Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire
“Why do dead men rise up to torment the living?” Captain Henry Baltimore asks the malevolent winged creature. The vampire shakes its head. “It was you called us. All of you, with your war. The roar of your cannons shook us from our quiet graves…. You killers. You berserkers…. You will never be rid of us now.”
When Lord Henry Baltimore awakens the wrath of a vampire on the hellish battlefields of World War I, the world is forever changed. For a virulent plague has been unleashed—a plague that even death cannot end.
Now the lone soldier in an eternal struggle against darkness, Baltimore summons three old friends to a lonely inn—men whose travels and fantastical experiences incline them to fully believe in the evil that is devouring the soul of mankind.
As the men await their old friend, they share their tales of terror and misadventure, and contemplate what part they will play in Baltimore’s timeless battle. Before the night is through, they will learn what is required to banish the plague—and the creature who named Baltimore his nemesis—once and for all.
Though it's sometimes listed as written by either Christopher Golden (Buffy novels, Body of Evidence series) or Mike Mignola (Hellboy comics), Baltimore is
actually a collaboration. Mignola came up with the story, and Golden
wrote the book. There are Mignola illustrations throughout though,
which are well worth the price of admission alone.
Though it started slowly, I came to really enjoy this moody and
atmospheric dark fantasy. (I read this over the course of a few quiet
winter nights beside my crackling fireplace, which set a perfect tone
for it.) I'm reluctant to call this "horror" (although I've coded it as
such) as no part of it was really frightening, but it certainly
concerns vampires and were-beasts and other creatures of the night.
Golden's prose is sometimes too wordy and redundant and you wish he'd
just get on with it, but Mignola's strong storytelling and love of
folktales is evident behind it.
Baltimore is pieced together
as a series of tales told by three men with a common acquaintance--the
titular Lord Baltimore--whose story parallels (loosely) that of Hans
Christian Anderson's Steadfast Tin Soldier. Along the way, each man
recounts his first experience with the supernatural and then his
encounter with Lord Baltimore, a reluctant vampire hunter. The framing
device is sometimes clunky--a little too much "You have another story
to tell us, I can tell" kind of dialog precipitates the stories--but
the adventures are intriguing enough and the characters likable enough
to forgive its few flaws.