Weapon of Choice

In any action-oriented story, even Action Horror, the major characters’ weapons can and should be an important thematic element.  Shaun of the Dead’s cricket bat was both obviously improvised and iconically British.  Rick Grimes’s chrome Colt Python revolver sets him apart visually as both an old-school lawman and a traditional red-blooded American male.  Roland Deschain’s revolvers, their barrels forged from shards of Excalibur itself, identified him as not only an heir to Clint Eastwood’s man with no name, but to the knights of the round table itself (and, of course, Robert Browning’s knight, also named Roland, from his poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came), and through these knightly roots show the sacred quest he is undertaking (hopefully by now everyone knows that Roland Deschain is the gunslinger from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  If not, stop reading this, go read The Gunslinger, and come back).

I’ve tried to continue this trend in my Blood Oath novels.  Ramsey Duvall, a vampire who was once a Musketeer under King Louis XIV, carries a rapier-blade sword cane and a hidden dagger, allowing him to fight much as he did when he was mortal.  So does D’Anton, a French-revolution era duelist, as sharp and thin as his blade.  Greta, the Viking woman, and Harold, an ancient Saxon warrior, both wield axes, befitting their muscular, untamed demeanor.  Some vampires even use guns; a gunslinger from the old west still has her revolvers, but the bullets are silver-tipped, and even they aren’t that effective.  Christie, a big man, formerly of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, carries a Maxim machinegun at one point, a weapon designed to be mounted on a tripod and fired by a crew of mortals.

But these are all secondary characters.  Most of the weapon choices just reflect their personality, and almost serve as visual flair.  The real question is, what does Benedict carry, and what does it say about him?

When the novel starts, Benedict has only one of the three weapons that would become his signature.  His first weapon is a heavy machete, like the ones used to cut sugar cane or bamboo.  It’s short, so it’s easier to conceal than a sword, it’s heavy, so it has the force to sever a head, and, thematically, it’s ugly.  Machetes are about as unromantic as you get.  Swords romanticize violence, making it seem like something from an Errol Flynn movie.  Even in relatively gritty movies like Highlander, swordsmanship still paints the character in a romantic light.  Swords are elegant, often beautiful, and remind us of a romanticized time (we probably all know the quote from Star Wars).  To date, I have never heard anyone romanticize a machete.

Benedict also carries two double-barreled sawed-off shotguns, which, at close range, create a big enough path of destruction to kill most vampires with a direct head shot, and slow many vampires down with a more prosaic torso shot.  Lacking superhuman speed, strength, and other powers, Benedict needs every advantage he can get.  He even carries at Tommygun at one point, but the ammunition proves too weak to be really effective against vampires.  He eventually replaces the sawed-off shotguns with a pair of double-barreled .45-70 pistols, a round that killed many buffalo in the 19th century.  These guns are engraved with silver ravens, and called “Memory” and “Thought,” which has personal significance to Benedict.  Large gunshot wounds are similarly not romantic.

The choice of coarse, heavy weapons that carry no hint of romanticism was intentional.  Part of my goal with this ongoing story is to de-romanticize the violence.  Sometimes, the violence is necessary.  Not always.  Sometimes, violence protects the innocent and weak from predators and tyrants.  But it never does so cheaply, prettily, or innocently.  And that de-romanticization is why I can, in good faith, call my work Action Horror, instead of Action Adventure: violence is by its nature horrific, and I try to remain faithful to that truth as I write.


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