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Saturday, 1 October 2011

the bell tolls : a book for halloween - no 1, Dracula's Guest

Let's start from the beginning, shall we, in this book a day for Halloween, building the chill factor right up to the eve of Samhain, and starting with the biggest bad of them all, the vampire. Michael Sill's compendium of vampire tales resurrects forgotten Victorian authors, but also places the sharp-toothed bloodsucker in a richly-defined historical context. This isn't just fangs for the memories, or even just a backstory to the recent popular culture invasion from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Twilight, but also the backstory to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The stories here paved the creepy churchyard path leading to Stoker's breakthrough novel in 1897, and they're set within a lineage that includes the plague, overcrowded cemeteries and folklore from Europe and beyond. Included are the mythic tales that inspired Byron and Shelley, the sensational real-life stories from the Victorian era that honed the vampire into an aristocratic legend and a lost chapter from Dracula itself as well as plenty of gruesome imagination from the lesser-known vaults of vampire literature. The terror is not from the blood, of which there's far less than you'd expect throughout these tales, but from the ghastly dread, and the biographical details and rigorously researched notes that Sims adds, including how a corpse actually rots, drive that stake home on target.
Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection Of Victorian Vampire Stories, by Michael Sims, is published in paperback by Bloomsbury in October

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