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Joyce Carol Oates combines vampires and history in The Accursed, nails it

Cover of Joyce Carol Oates' novel
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The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

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Prolific powerhouse Joyce Carol Oates has been writing some of this country's greatest fiction longer than I've been alive, almost always with a sinister twist that probes into not only her characters' psyches, but your own. With her latest release, the heavy-duty The Accursed, Oates returns to historical fiction (a familiar platform for her talent) with that Gothic flare she's known so well for. With real-life historical figures popping up as characters in the plot alongside the victims and vicious players of Oates's creation, this horror history haunt you from the page.

The Accursed is a big, hulking Gothic novel, complete with fair maidens, mansions, slimy scoundrels, a pinch of supernatural horror and, yes, vampires. The novel doesn't have a clear protagonist--it centers around an exclusive community in Princeton in the early 20th century, but shifts focus frequently. The Slade family falls victim most to the protagonist, best known as The Curse. Debutante beauty Annabel falls prey to the creepy Axson Mayte on her wedding day, to return later in the novel and cause more ruckus.

The `elements of The Accursed make just as compelling reading as the Gothic and horror aspects. Literary nerds will love seeing Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair and Jack London appear in all their glory. Those with political passions will thrill at seeing a pre-White House Woodrow Wilson as the president of Princeton University. an aging Grover Cleveland's hysterical hallucination is a brilliant intersection of historical fiction and Gothic writing.

Spooky and sprawling, The Accursed is another shining example of the fantastic talent of Joyce Carol Oates. Thick, but readable. Literary, yet approachable. Oates, thought writing about something as over-done as vampires, manages to breathe new undead life into her Gothic masterpiece. Cleverly by writing about her vampires as little as possible.

You can find The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates at your local chain bookstore, online or at an independent bookstore near you (click here for a list). You can also download the eBook to your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other reading device.