Skip to content

Carry on Screaming – Suckers by Anne Billson (1993) #BookReview

Welcome, ladies, gentlemen and fellow horror lovers, to this month’s Carry on Screaming post. Each month I’ll be reviewing a vintage British horror novels and reflecting on what was happening in both the horror genre and the news in the UK at the time. You can read previous posts in the series by clicking on the ‘Carry on Screaming‘ category.

In the greed-is-good Eighties, The Look is black clothes with white faces, black hair, and mouths painted scarlet, but Dora knows she must stop a takeover by terminally chic vampires.

Title: Suckers | Author: Anne Billson | Publisher: Pan Books | Pub. Year: 1993 | Pages: 320 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Self-purchased | Starred Review: Yes

This is the 27th review I’ve written for Carry on Screaming and it is the first for a book not written by a white man. That’s not on me. As you know, at Sci Fi and Scary we look to amplify diverse voices wherever we can. In 70s and 80s British horror though, the amount of diversity on offer was pretty slimmer than an After Eight mint. That probably isn’t surprising, but obviously it’s a shame. Especially as our first book by a female author is so much fun.

I owned a paperback copy of Suckers in the late 90s, but it was a book that never quite made it to the top of the to read pile. Rediscovering it 20 years later I wish it had, as I think I might have liked it even more if I’d read it in my 20s. It’s a fast-paced, extremely engaging read that switches effortlessly from humorous to horrifying and packs in both contemporary (but still resonant) social commentary and a subtle take on the human condition that is beautifully honest.

Set in early 90s yuppie London, and populated with a cast of media types, it tells the story of the vanquishing of a powerful female vampire and her apparent reappearance a few years later. Like last month’s author, Kim Newman, Anne Billson is also a film reviewer and her knowledge of both the media set and horror cinema shines through.

The protagonist, Dora, is as believable, likeable and sympathetic a lead as you could wish for, even when she is doing truly horrible things. Most notable, though, is the brilliant energy and sense of nihilism that Billson (and Dora) bring to the tale. There are traditional horror elements here, and Billson’s vast knowledge of vampire lore and popular culture is abundantly clear, but at heart this is quite a punky book. Many of Dora’s acts of civil disobedience reminded me of Tyler Darden from the later Fight Club and, at times, the (far cooler) hero of ‘Escape from New York’, Snake Plissken.

Even nearly 3 decades on from its original publication, ‘Suckers’ feels like a fresh take on the vampire legend. It’s more of a satire than a horror novel, but when the blood flows it flows freely and Billson’s love of the genre is evident on every page. It’s a novel with bite and balls and a refreshingly different addition to the Carry on Screaming list of recommended reads.


I’m adopting a slightly different rating system for my Carry on Screaming review, because, let’s face it, vintage horror novels are about more than just the quality of the actual book.

Book: 4 out of 5

Cover: 4 out of 5 – Not typical COS fare, but it suits the book perfectly.

Nastiness: 3 out of 5 – It’s not Shaun Hutson nasty, but Billson writes horror effectively and there are some enjoyably grisly moments.

Sauciness: 2 out of 5 – lots of chat about sex, but not much in the way of people actually doing it.

Cover promise vs delivery: 4 out of 5 – style, humour, yuppies, blood – the book and cover have them all.

Overall Carry on Screaming rating: 17/25

Page break indicator for Sci-Fi & Scary

What else happened in 1993?

1993 saw two events that are still resonating in modern Britain. In July John Major’s Conservative government was almost defeated in the Maastricht bill, which concerned the country’s relationship with the EU. This euro-scepticism in the Tory parts didn’t go away, and successive leader’s inability to effectively tackle the split in the party ultimately led to the Brexit referendum.

Earlier in the year, the black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in London by a gang of white teens in a racially motivated attack. The Metropolitan police force’s half-hearted investigation of the crime led to accusations of institutional racism that still haunt the organisation today. Lawrence’s murder did much to awaken public acknowledgement from racism, but events of 2020 show that there is still a huge mountain to climb here, as in the USA.

Another shocking murder that year, of the toddler James Bulger but two young boys, awakened a lengthy debate in the media around the horror genre. It emerged in the trial that the killers had watched ‘Child’s Play’ not long before they committed their crime and many were quick to link the two events. I remember reading opinion pieces by respected journalists calling for all films with a rating higher than PG to be banned on video. Thankfully this didn’t happen, but it did highlight how quickly people are to jump to easy answers to difficult questions.

In film, it was a year of lesser entries by great directors. Romero released ‘The Dark Half’, Abel Ferrara offered up his ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ remake and Dario Argento’s ‘Trauma’ came out. Aside from that it was a year of pretty weak low budget horror, the most mainstream title being the adaptation of King’s ‘Needful Things’.

It was also a bad year for horror literature. King released ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes’ but that’s the most notable work I could find. Interestingly, there were a lot of horror books for younger readers, with Christopher Pike and RL Stine amongst others releasing work.

Page break indicator for Sci-Fi & Scary

Next up, a book and author I’ve never read.

Published inCarry on ScreamingHorror Book ReviewsStarred Reviews


  1. Thanks for this post. I wasn’t familiar with the book, but it sounds like a great read. I really like the way you pulled this post together. Hugs.

    • Olly_C

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you like the book too if you end up reading it. I’ve read most of Anne Billson’s books and enjoyed them all.

Comments are closed.

©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
%d bloggers like this: