This month, instead of discussing a vintage vampire novel, I want to tell you about a nonfiction book, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DRACULA: A PERSONAL JOURNEY AND TRAVEL GUIDE, by Steven P. Unger (World Audience, Inc., 2010). After exploring sites associated with Bram Stoker, the novel DRACULA, and Vlad the Impaler throughout Great Britain and Romania, Unger wrote this combination narrative of his travels and guidebook for Dracula fans who may want to follow in his path. The would-be Dracula tourist will find an abundance of details described from firsthand observation, from Whitby to London, from Vlad's birthplace to the alleged location of his burial. The background information on Stoker, the writing of the novel, and Vlad's life is meticulously accurate as far as I can tell, and the author hardly ever lapses into uncritical acceptance of oft-repeated tales (one exception is the probably apocryphal account of Vlad's dipping bread into his enemies' blood). Unger's lively, conversational writing is stylistically smooth and very readable (and the text is as nearly typo-free as humanly possible, far from a given in today's publishing world). The lavishly illustrated book contains color photos of all the locations the author visited. Having toured some of these places myself, I had fun recognizing landmarks I'd seen in person.
Of special interest is the "Nuts and Bolts" section, with highly specific information on money, transportation, lodging, food, suggested itineraries, and anything else a traveler would need to follow in the footsteps of the author and Dracula, including numerous websites to consult for further help. This part of the book would be especially valuable—in fact, indispensable—for someone who wanted to travel through Romania on his or her own rather than joining a package tour as I did. There was only one tourist attraction I wish Unger had not omitted, Bran Castle. True, it has no valid connection to Vlad or Dracula, but, then, neither do a few of the other sites he photographed and discussed. Centrally located and included on the standard tourist routes, Bran presents a prime example of a well-preserved medieval castle (having been occupied by the Romanian royal family into the early twentieth century), and the huge open-air market next to the parking lot offers all the Dracula-related merchandise, both kitschy and serious, you could ever hope to find, as well as other craft products. I think most Dracula fans would want to visit this attraction, tourist trap though it is, so including it would have been a nice addition to this excellent guidebook. Whether you're a fan of the Count who wants to take a trip like Unger's or just enjoys reading about these fascinating locations, this is the book for you. Priced at $20.00 on Amazon, a bargain considering its numerous illustrations, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DRACULA is an obvious labor of love that anyone planning to undertake a Dracula pilgrimage will want to own.
Margaret L. Carter