Alek Knight is the antihero protagonist of the popular underground dark fantasy vampire series Slayer (Black Death Books, 2002) written by Karen Koehler. Slayer was first published in 2001 and has never been out of print. Alek and his world have been explored in several sequel novels, including Slayer: Black Miracles and Slayer: Stigmata.
An orphan left on the steps of an orphanage, Alek and his twin sister Debra had a troubled childhood, going through various foster homes before being discovered by the Coven, a secret sect of vampire slayers ordained and controlled by the Vatican. Amadeus, the master slayer of the New York City-based Coven, takes a personal interest in Alek, and after years of mental manipulation forces Alek to take the life of his sister in order to become a completely ordained member. Alek, like most members of the Coven, is a dhampir or half-vampire, who at times has trouble controlling his thirst for blood. Throughout the series, Alek and Amadeus' relationship would facilitate between many different extremes. In many ways, Amadeus is a sensei or father-figure to Alek, but they have sometimes crossed the line into close intimacy and they share a rocky mutual attraction to each other, but whether due to their blood bond or some other precursor has never been sufficiently explored.
Slayer itself takes place years after the death of Debra, when Alek is approached by a female vampire named Teresa desperately searching for a top-secret document previously owned by the Vatican but now lost. The document contains information that could conceivably upset the balance between humans and vampires. Alek takes it upon himself to search for the lost document while simultaneously trying to avoid the Coven at all costs, and in particularly Amadeus, who now considers him a rogue and betrayer to his sect. The document is eventually found hidden in a special niche beneath a carousel, but by the time it's been discovered there has already been a great loss of lives, including all of Alek's former Coven, as well as Teresa herself, who dies feeding him her own blood so he can take revenge on his former master. Finally, Alek and Amadeus are forced to face off over possession of the document and their battle takes place in the form of a Japanese swordfight with the use of sacred katana swords.
The sequel, Slayer: Black Miracles, again casts Alek Knight as the rather put-upon antihero dragged into battle when he'd much rather live in seclusion. The book contains two novellas, "Dragon's Blood", in which Alek faces off against the local New York Yakuza and its vampire emissary, and "Immortal", where Alek must battle a mad scientist at work on genetically modifying vampirekind. Both books were well-received by the underground audience.
Slayer: Stigmata is a self-contained novel and centers on a young girl named Damia who is feared to be the Antichrist by the Vatican. The Roman Catholic Church seeks her capture, but Damia gains Alek's trust and protection, and again he finds himself a wanted enemy of the church he once served. The book introduces readers to several new characters, including The Griever with his Grim Reaper-style scythe, Nostradamus, still alive and living off the blood of a vampire familiar, and Raven, an ancient vampire connected to Amadeus. The story also delves deeply into Amadeus' past and the origins and motivations behind the creation of the Coven, which is ultimately credited to him.
Alek has made two recent appearances in independent short stories. "Coffin Worm" (Horror World, February, 2006), and "The Sign of Six" in the collection The Blackburn & Scarletti Mysteries, Volume I by Karen Koehler. Both stories are considered a part of the Slayerverse canon.
Alek has shown a great aptitude for telepathy and a controlled out-of-body power he can initiate at will, called flight. He may also be capable of a low level of telekinesis, but he has only demonstrated this power in relation to the distance between himself and his sword, which will move toward him on command, sometimes covering great distances. He has a psychic link with those he has shared his blood with, and his power seems to grow in relation to the amount of blood he feeds on. As a dhampir, he has about half the powers and weaknesses of a vampire. He has a slight aversion to direct sunlight, but it will not destroy him. Additionally, he is immortal, can recover from severe wounds (though he is incapacitated, and can probably be killed, by iron weapons), and has not seemingly aged past the age of 33, even though he is well into his fifties by the time the first novel takes place. As an ordained Roman Catholic priest and long-time scholar of many subjects, his strength usually comes from his keen understanding and observation of the world.
As of 2005 the Slayer series is still being written by Karen Koehler. Slayer, and particularly the look and mannerisms of Alek Knight, are credited with beginning the underground-based industrial gothic movement Template:Fact, which is an urban-based subset of the traditional gothic movement with an emphasis on leather street wear and swordfights, and has inspired writers, gamers and vampire fans. It has its own unique fashion, etiquette and language. Slayer dress usually includes a long black Gestapo-style leather coat, called a Great Coat (in the books) or Knight Coat (among fans), chains and other weapons or metal fittings affixed to clothing, a katana sword, a long ponytail of hair, and a shuriken cross worn around the neck on a chain or pinned at the collar like a brooch. A shuriken cross is an amalgamation of a Roman Catholic cross and a Japanese shuriken star.
Slayer is currently being translated and published in various foreign editions, with the Greek language edition scheduled for release in 2007. Further novels and other projects in the franchise, including a comic adaptation, are currently being developed.
- The first drafts of the novel were written in 1992 and subsequently submitted by the author to various publishers over the course of the next nine years. It was finally published in a self-published format for the first time in 2001, and is one of the first U.S. novel series to feature a dhampir protagonist.
- The novel's primary inspiration came from the Vampire Hunter D (1985) movie, based on the novels by Hideyui Kikuchi, though the physical appearance of Alek Knight was inspired by the late actor Brandon Lee as he appeared in The Crow. The main inspiration for Amadeus was late German-Russian actor Klaus Kinski.
- The book was reportedly rejected from almost 90 different publishers, both U.S. based and international, during the period of 1992-2000 and went through one self-published edition before Black Death Books was established by a group of Slayer fans to publish it. Black Death Books has since gone on to publish a number of horror titles by other popular authors.
- Black Death Books holds all U.S. publishing rights to the character of Alek Knight, though not to the Slayerverse as a whole. The character of Alek Knight cannot legally appear in any U.S.-published novel not published by Black Death Books.
- Slayer was first self-published by the author in 2001 by the Xlibris Corporation. Reportedly, less than thirty copies were printed before Black Death Books was established to re-issue the novel in 2002. First self-published editions of Slayer have been bought and sold at online bookshops and auctions for as much as $750,000.00 apiece. Exact estimates of the value of first editions is unknown.
- Alek Knight is often misspelled in reference and reviews as "Alex" Knight, and in the first draft of Slayer was actually named Alex, but since Koehler wrote the first draft in longhand in pencil in a notebook, she found it easier to write "Alek". Subsequently, she renamed the protagonist Alek partway through the story.
- The novel has seen several different editions since its first self-published print run in 2001. Assuming one counts the first run of books, Slayer has therefore been in print since 2001. It has never been out of print since that time.