Praise for Dark Banquet
"I thoroughly enjoyed Bill Schutt's Dark Banquet... Having donated some of myself to most kinds of bloodsuckers during my field research around the world (mercifully with the exception of vampire bats and candiru catfish), I was totally absorbed by this thoroughly charming and scientifically accurate account."
"The combination of Bill Schutt's marvelous writing and Pat Wynne's elegant illustrations makes Dark Banquet --the definitive account of blood feeding in nature-- an unstoppable, exhilarating read. Schutt brings both wisdom and wit to his coverage of fascinating facts about the biology of various creatures and the historical interplay of humans as victims, beneficiaries, and scientists. The book has the perfect balance of enlightenment, humor, and irreverence that is so true to a dedicated field biologist with a keen sense of subjects ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci's fascination with leech locomotion to New York's bedbug problem. Dark Banquet is engrossing without being gross at all!"
- Michael Novacek (Provost and Curator, American Museum of Natural History and author of “Terra: Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem - And The Threats That Now Put It At Risk.")
"What starts out as a horror movie of a book morphs into an entrancing exploration of the living world. Bill Schutt turns whatever fear and disgust you may feel towards nature's vampires into a healthy respect for evolution's power to fill every conceivable niche. And once you're done, you'll be spoiling one dinner party after another retelling Schutt's tales of bats, leeches, and bed bugs."
- Carl Zimmer (author of "Parasite Rex" and "Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life")
"Schutt enthusiastically surveys the world of sanguivores and hematophages. That’s “blood eaters” to the layperson, and if the vampire species doesn’t get you, then the leeches and chiggers and bedbugs and mites and ticks likely will—not unto death, perhaps, but very much unto distraction. And if it’s the candiru that swims its way up your urethra, there to lodge its spines and gorge away, then best of luck in your struggle. Schutt explains the history and metabolism of these unpleasant critters, including their fossil and cultural records. He details the nasty group of diseases they transmit: bubonic plague, rabies, scrub typhus, tick vectors [sic]. Almost worse than these real ailments is delusional parasitosis, “a condition in which the victim believes that tiny biting or bloodsucking creatures are crawling over his or her body.” Though the author enjoys extolling these sensational aspects, at the same time he painlessly—rather like vampire bats, whose nip is rarely felt—introduces scientific material such as ontogeny, phylogeny and heterochrony. He takes critical detours when necessary (“So what is blood, exactly?”) and displays a pleasingly corny sense of humor: “Leeches had always given me the creeps. In fact they were right up there with clowns and televangelists.” Schutt even manages to make a case for their existence as food sources, pollinators and insectivores, not to mention the beneficent use contemporary medicine makes of leeches. Then he dangles a few additional bloodthirsty beasts, including hookworms, assassin bugs and the vampire finch that feeds on the blue-footed booby. Bloodthirsty readers may well find their appetite whetted for more. A natural history of bloodsuckers that shines in gory glory.
- Kirkus Review (Aug. 15, 2008)
"Schutt is a bat biologist who studies the behavior of vampire bats, those famous "blood suckers" of the South American tropics. While studying the three species of vampires, he became interested in the properties of blood itself and of other blood-feeding animals. In a chatty, humorous style, the author first talks of his bat research and the species of vampire bat that will nuzzle its way under a brooding hen to feed on her highly vascularized brood patch. In the second part of the book, Schutt tells of blood itself, its functions in the body and how it is transported by the circulatory system. He describes early medicine and its love of bloodletting, leading to the extensive use of medicinal leeches - a practice that continues today. In the final section, the author introduces us to several other sanguivores, including chiggers, ticks and bedbugs. With great scientific accuracy (backed up by extensive notes and a bibliography), text couched in layman's terms, and a sense of breathless discovery, Schutt will make blood feeding just another choice on the culinary spectrum.
- Booklist (Aug. 2008, Vol. 104, No. 22)
“Dark Banquet is an amazing account of all those creatures that most of us consider really creepy! But author Bill Schutt doesn’t, and actually embraces these critters and their blood-thirsty lifestyles. It’s great to see such wonderful animal research in a reader-friendly form. After finishing the book, you’ll have a lot to discuss at your next dinner party!”
- Jack Hanna, director emeritus, Columbus Zoo, and host of television’s Emmy Award– winning series Into the Wild
"Who would have guessed that blood feeders would be so diverse AND so much fun to read about? As a bat biologist and a Dracula fan, I expected to like this book, but I was amazed by how much I enjoyed the mix of science and story telling in Bill Schutt's "Dark Banquet." His accounts seamlessly blend biology with tales of field adventures, scientific discoveries, myths, and legends. I loved this book (and so did my 14-year old son, who snitched it from me almost as soon as I brought it into the house). What fun!"
- Nancy Simmons (Chairman, Division of Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History)
“Dr. Schutt’s voyage through the world of blood-feeders is alive with humor and the sheer fun of scientific exploration. He may become the literary heir to Stephen Jay Gould–if you can imagine Gould writing after downing twelve cups of coffee sweetened with nitrous oxide.”
- Charles Pellegrino (New York Times Best-selling author of "Dust")
"The subjects of this book--vampire bats, leeches, bed bugs, mites, ticks, and candiru—(the blood-sucking catfish of the Amazon River)—are creatures which most of us want nothing to do with. But Schutt (Biology, C. W. Post College, Long Island) hooks the reader on the first page with a riveting description of how the Trinidadian white-winged vampire bat mimics the behavior of a baby chick in order to nestle under the mother hen and bleed her. Schutt’s hands-on experience with vampire bats, both in the wild and in the lab, makes the chapters on bats particularly engaging. Yet this is a well-rounded exploration of blood feeders from both a biological perspective (habitat, diet, life cycle) and an evolutionary one (how and why obligate blood feeding evolved). Though too much information is conveyed through end-of-page footnotes and the illustrations should have captions, Dark Banquet remains engrossing science. It is no small feat to create an appreciation for organisms which at the very least pester us and at the very worst can kill us. An excellent choice for the high school student considering a science career and for the general reader"
- Library Journal (Cynthia Knight, Aug. 15, 2008) "Writer's Cut"
"In this salmagundi of abstruse science, informative history and engaging personal anecdotes, Schutt’s fascination for “sanguivores” goes a long way towards disarming, while defining, our primal fear of creatures that feed on blood. For all their fearsome reputation, only three of 1100 bat species savor blood, and one of those preys exclusively on chickens [sic]. The author doesn’t make sanguivores entirely cuddly: part two opens with the horrifying theory [sic] that George Washington was likely bled to death by ill-informed doctors and eager leeches [sic] and includes an account of the first dog-to-dog transfusion in 1666 (the first successful human transfusion was in 1901 [sic]). In part three, Schutt surveys other blood-feeders: leeches currently making a comeback in modern medicine, pesky bedbugs and chiggers and potentially lethal mosquitoes and ticks. One oddity (and typically fascinating tidbit from the book) in the sanguivore world is the “vampire finch” of the Galapagos, which Schutt theorizes [sic] is evolving before scientists’ eyes [sic], turning to blood-sipping when other nourishment is in short supply [sic]. Passages that focus on the science can be a slog but are quickly alleviated by sections that are witty and illuminating."
- Publishers Weekly (Aug. 11, 2008)
"I'm often bothered that much of what passes for "nature writing" is too often somber, preachy or pseudo-philosophical, so it's refreshing to read a book that is as entertaining as Bill Schutt's Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood Feeding Creatures. I find myself repeating strange stories from this book way too often. Schutt, a biologist, delves into the evolution and bizarre behaviors of those species that feed on blood. You'll encounter vampire bats that mimic chicks so they can get close to hens (and then feast), the reasons why bed bugs are spreading to a hotel near you and the near-mythic (and exaggerated) feeding habits of the candiru (you'll have to look this one up on your own). My vote for the most fun and best-written "nature book" of the past several years." --Matt Miller (Idaho Nature Notes)
"Blood is the central theme of Bill Schutt's nonfiction book "Dark Banquet, Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures" (Harmony Books, $25. 95). This adult-level book takes a fascinating trip that explores real bloodsuckers that live in the world -- vampire bats, the vampire finch, leeches, ticks, bed bugs and even a species known as vampire fish. Schutt reveals elements of nature that few authors have written about with such vigor and wit. The author is a research associate in mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History."
- David Steinberg (Albuquerque Journal, Oct 26, 2008) From "Tales That Go Boo!".
"With the film version of the book Twilight opening this week, vampire fever seems to have descended on the nation. “Vampy” fiction is in high demand and library hold lists are building. While you wait, why not spend some time learning about real vampires? They are very strange, interesting and often connected to your everyday life.
Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures is an entertaining introduction into the natural history of sanguivores (creatures that consume blood). Author Bill Schutt, a biologist with joint positions at Long Island University and the American Museum of Natural History, seems to have had quite a bit of fun in the process of learning about his topic and he has a lot of knowledge to share. His enthusiasm is contagious!
Dr. Schutt starts out with a bang, beginning with a deliciously thrilling description of field research at it’s finest. Schutt, his wife Janet, and a Trinidadian scientist explore the massive, abandoned ice house at Wallerfield, the former US military base. Seeking vampire bats in the decaying building, Schutt’s evocation of the claustrophobic ruin (and an elevator shaft filled with water and bat guano) are vividly described.
Blood feeding is a hard way to survive and Schutt’s description of various evolutionary hypotheses on how assorted sanguivores may have developed is satisfyingly detailed. Besides the infamous (but misunderstood and endangered) vampire bats, other well-known obligate sanguivorous creatures such as leeches, ticks, fleas are covered. The addition of creatures new to me (such as the “vampire finch” of the Galapagos — primarily a seed-eater) and digressions into the history of medicine (did you know George Washington died after his well-meaning but misinformed team of physicians nearly exsanguinated him?) keep things rolling along.
The professor is a funny fellow, with a lot of amusing anecdotes, funny footnotes and some groaningly-bad puns. His book is far-reaching, though a bit uneven, rambling from the folklore of vampires to the chemical composition of blood, touching on colony collapse disorder and mentioning his many aunts named Rose. Gorgeous illustrations by Patricia J. Wynne accompany the book. Ms. Wynne also provided art for Schutt’s handsome Dark Banquet website, which contains a not-to-be missed collection of Blood Recipes." - MADreads (Books news and reviews from the Madison Public Library)
"Schutt illuminates the bizarre world of sanguivores with the wizened voice of a biologist who's gotten his hands dirty. Not for the blood-squeamish, this book's fascinating chapters range from vampire bat stratagems to how misguided physicians bled George Washington to death. Ticks, mites and blood-sucking fish included." - Orion Magazine (Nov.8)
"Bill Schutt's book is a highly informative and wonderfully entertaining exploration of the natural history of creatures that feed on blood -- vampire bats, leeches, bed bugs, and other fascinating beasties. I couldn't put it down."
- John de Cuevas (Contributing Editor, Harvard Magazine)
"A fascinating tale of bats. Who better than a Ph.D. in zoology who kept his own captive colony of white-winged vampire bats at Cornell to entertain us with tales of various blood sucking creatures?
Most species of bat (there are more than 1,100) don't feed on blood, but the three that do fascinate us in morbid fashion far more than most will admit. If you are so peculiarly inclined, then read on for a rich tale about some very specialized mammals. How do they do it? How do they ever digest the stuff? Are we humans in danger? And, in a little known historical aside, what was it that killed George Washington?
And then there are some other unique blood suckers: the vampire finch of the Galapagos (mostly a curiosity); the devilish little candiru of the Amazon (be careful where you pee during your next eco-adventure!); and the lowly bedbug about whom the doggerel is quite true: "The June bug comes in the month of June; the Mayfly comes in May. The bedbug comes whenever he wants; and he always comes to stay."
Schutt may have a doctorate in zoology but he has also mastered the pen along the way. And, he gets an A+ for his droll sense of humor." - Sidney Barritt (Roanoke Times)
Dark Banquet was named one of the "Best Books of 2008" by Amazon.com.
Library Journal named Dark Banquet "One of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2008".
Barnes and Noble selected Dark Banquet for its 2008 "Discover Great New Writers" program.
Dark Banquet was the featured (and cover) article in Natural History Magazine (Nov. 2008 issue).
Pulitzer Prize winner, Natalie Angier's article on Bill Schutt and Dark Banquet headlined the Science Times section of The New York Times .
Dark Banquet was mentioned on the Front Page of The New York Times (Oct. 21, 2008).
Alice Cooper talked about Dark Banquet during a "Freaky Facts" segment of his internationally syndicated radio show, "Nights with Alice Cooper."
DB garnered great reviews in The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Orion.
Bill Schutt appeared on the Halloween edition of NPR's award-winning "Science Fridays" as well as "Talk of the Nation", "Citiscapes" and "Living on Earth."
Schutt was interviewed by Boyd Matson for "National Geographic Weekend", and appeared on "Quirks and Quarks" for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Please see "Articles and Interviews" for links to all podcasts.