They say life is what happens when you’re making other plans. It is also what happens when you need cash to record a demo, but that isn’t as catchy in a song, or a meme. Al was coasting through life without a plan or a clue when he was offered a way to make quick cash without doing anything illegal, mainly because killing vampires is not technically against any laws. If he agrees he jump starts his musical career, but on the downside he has to combat the forces of undead evil, including their horrific fashion sense. Will Al survive? Will his punk rocker sister Angie finally dump her loser boyfriend? Will Al’s girlfriend come to her senses and dump him? Will Al’s gruff partner Abdiel become “woke”? (depends on your definition) Will the citizens of Philadelphia discover the dark festering evil that lurks in their very city?(other than Eagles fans) Will anyone eat an actual cheesesteak? The only way to find out is to read this book, because there will probably never be a Cliff Notes for this one!
Paul Lubaczewski’s debut novel, I Never Eat…Cheesesteak, is fun as hell. Horror comedy is always hit or miss with me, often because there isn’t a good balance of scares and laughs. As films go, I always hold up Re-Animator as the perfect example of a horror-comedy; laugh out loud funny and horrifyingly gruesome. In literature, I don’t have a go-to example, well, until now.
I’ve only gotten to know Paul in the last several months, but having published one of his short stories (“I Love Livin’ In The City,” which you can find in Kids of the Black Hole; A Punksploitation Anthology) I’ve quickly become a fan and I Never Eat…Cheesesteak is one of my favorite books of the year.
As the above description tells us, this is a vampire novel, but our hero is a blue-collar dude from a Philly neighborhood. A struggling musician with adulthood putting the pressure on to finally do something, so when this vampire hunting gig falls into his life, it’s just a job, a means to an end. Al isn’t “the chosen one.” he’s not “destined to hunt the creatures of the night.” No! He just needs $125 to help pay for his band to record a demo. It’s such a refreshing take on the vampire tale. It’s down to earth, relatable, and really cool. Al isn’t some dark, tortured, Van Helsing knock off. He’s Al from the neighborhood.
Paul has a great voice. He writes as if he’s shooting the shit with you, which makes for a really comfortable and easy read. And as entertaining and funny as the book is, it can get dark. Paul doesn’t pull punches in the horror department, really building the tension especially in the hunts, where anything can happen. He plays with conventions but never lets the narrative become a slave to them.
I Never Eat…Cheesesteak is available now from September Sky Press in paperback and e-book through all the normal channels, but you should order through your local indie shop if you’re lucky enough to have one!