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Novel by Ron Goulart (USA) 1975.

First in his Vampirella series, to be followed by On Alien Wings (1975), Deadwalk (1976), Blood Wedding (1976), Deathgame (1976) and Snakegod (1976).

Out in the depths of space is a planet named Drakulon, home to a race of aliens who drink blood to live just as we drink water. Or to be accurate there was a race of aliens... as the planet is dying and Vampirella is the lone survivor of its people. She finds her way to Earth by way of a NASA exploration craft which she crashes somewhere in New England. She is soon taken prisoner by Dr Tyler Westron, a specialist in orthomolecular psychiatry who realises her vampiric tendencies and promises her an unending supply of a blood substitute he has developed for her, in return for sexual favours. But Vampirella soon escapes, realising in the process that Dr Westron is not the real Dr Westron, but actually a 17th century warlock named Ethan Todd who has stayed alive by sacrificing souls as part of the particularly nasty activities of the Cult of Chaos which he also formed. Vampirella destroys the Cult in situ and sets off on a quest to end all activities of the Cult all across the globe. She ends up initially in the nearby town of Feldenville where she teams up with a stage magician named the Great Pendragon. To make life difficult for her, she is being relentlessly pursued by the obsessive Conrad van Helsing, descendant of the van Helsing who wishes to destroy her as revenge for the death of his brother whom Vampirella killed just after crashing on Earth and just before vowing never to drink human blood again; and his handsome son who falls in love with her.

Yes, Ron Goulart manages to cram all of the above into a mere 139 pages, in which he sets the scene for another five volumes of the Vampirella saga, one of those where the vampire is the good guy and the obsessive vampire hunter is the antagonist. And she's pretty cute as well! Goulart is famed (though not famed enough) for being arguably the wackiest writer in science fiction. His many books concerning secret agents with the ability to shapechange into anything at all; secret agents who can become invisible; time-cops; countless robots, androids, mechanised dogs etc., none of which seem to work as they should; numerous wacky cults and organisations never fail to amuse and manage to convey some severely acute social comment in the process. Though he spans genres with the skill of a truly professional hack, his Vampirella novels are the only books that concern themselves with the horror genre. They are not as wildly wacky as his SF novels, but still contain as much in the way of humour, fast action, social comment and down to earth tackiness. As is also usual in his work, the characters are as incredible and as fascinating as any you are ever likely to find anywhere else in literature. The Great Pendragon is the standout here: a decent stage magician with a passion for alcohol and a habit of muttering (usually insults and abuse, always in brackets) during his on-stage monologues and even in his normal speech. A lot of Goulart's books are difficult to come by in this country, but they are always worth it, his Vampirella series included.

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