AN ENQUIRY INTO THE EXISTENCE OF VAMPIRES (1974), by Marc Lovell, is an odd, undeservedly forgotten short novel whose protagonist, Peter Manfield, travels from his native Canada to investigate rumors of vampires in a Yorkshire village, Shaply. Posing as a bird watcher, he becomes involved with a local woman. On a visit to a wealthy estate, he finds in the mansion’s library a copy of a book called AN ENQUIRY INTO THE EXISTENCE OF VAMPIRES. Strange things begin to happen, building suspense in a quiet, understated style. Peter crosses paths with a girl who seems to have suffered a vampire attack, though of course the Shaply police scoff at the idea. In flashbacks, we learn that after the death of Peter’s father, his brother Henry started acting strangely and talking about vampires.
The book found by Peter reveals vampirism to be a hereditary disease. Vampires aren’t vulnerable to sunlight, they can be killed in the same way as anyone else, and their only paranormal gift is the ability to hypnotize victims into a semi-somnolent condition. The average vampire feeds about once a week and leaves the victim with no permanent harm. Only a few renegades kill their prey. Peter is already familiar with this theory, having read the monograph often enough to know it “so well he could have quoted it verbatim.” He’s reading it in search of marginal notes or other indications of who else might have studied it and how they reacted. A flashback to a violent confrontation between Peter and Henry confirms the reader’s suspicion that vampirism runs in their family. A secret witchcraft coven in Shaply and a twist ending complete the plot. The novel’s gradual revelation of Peter’s background and his true motive for coming to England in search of vampire cases fascinated me when I first read the book, and I still think the story holds up to comparison with better known works in the genre.
Margaret L. Carter