Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Search of Dracula (or vampires) in Novels

One would think that I would choose Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" as my favorite. It is not. It's not even close to my favorite novel about vampires. I don't want to review it or give my reasons, except to say that Dracula (the vampires) was looking for love in all the wrong places. To me he's a tragic hero, and always will be.
Bela Lugosi as Dracula in 1931 film 

A little History on Dracula
To be accurate, Bram Stoker's novel was not the first time someone ever wrote about vampires in fiction. Stoker published other works, which did not garner as much attention as his master work "Dracula", which was published in 1897. It is said that he had read "Carmilla", which was first published in 1972, and obviously did a lot of research on vampires, and on Vlad the Impaler. Add to this nightmares (who among us writers don't have them once in a while that leads us to write them down?), in which he saw a a vampire rising from his tomb. It was also probably suggested that he tell the story from several different characters from another work by Wilkie Collins The Moonstone.

During the time of the publication of Dracula, Stoker actually led a four-hour reading of his book. Stoker (1847-1912), did not die a wealthy man. His wife inherited Stoker's copyrights and had some money coming in from sales. It was in 1921 when Freidrich Wilhelm Murnau made a film version of Dracula, and by altering the names of characters, and changing the setting to Germany and also giving it the title of Nosferatu, he went ahead with it without obtaining copyright permission. Of course Mrs. Stoker sued. The court found in her favor and ordered all copies of the film destroyed (thankfully someone didn't hand over all of them, because one still survives and to this day is considered desirable among collector's of vampire films, since this was the very first one ever made.

In the meantime, a playwright by the name of Hamilton Deane obtained permission to adapt the novel to the stage. The play opened in June of 1924, and eventually opened in London in 1927. It was the 1931 film in which a little known actor by the name of Bela Lugosi who starred in it. Dracula went on to become the most frequently film adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel.

Anne Rice
Interview with the Vampire - The Vampire Chronicles
With her novels, I must say that Anne Rice did all the writing world (of vampire fiction) a favor and changed the whole idea of vampires with one novel.

I must admit to coming across Interview With a Vampire (published in 1976, and became an unexpected success), rather late, but I saw the movie first and finding it intriguing, had to have the book. I found it in a resale shop in Arizona a number of years ago. May I say it is dog-eared to death, and the spine is so creased you can't even read the title.

If you enjoy reading about rogue vampires, or have always wanted to read this one, it's a must read. Some have been unkind to Rice for a number of things about her writings of vampires--and then her complete turn around later on. I'll go on the record as saying that she changed the landscape for those of us struggling with the status quo of how to write vampire fiction--which was pushed under the heading of "horror" for a very long time. Later on, (I'm not sure if it was the 90's?), when vampire fiction finally came under it's own headings of either "paranormal romance" or "urban fantasy", and there's still some that are called "dark horror". There's a few more, but I'm not going to mention them here as they come under the erotica heading, which I'm not a great fan of. Many people objected over the fact that a small child was turned into a vampire in this first book--my mother-in-law among them. As told by 18th century plantation owner Louis Pointe du Lac, in this "interview". For literary aficionados who are into either vampires or Anne Rice, your money will be well spent and the time to read it during the darker October nights while curled up on the sofa with only one light on, and something hot to drink, might be the ticket.

End Note: I enjoyed the film adaptation much better with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Anno Dracula by Mr. Kim Newman

If you are looking for something totally different, something that is off-the-wall, and a mishmash of history (1888), literature (of the Victorian period), and historical figures who happen to be vampires, mix with that the mysterious murders being committed in London of young vampire women somewhat reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, and if you can imagine all these things coming together in one novel, well, there you have Anno Dracula, in a nutshell.

