The gone-too-soon TV show Moonlight featured a vampire detective named Mick St. John — but in the novel which inspired the TV show, he was named Mick Angel. Trevor Munson's original novel's finally seeing print, and here's an exclusive excerpt.
The saga of Mick Angel, vampire detective, took a lot of strange turns on its way to the screen — according to Wikipedia, at one point it was going to be a movie starring Bruce Willis. And originally, the TV show was going to be called Twilight. The show's showrunner was originally David Greenwalt, co-creator of the Angel that we all know and love from the Buffyverse, until Greenwalt left due to ill health.
Munson told TheBuzzwire:
I liked vampires, and had long thought about writing a vampire story, but only wanted to do it if and when I had a fresh idea for one. After reading some Chandler and rereading Dracula back to back, I suddenly had the idea that it would be cool to create sort of hard-boiled, blood-sucking Phillip Marlowe. A guy who was a product of his time, but was now forced to make his way in a modern world he didn't really get. Once I had that idea, I knew I had to write it. I wrote a novel. Adapted that into a feature movie script. And then got paired up with Ron Koslow my co-creator for the show, and together we created the pilot for the show.
But Trevor Munson's novel was a much darker, more hard-boiled, look at a vampire detective than what finally made its way to the screen — and now, thanks to Titan Books, you can finally see what this vampiric detective saga could have been.
Here's an excerpt from the novel, which comes out February 1:
I go back to the car. I fix. I fire up the engine. I drive. Every store, every street that flashes past holds a memory for me of an earlier day, and as always, I find myself reconciling the landmarks of the ghost-of-L.A.-past with that of the present. The dry-ice inland fog that's come smoking in from the Pacific makes the town look all the more spectral.
I hang a right at Fairfax and head south. In the rearview, a set of constant headlights begins to make me wonder if maybe I'm being tailed. Feeling a nervous tightness form in my chest, I take the next left just to see. The headlights, which belong to an older-model Ford pickup, blow past without so much as a hiccup. My chest loosens. I shake my head and fire up a smoke. Maybe I'm getting paranoid in my old age, but if there's one thing I've learned over the years in this business it's that paranoia pays.
I U-turn and continue down Fairfax and pull into the small lot behind the big Canter's Delicatessen sign. I used to love Canter's back when I could still digest solid food. I would go and eat there after shows way back in the thirties when the deli was still located over in Boyle Heights. I got the pastrami sandwich every time. I liked theirs because it was so lean and rare. I guess I liked things bloody even then.
I get out. I go in, not in search of a pastrami sandwich, but a pay phone. It's bright and busy at this hour. The smell of greasy cooked food washes over me, making my delicate stomach roll uneasily. I swallow hard and make my way over to the phone. Times like this make me rethink my stubborn refusal to adopt a cellular.
I flip my notepad open, drop some change in the slot, and punch up Vin Prince's number. His assistant, a perky skirt by the name of Barbara, picks up. I give a fake name, something Jewish-sounding, and ask to talk with the boss-man, but she tells me he's incommunicado all night. I act all pissed off, telling Babs her boss and me were supposed to get together for drinks to discuss a picture I wrote. I tell her that I'm at the restaurant, that I don't like being stood up, and that if this is how Prince deals with writers I'll just take my script to the next production house down the block because the goddamn town's full of them. Babs gets all flustered-like and explains that Mr. Prince probably just forgot because of some big shindig he's throwing up at his house in the Hills tonight. I ask the address and she tells me before she can think the better of it. Then she asks my name again and I hang up because I can't remember what I told her. Doesn't matter. I found out what I wanted to know. These days this sort of thing is called social engineering. In my day we just called it bullshitting.
I scratch the address down in my pad, cradle the phone, and exit Canter's, leaving the smell of greasy food and my queasiness behind.
Fancy-schmancy is right. Prince's house is a sight to behold. From a parking spot thirty yards up the winding street at the top of Beachwood Canyon I smoke and take in the splendor of the vintage 1920s home. Nestled in under an oak tree canopy, the expansive Spanish tile roof rests on the tired shoulders of two-story bone-white stucco walls. I can tell at first glance it's too good for a Hollywood asshole like Prince. How do I know he's an asshole? Simple. He works in Hollywood.
