“Sometimes I interview as many as three or four people a night if I’m lucky. But it has to be a good story. That’s only fair isn’t it?”
– Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
Daniel is the quintessential noir reporter, stalking strangers in bars for interviews, when we first meet him. He is just a boy looking for something more than the drivel he usually receives from the lips of his conversationalists, seeking out interesting people and then convincing them to spill their lives to him on tape.
And his story is age-old, really.
He has listened to so many of these tales by this point that he’s almost jaded, expecting he won’t hear anything new to him, anything surprising.
Until he meets his first vampire.
In a crummy apartment room on Divisadero Street, Daniel’s life is altered as he listens to Louis’ story; at first disbelieving and then gradually becoming enthralled, until it is all he can think of. He records the interview on his little cassette recorder and is near mesmerised by this sudden shifting in his world. By the time Louis’ story ‘ends’ Daniel is in no doubt as to the sincerity behind it. This is only further verified for him when he tries to push Louis into making him a vampire and is rebuffed violently.
At this point, Daniel has found what all writers seek, evidence that the supernatural exists quite comfortably in this world he has been living in his whole life. And he is not about to let that slide without a fight.
And who would?
He quickly becomes obsessed, tracing deeds and documentation to find the house Louis described Lestat as hiding in. Daniel has convinced himself that Louis spared no details in an effort to subliminally convince Daniel to find Lestat and bring him back out into the modern era. And who’s to say that his deductions aren’t accurate? We have no further accounts in Louis’ own words, so we can’t be certain, but what we do know is that if we were in Daniel’s shoes, only the hardest of cynics amongst us would have been capable of denying the truth behind what we heard and ignoring the truth slapping us across the face.
And so Daniel finds the house, and further evidence that, yes, Lestat was/is there. In a delirious daze, exhilarated and frustrated at the stagnation in his search, Daniel haunts the house on St. Charles Avenue. But, as is to be expected in these situations, his deliberate presence has drawn the attention of those older and less prone to undeserved kindness than Louis.
Armand allows Daniel to stew in the consequences of his actions for a time that feels – to Daniel – as though it cannot be tempered. His mind is too feverish, his body is weak: he has never been particularly prone to taking consideration of it. At this point, Daniel is already bordering on alcoholism and obsessive about what he’s found. Finally he’s released and told to run… With the promise that Armand will be watching him.
The threat is stated quite simply: if Armand loses interest, Daniel will die.
And so Daniel runs for four whole years. All the while his mind is reeling, because he is terrified, but he’s also thoroughly piqued. Daniel wants to be a vampire. He listened to Louis’ story and was not in a state of horror over the details, but intrigued and desperate to transcend, elevate his life, which now feels meaningless and futile. But even though he has a head-start on his pursuer and he should, for all intents and purposes, be able to outrun him during the day, he starts to see Armand wherever he finds himself.
On buses, in restaurants, even in his hotel room in the middle of the night.
Armand stalks Daniel waiting to become jaded, and instead only becomes more fascinated with him. All the while, Daniel is becoming attached to seeing Armand. When he is not around for long periods, there is a sense of abandonment, fear that Armand has lost interest in him.
Finally the realisation dawns on Daniel – Armand has gone past the point of ever feeling inclined to kill him. With an exchange of blood frightfully reminiscent of Armand’s experiences with Marius, he binds Daniel to him and sets about making of him a wealthy man.
Academics have said that the relationship between Daniel and Armand has a clear sado-masochistic undertone to it. I wouldn’t necessarily agree. In any dom/sub relationship, there must be one clear dominant to the submissive. And while Armand is superior to Daniel in every way, controlling his existence right down to when he may sleep and when he must be fully awake, Daniel has the task of mentoring Armand in the modern era. It stands to reason that a ‘teacher’ bares enough responsibility to be seen always as the dominant individual.
But it could just be that Armand allows Daniel to feel dominant.
“Never mind. Just come, Armand. Come. It’s dark and cold in Chicago. And tomorrow night the Vampire Lestat will sing his songs on a San Francisco stage. And something bad is going to happen. This mortal knows.”
– Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned
Daniel, however, is not so easily pacified. And, though he loves Armand, he cannot let the notion of becoming a vampire alone. Compiled into this is the tension in their relationship, Daniel’s history of running – eventually, he finds himself compelled to get away as he is slowly going mad from the company of an immortal lover.
For six years, Daniel periodically runs from the vampire who steadfastly refuses to make him immortal. Daniel cannot see that it is love that is preventing the transformation.
Armand believes that all vampires will eventually come to hate their maker, and he doesn’t want to lose Daniel, who, on the other hand, thinks that it is another one of Armand’s games, that Armand will watch him grow old and die, like he watches everything else, impassively. An unfair assessment, but Daniel is, by this point, being driven mad by the mirage of immortality, which leads to further alcohol abuse, which is slowly leading to the deterioration of his mind and body.
In the first portion of his tale in Queen of the Damned we see him lying on a park bench, freezing, with a cheque for far too much money in his pocket. Being inside Daniel’s mind is like a cave of horror and suspicion. Everything sparks brightly and briefly and is then swallowed by one sad thought, that Armand knows where he is and that he is suffering and won’t come and get him unless he asks for it.
When Armand does choose to make Daniel immortal, it feels (for the first time) as though the reins of ‘dominant’ have slipped to Daniel’s hands. Armand has no option if he wants to keep his lover alive. He can watch him die or give him life.
Daniel’s maker’s predictions were correct in part – it isn’t long before the two part ways, quite possibly because of a lack of patience on both parts. The last we see of Daniel is in Blood and Gold where Marius has taken to ‘caring’ for him, at least to just prevent him from becoming so overwhelmed by something that he forgets to cover himself at sunrise.
From the reader’s first meeting with Daniel it is clear that he is doomed. Anyone chosen by a vampire to listen to a vampire’s story is sure to run into trouble with others, opt for a padded cell if only for security, or run themselves into a pit of what-ifs. For what it’s worth, Daniel’s story is the bitter-sweet option. He got what he wanted, he found what he was looking for, but in all his desire and confusion, he completely overlooked the devotion of Armand for all of it. And his search drove him mad. Of course, he had the colourations to be insanely obsessive in his personality originally, but the catalyst of possible immortality exacerbated what was already there.