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Knuckle Balled

Drew Stepek’s Knuckle Balled is a rollicking, rough-edged vampire action novel that hits hard and never lets up

Knuckle Balled

The sequel to 2013’s Knuck­le Sup­per, Drew Stepek’s Knuck­le Balled con­tin­ues the epic and bloody sto­ry of RJ, a hero­in-addict­ed vam­pire who must fight to stay alive among war­ring gangs in Austin, Texas. Teamed up with his part­ner Eldritch and look­ing after a young can­cer-sur­vivor named Pin­ball, RJ sur­vives innu­mer­able scrapes through­out the nov­el, with each pass­ing bat­tle grow­ing in inten­si­ty and blood­shed.

The fun of Knuck­le Balled is its gonzo-styled, adren­a­line-fueled nar­ra­tive and total­ly over-the-top sequences of vio­lence; the writ­ing is cin­e­mat­ic and col­or­ful, the dia­logue often fun­ny and sar­cas­tic, and the char­ac­ter­i­za­tions vivid and unique.

There are no refined or sophis­ti­cat­ed vam­pires here, and there are lit­tle dis­tinc­tions between “good” and “evil.” Even while rec­og­niz­ing his own abil­i­ty to be a decent per­son, RJ is dri­ven by his need for blood and drugs, an inter­est­ing spin on the genre that makes for a strong, con­flict­ed pro­tag­o­nist.

Drew Stepek

Author Drew Ste­pek

While attempt­ing to get Pin­ball to safe­ty, vam­pires RJ and Eldritch tra­verse down a num­ber of dif­fer­ent avenues; read­ers look­ing for a con­densed, tight­ly-woven nar­ra­tive might ini­tial­ly be dis­tract­ed by the var­i­ous “branch­es” the sto­ry takes (and with­out ques­tion read­ers should tack­le Knuck­le Sup­per first).

Ste­pek is clear­ly hav­ing a blast build­ing this mani­a­cal and depraved world; rather than hav­ing RJ and his crew fit into neat lit­tle plot arcs, the author immers­es them in chaos, bru­tal action, and unex­pect­ed events with every turn of the page. And while RJ’s inner voice con­stant­ly taunts him to find and inject hero­in at any cost, the character’s drug use is any­thing but glam­orous.

Knuck­le Balled is grimy, grit­ty work, a Tech­ni­col­or night­mare of addic­tion, exposed vis­cera, and death.

Knuckle Balled

While some sequences stretch on for a lit­tle bit too long and the dia­logue occa­sion­al­ly doesn’t ring true, Ste­pek nev­er aban­dons his wild vision, and it’s the blood-drenched, gun-tot­ing unpre­dictabil­i­ty of the nov­el that makes it such fun to read.

Fans of hor­ror fic­tion and lit­er­a­ture in gen­er­al know what to expect when read­ing most novels–the pro­tag­o­nist will under­go some change of heart, some trans­for­ma­tion from “this” to “that.” While RJ does come to cer­tain real­iza­tions through­out the course of the sto­ry, he nev­er makes apolo­gies for his man­ic behav­ior or for his drug addic­tion.

It’s a bold move on the author’s part, and the choice to keep RJ alive and kick­ing some­where in this mid­dle ground between “hero” and “anti-hero” imbues the nov­el with an under­cur­rent of exis­ten­tial dread and decay. Even as the book reach­es its pumped-up cli­max (but with clear­ly the promise of more to come), there is the dark sug­ges­tion that ulti­mate­ly all of the char­ac­ters will pay a dead­ly price–including RJ and the vamps clos­est to him.

Unapolo­getic and ram­bling and hyper­ki­net­ic and gory, Drew Stepek’s Knuck­le Balled is for hor­ror fans ready to get sucked into an explo­sive world of graph­ic vio­lence and undead deprav­i­ty. A cel­e­bra­tion of vam­pire hor­ror and a total rejec­tion of the more recent trend of pre­sent­ing blood­suck­ing ghouls in a roman­tic light, Knuck­le Balled is one punch in the face that actu­al­ly feels good.

Click here to order your paperback copy or kindle download of Knuckle Supper so you can get acquainted with the series before Knuckle Balled is released on Thanksgiving Day (along with the third edition of Knuckle Supper). 

Knuckle Supper

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1 Comment

1 Record

  1. on September 19, 2017 at 11:19 pm
    David F. Stepek wrote:

    Con­grat­u­la­tions, son. I hope it’s a big hit! I’ll just knock­le under and buy a copy, myself. Love, Dad


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