From my vantage point I watch as a stream of waxed and gleaming Lexus, Limos, Benz, and Beamers pull up to the wrought-iron gate that surrounds the compound. Leaning out of their windows, evening-attired guests flash gilded invites at the guard who in turn presses a button, causing the automatic gate to Frankenstein-lurch open. Once in, the guests pull around the circular flagstone drive, which has been movie-lit to show their luxury automobiles off to best advantage. There, red-vested valets open their doors, and the guests spill out, moving like royalty along the ridiculous red carpet that runs like a tongue from the mouth of the house. Looks like I won't be getting in that-a-way. Sure, I could drive up and parlor trick my way in, but I can't stand the idea of letting those valets put their grubby paws on my gal. She deserves better. I'll have to look for a back entrance.
I make a firefly of my cigarette butt, exit the Roadster, and start along the twist of road back toward the house. When I reach the property, I duck into the California scrub along its perimeter. Set into the side of a steep Hollywood hill, the long rocky slope is slick as ball bearings on black ice beneath my patent leather shoe soles. I have to use the rough metal rungs of the ten-foot high fence just to keep from bobsledding down on my ass.
A deeper fog sleeps curled in the ravine at the base of the property. Through spaced wrought-iron bars and carefully landscaped foliage, I look back up graded hills to see partygoers mingling atop two large redwood decks that hang off the back of the house and around the illuminated pool and spa below. Jazz music dances in the waterlogged night air. It comes from the gazebo set to one side of the pool. Maybe I have misjudged the host. No one who appreciates jazz enough to hire a band can be all bad. I decide to go in and find out firsthand.
Times like this it would be nice if the stories about vampires being able to turn themselves into bats or mist were true. It would certainly make getting in and out of places a whole lot easier. It's all crap though. At least so far as I know. No one gives you an instruction manual when you get turned. But if that sort of thing is possible, I sure as hell don't know how to go about it.
On the other hand, it is true that vampires are exceedingly strong, a fact I think is only partially due to enhanced supernatural strength. From my experience, all of a vampire's senses are greatly heightened, except for one-touch. Dead, bloodless limbs simply cannot experience the same sensitivity to pressure. The result is a disquieting full-body numbness. On the bright side, less nerve endings mean a much higher pain threshold. Where living flesh would give up under the influence of severe pain, dead flesh won't. The less pain you feel, the more you are capable of enduring. The more you can endure, the stronger you are. So there you go.
I decide to get by on brawn. I grab hold of two wrought-iron rungs and pull. One breaks. The other bends. It's enough. I squeeze my gaunt frame through the gap, careful not to snag my best suit. Feeling tired and dizzy at the expended effort, I brush off and climb the tiered green banks of grass to join the party.
I step through coved French doors into a set-decorated room of another era. A better era. My era. Across the room, over the talking heads of the guests who mingle in the dramatic step-down living room, I see a turreted entryway and a spiral staircase leading up. Expensive prints-they can't be originals-cover the walls. Most of the furniture has been moved out of the living room, but I step down into it to get a better look at a tile fireplace with an interesting Mayan motif which is tucked back into one wall. My head swims. The Tropicana, Reesa, Canter's, and now this place. Everywhere I go tonight, I seem to find myself hunting ghosts.
Oblivious to the magic of the place, and the lesser for it, guests mingle and drink under the high barrel ceiling. So far as I can tell, they are a bland gumbo of Hollywood screenwriters, directors, producers, executives and semi-recognizable actors, each of them believing themselves vastly more interesting than they actually are by virtue of working in the movie biz. I shake my head. This is California. Where's a good earthquake or mudslide when you really need one?
I snare a flute of champagne from the tray of a passing cocktail waitress. Sipping it, I walk up to an aging, Botoxed actress who stands gazing sadly out of a nearby picture window on the distant city lights. I only recognize her because she happens to be the daughter of an actress I used to have a bit of a thing for. Her face poisoned into a death's-head grin, I smile, hoping my eyes don't reflect the horror I feel. She smiles back, but then she doesn't really have a choice.
