Originally published in 2010, Drew Stepek’s Knuckle Supper is a bloody & violent vampiric tale set in the dirty & grimy streets of Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly. Knuckle Supper is a trans-fixing horror story that has all graphic detail of Clive Barker mixed with the drug-addled realism of Irvine Welsh & sprinkled with Hollywood decadence.
RJ is a vampire but like no vampire you’ve ever heard of before. His survival is not just based on blood but drugs also, in his case heroin. Combine the two together & he is in his element. As head of one of the many gangs that control the L.A drug supply, he is living high. Or as high as a filth-encrusted vampire drug addict can get. Along with is friend, Dez he thinks of little more than where the next fix is coming from.
That is until he meets Bait.
A 12-year old prostitute, RJ spares her life for reasons he doesn’t fully understand & the two bond much to Dez’s frustration.
When RJ & Dez get their hands on a huge supply of heroin meant for one of their rivals (led by the intimidating King Cobra) they decide to secretly sell it on the streets. It’s a risk, one that would get them both killed but they proceed anyway.
If that wasn’t enough, Dez’s jealousy of Bait becomes a bigger problem for RJ creating dissention in the gangs. An incident in RJ’s past hasn’t been forgotten & many see Bait as just another big mistake.
More & more problems mount with Dez just wanting Bait dead & RJ doing everything to protect her while also keeping the heroin secret. However, there is something far worse out there then King Cobra & his gang, something led by the word of God. Something that threatens the existence of all the vampire gangs.
From the first page to the last, Knuckle Supper is a thrilling read that is stuffed with fascinating characters, the horrors of chemical dependency & more blood and violence then most human stomachs can take. These vampires are not squeamish about how they get their blood. Ripping off arms, caving in chest cavities, tearing skulls off…whatever your twisted imagination can conjure up.
It’s extremely violent stuff & Drew Stepek describes it such vivid & colourful detail that you can hear every bone snapping, every death-gurgle, every slurp of blood & every groan as the heroin enters the body.
It never feels like overkill with the violent scenes spread out. It also helps that each one has purpose, this is not just over the top blood & guts for the sake of it!
Ultimately what makes Knuckle Supper such a compelling read though is RJ & Bait. Both products of a city that has chewed them up then spat them back out. RJ can’t even remember a life before vampirism & Bait, well let’s just say she has had it rough.
Their relationship, as it develops is fascinating stuff. Her, a child that has been through such hell & him, a vampire only really caring about his next fix. He doesn’t fully understand himself why he chooses to keep her alive but does anyway & ends up feeling responsible for her, almost like a big brother.
He’s not a good guy, he’s a murderous vampire but his loyalty to her makes him endearing & you want to see him destroy everyone who has ever harmed her.
With a plethora of memorable side characters too, Knuckle Supper is a genuinely brilliant read. Drew Stepek has created a world that you’ll want to know more about, characters that you’ll want to continue reading about & enough violence & gore to put the silliest smile on even the most blood-thirsty of ghouls.
A portion of the profits from the book series go to Children of the Night. A non-profit organization dedicated to getting teenage prostitutes off the streets. Thanks to Drew Stepek for providing us with a copy of Knuckle Supper for this review. You can find out everything you need to know about the author, books & Child of the Night cause over on the Knuckle Supper website. You can also pick up the book &earlier work through Amazon below.
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Knuckle Supper (Drew Stepek)
The Final Score - 9/10