It took me a while to get into this book, as it is written in the flavor of books of that time (1880's), but tongue-in-cheek, with references to things that simply went over my head because I'm not British, and a few historical figures were not familiar to me. It's a rather long tale, but it will keep you guessing as to who the killer is, and how he is caught and so forth. A good read for those of you who like long books (400+ pages). It has its moments. It really is quite silly and unless you have the fortitude for it (sort of like watching the Three Stooges and getting it), I don't suggest you attempt to read this one. However, if you're curious at least check it out at the library first.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

"Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written. The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe--in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

Let me just say that I've saved my favorite read for last.
There are some who may not understand literary work from regular fiction. It's like comparing a latte to coffee. It's in its own category. Someone who does not like literary for it's refinements should not attempt to read such, and then make comment on it. There, I've said my piece on idiots who don't know the difference and are disappointed.

This book came to my attention when I saw a 20-20 show about the author, Elizabeth Kostova. The title of this particular show was called "A Vampire Summer". Apparently her book came out in the summer of 2006 and it was quite a hit. "How did I not know about this one?" I asked while watching the program. I'd never heard of it. I further questioned: "How would you even guess this is a story, not only about vampires, but about Dracula--Vlad the Impaler?" I was dumbfounded and felt lucky enough to have caught the show.

Let's get down to brass tacks first. Kostova is a graduate of Yale, and holds an MFA (yep, I'm writing this with my pinkies extended). She researched this book for 10 years--and believe me the history she dug into was unbelievably rich, absorbing and each and every time I've read this book (4th time now), I feel as though I need to wash my hands of the old library dust I've collected under my nails.

And, just to make you all jealous (as am I), she had a ridiculous advance of $8 million! Did she earn it back? I believe so, in spades.

When I went to find this book in my local book hub, I had to read the first page before I bought it, of course. Oh, boy. The fact that the opening was told by a 16 year old girl who's mother had died when she was young caught me by the neck. I could relate. There were other things about the girl--being shy and recluse among them--that I could relate to, and the fact her father was raising her. I was hooked at the end of the first chapter. I bought my copy in 2006, and every two years or so, I bring it out and read it again.

It is a suspenseful literary novel, and it's like unearthing a civilization, the further you dig, the deeper you want to dig because it just gets more interesting, and the suspense is built upon with every page. It's told from three or four perspectives. I admired the writing style, the period drama, and the way it kept me waiting for them to "find" Dracula, and what they did once they did find him.

If I were to give this a rating it's five 1/2. Out of all the above reads this one's my favorite (or couldn't you tell?)

Well, I hope I've given you some ideas on new pleasurable reading. If you have not heard of some of these, I hope you'll check into them at some point.

Have a great weekend!

Reminder: If you are hoping to be included on this GIVEAWAY read below and do the following:

GIVEAWAY RULES:  leave a comment below, and in previous blog post HERE. 
The person who has most comments on these posts (which will continue into next week up until Oct. 31st) will win their choice of my three ebooks.

And all names will go into a mini contest, all you need do is make a comment on any of these blogs up until the end of the contest! Thank you!

Winner announcement will be on Halloween (Oct 31). 


  1. I've read Stoker's Dracula, but it's been years. And I did read Carmilla as well, which is highly provocative!

    I have read The Historian after it came out. Kostova wove a remarkable tale with that book!

  2. Yeah, me too about Dracula and also Carmilla, William.

  3. I've always meant to read Interview--one of these days I'll get to it! The movie was really quite good. And I really adored The Historian, even gave several copies to friends as gifts :)

  4. I'll admit vampires are not my favorite creatures, but I do read a good creepy vampire novel once in a while. Lynda Hilburn's "The Vampire Shrink," was hard to put down.

  5. All right. Seems I'm not the only one who enjoyed "The Historian".
    Meradeth and Patricia, your names are added to the list of entrants! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  6. I've read Interview with a Vampire and have seen the movie several times. I've seen Bram Stoker's Dracula-the new favorite. The other two, I've never heard of.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  7. Hey, Shelly! Thanks for stopping by...
    Spooky chocolate hugs!


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