"Loved your last movie," I lie, not because I didn't love it, but because I didn't see it. Though I'm sure I would have hated it if given the chance.
"Oh thank you, that's so nice of you to say." She takes my hand. We shake. "I still can't understand why it went straight to video."
"Well there's no accounting for taste in this town."
If possible, she smiles wider. Okay, enough bullshit. I decide to get to the point before she decides she wants to jump the bones of her last fan on the planet.
"Have you seen our host around anywhere?" I ask, this being my clever way of getting Vin Prince, who I've never seen, pointed out to me. I'm good like that.
"Oh yes, I just saw him. Let's see," she turns and looks over at the makeshift bar that has been set up on the ornate tile near the front door. "There he is at the bar."
I look along the curve of her French-manicured nail to see a guy in a tailored Armani suit hand a drink to a fake-boobed blonde twenty years his junior. I dislike him on sight, and not just because his tan is much too dark for the time of year and he wears sunglasses despite being indoors at night. He does his best to hide it, but I know his type immediately. All the money in the world can't scrub slime off a slug. It takes salt to do that.
"I should probably go say hi," I tell the succubus. "Pleasure talking to you."
"You too," she says, trying to be demure, trying to be her mother. "Why don't you come find me later so we can… get better acquainted."
"I'll do that," I lie.
She smiles as I walk away, but then she doesn't really have
I obstacle course my way across the sunken living room, up the step, and over to the bar where Vin is busy eye-fucking the blonde behind his shades. As I move up behind him I see he stands an inch or two taller than my own six feet. I put my best shit-eater on and clap him on the back a little too hard.
"Vinnie, my man, how's tricks?" I say. I pegged him for the kind of guy who dislikes having his name man-handled and when he turns around I see from his face I was right.
"Vin. The name's Vin."
"Oh yeah, sure, right."
Vin slides the shades down his beak so as to get a better look at me. "I know you?"
"Sure you do. I'm at your party, aren't I?"
"That don't mean I know you. That don't mean shit," he says, and pushes his shades back up, hiding his eyes from my hypnotic gaze. For some reason the trick won't work through sunglasses. Sometimes even regular glasses or contacts screw with the works. Go figure.
"You know me," I assure him. "We go way back."
"Wait. Are you a writer?"
"A writer. A screenwriter I was supposed to meet or some shit like that?"
"Oh, you heard about that?"
"Heard about it? My goddamn assistant called half-shitting-her-panties-scared some homicidal screenwriter she gave my address to was on his way here to put his fountain pen in my eye. Wazzat you?"
"Well, yeah, but I think maybe she got the wrong impression. I'm not a writer. I'm a P.I."
"A private investigator. I've been hired to find Raya Van Cleef. I was hoping maybe you'd give me a few minutes of your time to tell me what you know."
"I don't know shit. How's that? It's just like I told the fuckin' cops-she was here, then she left, and I ain't talked to her since. There. Conversation over. Now hows-about you get outa my fuckin' house, seein' as you wasn't invited in the first fuckin' place?"
The smell of his lie fills my nose. "Be happy to. Right after you answer a couple of questions for me."
Vin's grin is an ugly thing to behold. "Here, walk with me over here a sec," he says to me.
Turning to the blonde, who looks like her brain automatically goes into screen-saver mode when no one's punching her keys, he says, "We'll be right back, baby. You stay here."
The blonde nods obediently and my new pal throws a knotty arm around my shoulder and guides me over to a more private location under a lighted Dali print.
"All right, I'm gonna give it to you straight, just so's we're real clear," he tells me.
"Oh good. I'd like that."
"I thought you would, so here it is. This is a big night for me. I got a lot of industry friends here. Important people-unlike you. And the last thing I want is for any of them to get the idea that I'm some kinda uncivilized brute because I had to beat the livin' Christ outa some investigator who crashed my fuckin' party. It wouldn't look good. It's not how things are done in Hollywood. It'd be almost as bad for my business as it would be for your face. You with me?"
"I'm with ya," I say.
