Vampires John Steakley only published two relatively obscure novels in his life. Even before Steakley passed away in from liver cancer he had faded from public view, with only a few projects like Armor II in the pipe. Steakley himself led an uneventful life. After attaining a BA in English from Southern Methodist University he made his way to Hollywood, wrote several unmade films and script doctored projects he could never discuss.
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Vampires John Steakley only published two relatively obscure novels in his life. Even before Steakley passed away in from liver cancer he had faded from public view, with only a few projects like Armor II in the pipe. Steakley himself led an uneventful life. After attaining a BA in English from Southern Methodist University he made his way to Hollywood, wrote several unmade films and script doctored projects he could never discuss. This proved demoralizing and he returned to Texas.
He spent time on the set of Vampires but reportedly butted heads with Carpenter, who was battling with the studio over budget cuts. None of this came to pass, although he did release excerpts of Armor II online excerpts that are now almost impossible to find. Steakley has extremely readable prose with crackling action scenes and hilarious gallows humor.
At the start, Felix is a "greener", a new recruit about to do his first drop into battle as a scout. The planet is Banshee, a desolate wasteland, and the initial battle is a disaster with only Felix surviving. The new lead is Jack Crow, a space pirate that escapes prison and falls in with a motley crew aiming to heist a research colony. Along the way Crow discovers an old suit of armor, and revelations result. Jack Crow is the leader of a group of Vatican-sanctioned vampire hunters.
With the religious angle, these are relatively traditional creatures of the night affected by churches, blessed silver and the sun, and Team Crow has never been able to kill one at night. After a job goes bad with heavy casualties, Crow has to rethink his battle plan, especially since the blood-sucking fiends know his name.
He introduces the idea of silver bullets to his squad and recruits an old buddy from his DEA days, a "gunman" named Felix. Felix, however, is a reluctant warrior and only agrees to help on certain conditions, namely money and a temporary status. The pieces in place, they take the fight to the enemy. The eventual movie adaptation would only take this as a loose framework, with the first 15 minutes staying relatively true to the source material only to veer off in a new direction that included leaving Felix out.
So why reuse the same two characters? This Jack Crow is no other Jack Crow", a nip in the bud for any naysayers. If you were born in a different era, under different circumstances, would you still be you? Felix is the POV character at the start of Armor, with the third-person perspective keeping him at a distance.
This is described as being "Like a robot" by one character, and not coincidentally, "Like a machine. Jack Crow is similarly comparable between the two books. Crow also has little respect for authority and is dismissive of war from the perspective of a draft dodger, his morals and sense of self-preservation having led him to a life of crime. They simply want to beat you up. This lifestyle has a toll, so Crow drinks hard to avoid the memories and the ghosts of his former comrades that haunt his dreams.
He also keeps his living friends closer, and finds a kinship in Felix that only men of war understand. So what was Steakley hoping to accomplish with this repurposing of characters? Felix is eternally plagued by ennui and yet cannot escape the inevitability of his ability to kill.
Jack Crow, as well, is destined to be a roguish scoundrel with a hidden conscience. Not for this planet. It would end for this brave young soul seated beside him. But not well. This is one of the great tragedies. Unlike J. Salinger and Harper Lee whose dearth of output helped build a mystique and appreciation, Steakley is nearly forgotten just five years after his death. He is, however, a fascinating author that was able to approach character from multiple perspectives. Even without the question of Felix and Jack Crow, Steakley has extremely readable prose with crackling action scenes and hilarious gallows humor.
Column by Bart Bishop A professor once told Bart Bishop that all literature is about "sex, death and religion," tainting his mind forever. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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The two sub-plots intersect at the end, with each providing answers and insight into events of the other. The title refers to the nuclear-powered exoskeletons worn by the soldiers, but also references the emotional armor the protagonists maintain to survive. Little is known of him initially but that he suffers from burnout and refuses to die, even when it seems inevitable. When entering into combat, a persona he calls the "Engine" takes over. The Engine makes him into a ruthless killing machine dedicated to keeping him alive at all costs.
Forgotten Authors: Why John Steakley's 'Armor' and 'Vampire$' are Worth Remembering