||July 1959: The occasion is the marriage of Vlad Tepes, Count Dracula. The world's vampire elite have gathered in Rome for the union. Vlad's past wives have included Hungarian princesses, baronesses from California, and even Queen Victoria; all marriages were arranged for strategic gain rather than love or passion. Reporter Katherine Reed is in Rome to write about the wedding. At just under a century old, she is considered young among the immortal vampires. Now, someone is killing the elders, some of whom have bloodlines stretching back to the Middle Ages.
In this alternative history, to "be turned" means persecution. From the beginning of the century--when the vampires first emerged from legend into the public eye--through World War II (when Hitler began targeting the immortals) the vampires continued to be a source of fear and fascination. But vampirism still has its joys. To accept immortality means an extraordinary heightening of all the senses, and blood is both sustenance and narcotic, sexually pleasing and simultaneously nourishing.
Judgement of Tears blends horror and humor remarkably well. Semigraphic scenes of bloodsucking and neck biting are interspersed with humorous name-dropping. Among the guests at Vlad's wedding are a black-clad, gloomy couple named Addams, a British spy named Bond, and Orson Wells. Edgar Allan Poe is living as a scriptwriter; since being turned, he hasn't had an original idea. In the end, Judgement of Tears is as much a tale of intrigue as it is a horror novel. The backdrop is an old story of petty politics, set in a world that vampires, zombies, and even Frankenstein-like monsters share with the living. The flashes of wit serve to anchor the story to the real world and provide a connection to 20th-century popular culture. The ending reminds readers that politics prevail--whether for mortals or immortals.