Friday, May 04, 2012

A Book With Teeth

Wednesday night at the comic book store I picked up the IDW anthology In the Shadow of Dracula. This is a collection of mostly Victorian era vampire stories, some of which preceded the novel Dracula and some which followed. You'll find some well known horror classics here like J. Sheridan Le fanu's Carmilla, John Polodori's The Vampyre, F. Marion Crawford's For the Blood is the Life, and M.R. James' Count Magnus. But the book also contains a slew of stories that I not only hadn't read, but in several cases had never heard of. I'm not done with the volume yet, but stand outs so far are The Family of the Vourdalak by Alexi Tolstoy (1839) and The Vampire Maid (1890) by Hume Nesbit. Vourdalak is particularly chilling, building gradually to a nightmarish climax. What's great about these 22 stories is that most of them are free of the influence of Stoker's Dracula. We sometimes forget what a major influence Stoker was on all the vampire stories to follow his. In fact the book's editor, Leslie S. Klinger, shows which books probably were the influences on Stoker's take on vampires. Klinger's introduction and notes offer a fascinating history of the blood suckers in literature. Clear of the influence of Dracula, these vampires have different powers, different motivations and different weaknesses. But make no mistake. There are no sparkly, happy, shiny vampires here. These are stories with teeth. I see from a little internet research that Klinger has edited a similar volume, In the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes, (You know I gotta have that one.) and he tells me by email that a new book is on the way, In The Shadow of Poe. Also a must have. Anyway, I highly recommend In the Shadow of Dracula to fans of horror fiction. even if you, like me, generally have little interest in vampires, this one is worth your time.

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