"Good. Okay, so in an attempt to find an amenable resolution-a compromise if you will-here's my proposition. I'm gonna go upstairs and get a blowjob from that fine young piece a ass right over there. You can stick around, get a fresh drink, make nice, whatever. But when that drink's gone, you're gone. 'Cuz if I come back down here after my dick-suck and I still see you standin' here smellin' up the place, I'm gonna throw caution to the wind and fuck you all up regardless. Capiche?"
It's true what they say about a vampire being unable to turn or use his powers on a victim in their own home unless invited in. I don't know why it works that way, or who makes the rules, but that's how it is. I came uninvited, but Vin had just changed all that-"stick around" is all it takes. Now all bets are off.
"Sorry," I say, looking past the twin monster reflections that stare back at me from the tinted glass of his Ray-Bans. "I don't speak wop."
Vin's ugly grin goes on a starvation diet, getting thinner and whiter and uglier, like an anorexic chick. For a second I think he's going to swing at me, but to his credit, he maintains control. It takes everything he has, but he does it.
"I almost hope you're here when I come back. I really do," he says backing away and straightening his tie. "It might be worth it to have you here. But that's your call."
With this, he turns and goes back to the sex-bot blonde, who immediately comes out of sleeper mode and begins to purr and cling according to the dictates of her programming. I watch Vin guide her up the spiral staircase and disappear above.
I light a smoke, ignoring indignant stares from the health-conscious Hollywood set. A too-skinny brunette with wannabe actress written all over her takes notice and drifts over.
"That looks really good," she tells me. "You have an extra?"
I shake one out, light it for her.
"Thanks," she blows smoke. "I'm supposed to've quit. These things'll kill ya, y'know?"
"It's okay," I say. "I'm already dead."
She laughs. She thinks I'm joking. I let her keep thinking it.
"You're funny." There's nothing there for me so I just nod and smile.
"So what d'ya do for a living?"
"I salt slugs," I say, sizzling my own cigarette out in the last gulp of champagne at the bottom of my flute. "Excuse me."
I head upstairs. The hall is long and dark. Ornate Persian rugs hang from the walls. I try two oak doors, which open into empty bedrooms. Then I decide to see what's behind door number three.
What's behind it is a tastefully decorated room complete with a Juliet balcony, all-natural hardwood floors, an antique maple bureau, and a large four post canopy bed, where-true to his word-my new friend is playing bob-for-cock with the blonde. Both are so involved in what she's doing, they don't hear me come in.
I drift over to the bed where the dame, black cocktail dress in a flat-tire ring around her taut abs, kneels on the floor. I bend. I grab her by the elbow and pull. Her swollen lips come off Vin's small purple pecker with a slobbery-suctiony pop as I tug her to her feet and set her in motion.
"Let's go, doll. Me and Vinnie here need to talk."
"Hey," she says in protest, wiping at the drool that slimes her chin.
Behind the glasses, Vin's eyes snap open angry-like. "What the fuck?"
Seeing me there, a look of cagey fear crosses his face, but it doesn't last. Rage and humiliation set in and he lunges off the bed at me, his dick moving up and down like a tiny diving board.
What he says next is hard to decipher because I've stopped his forward momentum at arm's length by grabbing him around the throat and clamping tight on his windpipe, but it sounds something along the lines of "Aack."
"Go on, honey. Get dressed and get out."
"Vin? Are you okay, baby?"
"Aaack," he says again, which I assure her means that he's just fine and he'll be along shortly.
Pulling her dress up and down as needed, she backs from the room, politely closing the door behind her. When she's gone, I yank Vin close so his face is scant inches from mine. I pull off his sunglasses and break them with my free hand. "Now you're gonna answer those questions we talked about. Capiche?"
He nods enthusiastically, even throws in a couple of "Aacks" to show me just how committed he is to the idea. I let him go. He sags like a sack of shit onto the bed. He sucks for air, one hand going to his throat while the other tugs his lipstick-stained shirttail down over his now-limp dick.
"Where'd you learn to do that?" he asks hoarsely. Oddly, he seems a little impressed with me.
"Kindergarten. It was a tough neighborhood."
"Well it was really something. No shit."
"Glad you liked it."
"I gotta tell ya, you're a lot stronger than you look, guy. Hey, you ever think about being in a movie? Guy like you, with your kinda-what's the word-demeanor and physicality, you could do well. I even got a movie in mind."
