The Girls with Games of Blood
“Listen to what I tell you, son, every word is true
The sisters haunt the night, and might fight over you
Nothing can steal your soul and stamp it in the mud
Like being the new play-pretty for the girls with the games of blood….”
The old song warns of the beautiful Bolade sisters, Patience and Prudence, whose undying rivalry in love was said to extend even beyond the grave. Unfortunately for Baron Rudolfo Vladimir Zginski, he has never heard of the song. A suave Continental vampire staked to death more than sixty years ago, he’s resurrected in 1975 to stalk the Southern nights of Memphis. Although new to the modern world, he quickly develops a taste for its hot blood, fast women, and high-speed automobiles.
Zginski instantly falls in love with a cherry 1973 Mach 1 Ford Mustang, but the purchase soon brings him into conflict with a legendary redneck sheriff with a short temper and a big baseball bat. Adding to the trouble, Zginski is also equally attracted to, and fascinated by, an enticing undead chanteuse and her equally seductive sister. But this temptation threatens not only his own ageless existence, but that of the small group of modern-day vampires he has grudgingly taken under his wing. Zginski has already escaped limbo once, but can he free himself from the tangled web of the girls who play games of blood?
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I’ve got a lot of patience, baby.
My first Memphis vampire novel, Blood Groove, was dedicated to the memory of Duncan Browne. Browne remains a fairly obscure musical figure, although I hope I’ve nudged a few people toward seeking out his work. But The Girls with Games of Blood is dedicated to one much better known, whose songs helped define the Sixties, even if those songs were performed by other people.
Laura Nyro wrote classics: “Eli’s Coming,” “And When I Die,” “Stoney End,” “Wedding Bell Blues.” And while her versions languished in relative obscurity, cover versions (Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Barbra Streisand, The Fifth Dimension) were enormous hits, insuring both her reputation and her economic security. Safe from the pressures of commercial hitmaking, she created a piano-driven, soul-based body of work that, in its willful difficulty and self-referential symbolism, predated similar performers (most notably Tori Amos) by twenty years. Tragically, she died of ovarian cancer in 1997 at age 49, the same age her mother died of the same disease. In 2012, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce, Fred Goodman describes her thus:
I had written an early draft of Blood Groove just before Goodman’s book came out in 1998, and was toying with the idea of a sequel based on the idea of two girl vampires fighting over Zginski. There was no story yet, and no clear concept of the new characters. But the description in Goodman’s book stuck with me.
I had a passing familiarity with Nyro’s work, but I followed my new obsession where it took me and began listening intently. In the larger sense, it exposed me to a lot of awesome music I might otherwise have missed (does anything evoke a lazy, woozy summer afternoon better than “Stoned Soul Picnic”?). And in the song “When I was a Freeport and You were the Main Drag,” I found this:
Well I’ve got a lot of patience, baby
That’s a lot of patience to lose
Somehow the image from Goodman’s book clicked with this snippet of lyric and created, full-blown in one burst, the character of Patience (as well as providing her onstage catchphrase). She’s not a direct copy of Nyro, of course; in fact, she ultimately has very little in common with her inspiration beyond a basic physical resemblance. But without Laura Nyro, there would be no Patience Bolade. And without Patience, there would be no Girls with Games of Blood.