Jack Fleming's friend shoots him with a crossbow in front of several of their enemies, partly to invoke this. However, they didn't realize Jack was a vampire, and since he'd deliberately missed Jack's heart, Jack recovered fairly quickly.
    • Braxton is shot and killed by Gaylen's accomplice, just to prove his boss is serious about forcing Jack to cooperate. Said boss openly admits it could just as well have been some random bystander.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Madison Pruitt's hair looks so much like a toupee that Jack concludes it must be his real hair: a hairpiece would be better-made.
  • Rich Bitch: Several, including some male examples. "Money makes you evil" is practically a theme of the series. The rich, especially those born to it, are capable of astounding feats of selfishness and cruelty, whether it's for further wealth or some other petty desire.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Madison is a rather benign example. Laura turns out to be this too, and it gives her away. Kitty and Marian may also be this, as well as many others.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Alex attempts this in Art in the Blood. Then Jack needs to save him.
    • Jack has done this himself a couple times, with better results. Being dead kind of gives you an edge.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Marza, particularly when anything remotely polite is coming out of her mouth.
  • Scar Survey: Jack's first clues to how he'd died come from examining his own rapidly-healing injuries.
  • Second Love: Jack to Maureen, Bobbi to Jack, Emily to Barrett, Sandra to Alex, Gordy to Adelle.
  • Secret Keeper: The few humans who know Jack is a vampire.
  • Shout-Out: Lots of references to The Shadow, in both radio and written incarnations.
    • Braxton from Lifeblood had a copy of the Necronomicon, implied to be a fake he was conned into buying.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: You get the impression that Jack would be like this to Bobbi if he didn't hold himself back. And that Bobbi would smack him if he did. Also, it's possible that Maureen and Jack were like this.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Ruzzo(s)
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: It's the 1930's, so everybody smokes. While Jack can't inhale, he'll puff on one to be social. He even uses one to make himself seem less scary to scared shitless Van Helsing wannabe.
  • Spoiled Brat: Several of the Rich Bitches, particularly the female ones. And they're all adults.
  • Squick: In-universe, how Slick Morelli and Lucky Lebredo react to discovering that Bobbi had sex with Jack, who they see as a literal walking corpse.
    • Possibly in conjunction with I Love You, Vampire Son, seeing as Jack even refers to siring one's lover as "reproduction" and "making a child."
    • Dugan's sociopathic detachment holds out until he's faced with Hog Bristow's handiwork and Jack's retaliation, at which point even he succumbs to this trope.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Escott hates it when Jack does this, courtesy of his Super Smoke.
  • Strawman Political: Madison Pruit, the diehard communist and idiot. While Jack notes that communism itself isn't a stupid idea, Madison is just about the worst person to have on your side in a political due to how blatantly illogical his arguments are.
  • Super Reflexes: Although not faster than a speeding bullet, Jack's reactions are sped up enough that when he fights normal human thugs, he has plenty of time to outmaneuver and disarm them at will.
  • Super Senses: Specifically Jack's night vision, and heightened hearing.
  • Super Smoke: And invisible smoke to boot! He's basically blind and has trouble hearing while in this form. After he discovers that he can fade gradually and appear transparent, he puts it to hilarious use. See the CMOF above.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The short story "Grave-Robbed" begins with the radio playing Hal Kemp's version of the infamous Gloomy Sunday, just as the client du jour comes in to ask for help with her grieving sister. Lampshaded by Jack, who says that the coincidence annoyed him, especially because the combination unnerved him.
  • Sweat Of Blood: Happens to Jack a couple of times after he's poisoned.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: In The Dark Sleep.
  • Those Two Guys: Marza and Madison.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted by the good guys once in awhile.
  • Token Minority: Shoe Coldfield is this to an extent. He's black, a successful but relatively minor gang boss, and Escott's only friend from his theater days that's around. Almost all other black characters that make an appearance are associates of his, and relatively minor characters. It makes sense though, since Jack is white and the city is segregated by both law and mutual ignorance.
    • Joe James from "Lady Crymsyn" is the Token Homosexual. Malone's gay too, but he contributes more to the plot.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Inverted with Gabriel Kroun, who's a much better person after rising as a vampire.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Bobbi gets one in Lifeblood. Her kidnappers then send the locks to Jack and Marza.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Madison Pruit embodies this trope.
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe; Jack is more in line with modern morals than most people in the 1930's, which his comrades in WWI seemed to take offense to, though he held them off. He credits this with being raised on a farm and his family being too busy working so they can eat to bother teaching their children who to hate, though it could simply be that his parents had the same values, too. He doesn't give a rat's ass about race, and in "Lady Crymsyn," Elrod makes a point of it to show that Jack doesn't care about homosexuality, either. It's also interesting to note that Elrod makes one of the gay characters a villain, or at least a criminal. Granted, at least half the people Jack knows are criminals...
    • For that matter, Jack's willingness to rearrange his own life for the sake of Bobbi's career — and a career that requires her to dress and act sexy for other men's entertainment, no less — is remarkable in an era when a man is expected to bring home the bacon while the woman keeps house. Justified in that they'll never have kids to support, so don't need to worry about homemaking.
  • Vampire Dance: Jack occasionally dances as an excuse to converse with female suspects, but doesn't seem inclined to do so on genuine dates. Likely to be played straight if Bobbi turns, as she's a professional singer who dances in many of her acts.
  • Vampire Detective Series: Subverted, as Jack lacks most of the stereotypical traits of these. He's far too young to inundate the reader with historical flashbacks or angst about his evil past. He spends the first couple books angsting about his sire, but that's because he was in love with her and she's been missing for five years, and at the moment he's a perfectly happy and stable relationship with someone new. He is a Vegetarian Vampire, though.
  • Vampires Love Blondes: Jack to Bobbi.
  • Vapor Wear: Bobbi rarely wears underwear, since it would ruin the lines of her dresses. Jack has no objections.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Jack is one. Human blood isn't addictive or necessary, so there's no reason not to be one. Plus, drinking human blood has replaced sex for him, so he sees the two as completely different. To Jack, human blood is like wine, consumed in small doses for pleasure, while animal blood is like milk, the stuff that actually sustains him.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Wood and free-flowing water.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Federal Agent Merrill Adkins from A Chill in the Blood. Also Braxton and Webber from Lifeblood may qualify, especially the former, though they're not nearly as effective.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: First book starts with Jack waking up dead with no memory how he was killed. Eleven books later, we learn that Kroun had forgotten his entire history upon waking up undead, so has had to investigate both his life and his death.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Word of God has it that Jack's character evolved from her own Wild Mass Guess that the radio-drama character The Shadow must've secretly been a vampire, with powers of invisibility and hypnosis.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: One villain, having seen Jack use one of his powers, deduces that he's a real-life version of H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, not a vampire. Also, most of the characters' ideas about vampires come from Bram Stoker's Dracula and the 1931 movie. Even when they take out the Always Chaotic Evil parts, there's quite a bit they get wrong. See Our Vampires Are Different above.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Jack pulls one in Chill in the Blood. He's trying to stop a gang war between Sullivan and Angela Paco. It's not a Batman Gambit because he's trying to get rid of one of them, and doesn't really care which, as long as they stay out of his hair. One killing the other works too just as long as they stop bothering him.
  • Your Vampires Suck: Some of the implausibilities of fictional vampires are poked fun at, such as asking why garlic would be any defense against a creature that doesn't need to breathe.


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