Monday, March 22, 2010
Ernst Doud is a middle-aged 154-year-old nonhuman painter. He is living quietly in Los Angeles when he receives a cryptic message from a lover he last saw in 1913--when he killed him, or so he had always thought. So begins M. Christian's debut novel, Running Dry. It is unlike any book you have read, and Doud is unlike any hero who has ever graced the pages of a novel. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, with excursions into the surreal outback of Southern California's high desert, Running Dry is a stunningly realized vampire tale of vengeance, loyalty, and the inescapable humanity of the inhuman.
Camel Press (January 31, 2010)
“They say the seas are going to dry up. Blow away.”
“I’ve heard that.”
“The moon, too. It’s going to leave, sail off into the sky. Leave us behind,” Sergio said, swinging his feet off the edge. First the left, then the right, dancing with the heights. “Do you think we’ll see that?”
“We could,” Doud said, arm around Sergio’s shoulders. To reassure him, and to remind himself that this was real, firm, and solid, he tugged him closer.
Mahogany eyes directed at him, Sergio said, “Everyone will get old, turn to dust. But we’ll still be here, won’t we? The earth will be like the desert. No oceans, no water, no one will be alive. But we’ll still be here.” His legs stopped swinging.
“Maybe. Other things could happen, too. You never know for sure. Time changes too much.” Sitting on the toes of rearing elephants, they looked down on the gleaming architecture of Babylon, a plaster movie set brilliantly white from a still-neighborly moon.
Despite their height, Doud wasn't afraid. Not of falling, at least. He knew the elephants Sergio had made for Mr. Griffith, believed in his lover’s craftsmanship, and so implicitly trusted them to carry their weight. He hoped he knew Sergio as well, but he was still quietly grateful for the simple strength of his sculpture. Men were too complex, too unpredictable. Apparent solidity and dependability all too often hid deep flaws. The elephants of Intolerance, though, were wood and plaster.
Dependable wood, trustworthy plaster.
“Ever been to the desert?" Sergio asked unexpectedly. "I went there, with some friends, just after I came here. Hot, like a stove. But I didn’t think of cooking, the kitchen, or food, only that it was like a line across a page, like the start of a drawing. Now, I think of it like the way the world will be. All boiled away -- just hot air and that line.” Drawing his hand across the horizon, he underlined distant Hollywood.
“Too hot and dry for me. But we can go sometime. Both of us.” He didn’t need to say we have lots of time.
“They say the war will end soon. The War to End All Wars -- but that’s not true, eh? We’ll find out, I guess.”
“It’ll end. They always do.” Doud tried to catch his attention again, but the other man refused to look away from the bright lights of the distant city.
“Even our Babylon will be gone. Mr. Griffith’s film is over. They’ll break up my elephants.”
“There’ll be other pictures. You’ll see.”
After a moment of tense silence Sergio's eyes swung back to Doud. “You’ll be there, won’t you?”
“I will,” Doud replied, gently stammering, delicately hesitant. I will. Not a promise, just desire. With it, abrupt reality on the toes of great white elephants: please, let this one work out. I don't want to kill him.
“Kiss me,” Sergio said, closing those dark marble eyes.
And Doud did, a simple kiss on the edge of a Hollywood eternity.
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