I’ve read a lot of Vampire stories. I started with L.J. Smith (the Nightworld series) as a teenager, then worked my way through Anne Rice, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, then on to newer series such as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mysteries, Kim Harrison, I Am Legend, The Dresden Files, a little bit of Anita Blake (I didn’t really get into it), of course the guilty read that is Twilight. There is something eternally (no pun intended) interesting about the Vampire myth, in all its gruesome and mild incarnations. I much prefer the gruesome incarnations – give me Anne Rice and the Dresden Files any day.
I can’t resist popping into the ‘local’ Waterstones bookshop whenever I’m there – 10 minutes away by bus – and last week I decided to treat myself for once (!) and buy a full priced book. I immediately head to the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror sections of bookshops, at least that is always where I start when it comes to book browsing. I’m not fussy – I will eventually make my way through the main section of fiction, but I love to start deep in the genres that I love so much.
This time, I picked up Anno Dracula by Kim Newman – I won’t lie, maybe because on the cover it has an endorsement by Neil Gaiman (‘Compulsory reading…glorious.’). I’m definitely swayed if one of my favourite authors likes a book. The cover is like an old western or gothic poster pinned up on a shabby wall in an unsavoury part of London.
The cover says so much about the book, and I’m really enjoying this romp through the underbelly of London in an alternative version of history where Count Dracula has become the Prince Consort, married to and having turned Queen Victoria, and almost the whole of London is succumbing to the Vampire virus. It basically takes the Jack the Ripper murders, throws in Vampires, a human spy and lots of bloody violence, familiar names from literature and history, and comes out at the other end with something completely different. In fact, its probably one of the best Vampire books I’ve read since I picked up Interview with the Vampire.
The characters are intriguing: you have the voice of Dr John Seward (Jack the Ripper) in some chapters, whilst we also follow the spy, a member of the Diogenes Club, Charles Beauregard in others, and the Vampire Genevieve Dieudonne, an elder not of Dracula’s diseased bloodline (and it is diseased, killing people from the inside out), and a few other characters. The plot is essentially that everyone is looking for Jack the Ripper for their own reasons. Kim Newman has painted vivid characters that leap off the page. I won’t be forgetting this book in a hurry and I’m looking forward to reading the next books in the series.
I’ve taken to reading it after dark (as you do): this is the perfect Autumn/Winter read. Especially around Halloween.
‘This man hates,’ Lestrade continued, ‘hates with a passion. The murders must be committed in a frenzy, yet there’s a coolness to them. He kills out on the street in broad darkness. He doesn’t just butcher, he dissects. And vampires aren’t easy to kill. Our man is not a simple lunatic. He has a reason.’ – Anno Dracula, Kim Newman.