Blood & Sawdust by Jason Ridler

Tough and smart at thirteen-years-old, Malcolm knew the illegal fight game like a pro, making bets and staying alive one day at a time. But nothing prepared him for Milkwood: a fat, ugly bastard who could take a beating like a government mule, but never, ever won. So when Malcolm risks his life to discover Milkwood’s secret, he convinces the fighter to stop being a punching bag and to go for broke in the local tournament. Only problem? A beautiful woman called Lash who needs Milkwood for her own purposes, and a fouler creature on her heels known only as Dizzy Colt. But for Malcolm and Milkwood? Hell, it’s just another day of Blood and Sawdust.
Blood & Sawdust is an original take on the tried and tested vampire fiction. We’re not dealing with forbidden love between humans and vampires here or a lone hunter dealing with a vampire coven but instead it’s a coming of age story about two young men overcoming the trauma of their troubled pasts.

The story focuses on Malcom, a streetwise kid and Milkwood, a fat, ugly underground fighter who is beaten to a pulp every night. After Milkwood saves Malcom’s life from vicious assailants, Malcom learns that that there are in fact more to Milkwood than everyone realise. From this point on Malcom makes it his mission to turn Milkwood around and make him the sort of fighter Malcom knows Milkwood can be. However before Milkwood can become the champion in Malcom’s eyes, Lash, a mysterious lady from Milkwood’s past shows up with a monster in her wake.

What makes this story shine is the friendship between Malcom and Milkwood. Malcom helps Milkwood discover what was missing in his life and Milkwood gives Malcom the strength to face his nightmares. The two of them push each either onwards no matter how dire the circumstances are.
With this novel, Ridler has created two endearing characters that will stay with you long after you’re finished with this story.

The inclusion of underground MMA fights give this story extra intensity and a sense of grittiness. The brutal and gory fight scenes are bound to make you wince as Milkwood takes one bloody beating after another and you will come to root for this underdog.

Ridler writes in an engrossing style that makes his characters on the pages come alive and the depiction of a less than perfect vampire is a refreshing change from the vampire fiction out there at the moment. A highly enjoyable read for anyone who is looking for a vampire novel with a different twist.