"No thanks," I say. Most movies are crap these days anyway. I haven't really liked one since black-and-white went out of style.
"No thanks? Whaddya mean? You don't wanna be in a movie? Everyone wants to be in a movie."
"Well lemme tell you about it at least. This movie I've got comin' up, it's about this guy, an ex-special forces operative, real badass who loses his wife and kid-"
That's all I hear of the plot because I've gone back to choking him. "You're not listening, Vinnie. I don't want to be in your two-bit movie. What I do want is to ask you some questions and get some answers in return. And that's all I want. Get me?"
He nods. He gets me.
"All right. I'm gonna let you go, but if anything comes out of your mouth that's anything besides an answer to one of my questions I'm gonna choke you unconscious, bring you around, and start all over. We clear?"
More nods. I let him go. His bagpipe lungs wheeze out an ugly Scottish dirge.
"Whaddya wanna know?" He winces, realizing he has already fucked up, but I let it go.
"Raya. Where is she?"
"I don't know."
Smells like the truth, but it's hard to be sure. The problem with guys like Vin Prince is they lie so damn much there's a constant stink about them.
"Have you heard from her since she left?"
"Two-three weeks ago."
I wait for him to go on. He doesn't.
"What'd she want?"
"I don't remember."
I shake my head, disappointed-like, and make to start choking him again, but he flails backward onto the bed, hands held protectively to his throat.
"Okay, okay, I'll tell ya. I'll tell ya. She wanted-she wanted the number for my dealer."
He shrugs. "I gave it to her."
"You gave a fourteen year-old kid the number for your
"What am I, her daddy? I mean fuck, I was doing a whole lot worse than that by her age."
The mere mention of a fix reminds me that I haven't had one in a while. Alone in the quiet room with Vin, my hunger awakens like a colicky newborn. I find myself staring hard at the swollen, finger-reddened pulse in his neck. It has the same effect on me as that little old bell of Pavlov's.
"What are you lookin' at?"
If Vin hadn't invited me to stay downstairs, he'd have nothing to worry about, but he did. He did, and now I feel the change pushing for release from whatever dark place it resides in. It rushes over me. The sheer intensity is shocking. I try to tell myself that Vin Prince might be a slime-bag-is a slime-bag-but that's not enough to buy him a death sentence. I have rules. Without my rules I'm just another mindless animal, but it's no use. I'm too weak to resist it. Even reminding myself what a bad idea it would be, that the blonde has seen me and knows I'm up here, isn't enough to stop it. I want to change. I want to sink my fangs deep into his throat and drink him dry like a spider does a fly.
Then I think of Reesa. I think of her lovely face and the way she made me feel and the investigation I'm supposed to be conducting on her behalf and somehow, amazingly, unbelievably, I manage to pull back at the very brink. The pain of abortion is hollow and immense. With a sort of growl, I tear my gaze from Vin's throat and back away toward the door, not trusting myself to be any closer.
"Y-You okay, pal?"
"You sure? You looked a little-I dunno-crazy there for a second. No offense," Vin laughs. Not "Ha-ha" but "Oh fuck".
"I said I'm fine," I say, as I wipe beads of perspiration from my brow. I have to focus.
"The girl. Did she call your dealer?"
"I don't know. Don't know, don't fucking care. Fuck her and her skeezebag sister."
I want to tell him he shouldn't talk about a lady like that, but I'm afraid if I open my mouth now what might come out instead is a lot of sharp teeth and murder. I buy some time by focusing on my trembling hands and forcing them to take pad and pen from my pocket.
"Your dealer-what's his name?"
I try to sound in control of myself, but it's a bluff, and a piss-poor one at that. I need to get out of here quick. The hunger has receded, but it isn't gone. I feel it crouched back and coiled to pounce like a tiger lying in wait. Vin seems to sense it. He tells me what I want to know. "Leroy. Leroy Watkins.
Pressing much too hard, I scratch it down. "Give me
Vin gives it to me.
"You better not be jerking me around, Vin. You won't like it if I have to come back."
Time to go.
I leave Vin looking awfully pale for a guy with a year-round tan.