When I first read DRACULA, at the age of twelve, I wondered how the Count felt about all those incidents in which he was portrayed as the villain. Fred Saberhagen’s THE DRACULA TAPE (1975) was the book I’d always wanted to write. Count Dracula tells his side of the story on the tape recorder of a car belonging to a descendant of Jonathan and Mina Harker. According to Dracula, he never intended any harm to Jonathan during the latter’s stay at the castle. Like most vampires, the Count lives mainly on animal blood; drinking human blood is an erotic experience. His encounters with both Lucy and Mina were completely consensual. He didn’t cause Lucy’s death. That ignorant fanatic Van Helsing did, by transfusing her with blood from four different men several years before the discovery of blood types. Oh, and that stuff about crosses and holy wafers? Dracula still considers himself a Catholic, even if not a very good one; he retreats from holy objects partly to maintain the illusion of their effectiveness and partly to avoid desecrating them with his enemies’ blood.
Saberhagen plays fair. Aside from fudging the date of Mina’s pregnancy, he stays faithful to all the “facts” of Bram Stoker’s novel. It becomes a different story through the Count’s interpretation of the facts. Intelligent, witty, and occasionally sensual, THE DRACULA TAPE definitely ranks as one of the top vampire novels of its decade, if not of the twentieth century. It has several sequels, of varying quality. For me, the best of the later books is the second in the series, THE HOLMES-DRACULA FILE (1978). Told in the first person alternately by Dracula and Dr. Watson, it’s effective and memorable as both a vampire novel and a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. (Clearly superior, in my opinion, to Loren D. Estleman’s SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. DRACULA, published in the same year.)
THE DRACULA TAPE predates that more famous novel of a vampire’s tape-recorded apologia by a year and deserves to be equally recognized.