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Asian Myth Adds New Blood to Vampire Story : Fullerton writer Bentley Little draws on Chinese legends in 'The Summoning,' his fourth horror novel.

July 15, 1993|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fullerton horror writer Bentley Little was discussing vampire legends with his Chinese-American girlfriend one night in 1991 when she told him about a subject he had been unaware: Chinese vampires.

"She told me that instead of crosses, jade repels vampires and instead of garlic, willow branches will do the same," Little recalled. "I thought it was an interesting twist on a rather overdone subject, and I sort of took it from there."

Indeed, his new paperback horror novel, "The Summoning" (Zebra; $4.50), is set in the dusty Arizona town of Rio Verde, where the sheriff discovers a body in an arroyo outside town. This is no ordinary stiff, however: The body is dry, having been purged of all blood and bodily fluids.

Although the sheriff, the state police and even the FBI think it's the work of a serial killer--a case that could be solved by routine investigation--an old Chinese woman knows better.

Decades ago in China, she had seen the creature that fools its victims by taking on seductive guises, and she is well aware of the terror and destruction it thrives upon. As the book jacket teases: "No one in Rio Verde believed in monsters. But a monster had come, thirsting for more than blood . . . and it would not leave until it had drunk its fill."

"The Summoning" is Little's fourth horror novel.

His 1990 book, "The Revelation," won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. (The novel was his 1986 master's project at Cal State Fullerton.) It was followed by "The Mailman" in 1991 and "Death Instinct" in 1992, which he wrote under the pseudonym Phillip Emmons.

A short-story writer for the past decade, Little has had more than 100 stories published in various magazines and anthologies. The most recent are "Llama" in the Pocket Books anthology "Hottest Blood" and "Hard Times" in the Daw anthology "Dracula: Prince of Darkness." He also has stories appearing in the coming anthologies "Shock Rock II," "Hot Blood 4" and "Borderlands 3."

Little, 32, is under contract with Headline Publishing in England, which will publish his first four American novels in hardcover and softcover in Britain, as well as his next two novels. His next novel will be set in Orange County.

Little, who is employed as a technical writer for the city of Costa Mesa, says he writes his fiction nights and on weekends. "It's pretty draining sometimes," he concedes. "But for me, writing novels is almost like entertainment. It's not work."

Despite what he describes as a "shrinking" market for horror novels, Little says he plans to continue writing in his favorite genre.

"I just enjoy it," he says. "I enjoy reading horror novels, and I enjoy watching horror movies. It's kind of a family trait: My mom's a big fan also."

"I guess what appeals to me," he adds, "is the fact that horror characters usually stick in people's minds.

"English teachers like to talk about archetypes, and they usually use (characters from) Faulkner or Hemingway or someone like that. But I think the real archetypes in literature come from horror or fantastic fiction because very few people can name a single character from the work of William Faulkner, but everybody knows Frankenstein, Dracula and Scrooge from a Dickens ghost story."

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California Riviera. It dishes up recipes for salmon piccata from the Ritz in Newport Beach, pasta with avelino pesto from Matteo's in Corona del Mar, and penne alla Vodka from Antonello's Ristorante in South Coast Plaza Village in Santa Ana.

"The Best of California's Riviera," a new recipe book published by the Newport Press of Newport Beach, contains more than 200 recipes--from appetizers to desserts--from more than 70 fine restaurants in Newport, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Irvine.

The book is a follow-up to "The Best of Newport," which focused solely on recipes from Newport Beach restaurants. Although it was a success, the editors say it became evident that focusing on a single city was too narrow and a disservice to surrounding communities. "Our goal was to design and create a book that reflected a true cross-section of the dining experience in this area," they said of the new one.

For further information, call (714) 645-7540.

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Book Donation. Orphan Press of Corona del Mar is donating 500 copies of "Ladies & Gentle Men: Women Sharing With Women About the Art of Relating to Men" to women's shelters and recovery homes throughout Orange County. The donation will be accompanied by a talk by author Christine Gustafson. For more information, nonprofit shelters and recovery homes may call (714) 723-1334.

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