Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Rivals of Dracula

From the title of Michel Parry's anthology THE RIVALS OF DRACULA (1977), one would expect a compilation of stories that preceded or were roughly contemporary with Stoker's DRACULA. Instead, many of the dozen stories in this book come from the twentieth-century pulp fiction era or later. Still, it's well worth reading (Amazon has plenty of used copies). The only standard anthology piece is M. R. James's "Count Magnus"; most of the other tales may be unfamiliar to the average reader. "The Mysterious Stranger" (1860), an anonymous story set in a Carpathian castle, includes all the elements of a classic Gothic horror thriller, and its vampire may have influenced Stoker's portrayal of Count Dracula. The other pre-twentieth-century piece, "The Story of Baelbrow" (1898), by E. and H. Heron, features an occult detective who exposes a vampire lurking in a reputedly haunted house.

Stories from the golden age of the pulps, all but one first published in WEIRD TALES, include: "The Guardian of the Cemetery," by Jean Ray; "The Vampire of Kaldenstein," by Frederick Cowles; "The Horror Undying," by Manly Wade Wellman; "The Bat Is My Brother," by Robert Bloch; and "The Undead Die" by E. Everett Evans. Evans's story is unusual for its time in taking a sympathetic view of its vampire protagonists, a husband and wife transformed against their will, who avoid feeding on human victims and want only freedom from their undead curse.

From the period closer to the anthology's publication date, Parry includes stories by Ramsey Campbell, David A. Drake, Steven Utley, and Charles Beaumont. All these are quite horrific except for Beaumont's "Blood Brother," a humorous short piece first published in PLAYBOY, in which a recently converted vampire complains of his plight to a psychiatrist. (Among other problems, sleeping on dirt in a coffin makes a mess of his clothes, and he had to buy a cemetery plot to get his "native earth" from.)

The stories appear in no particular order; I would have arranged them chronologically. The book includes a short checklist of apparently randomly chosen "Further Rivals of Dracula," again not listed in any comprehensible order (neither chronologically nor alphabetically). The ten-page filmography, "Vampires of the Silver Screen," alphabetical by title, covers much more ground and includes brief annotations.

If you're a fan of vintage vampire fiction, you may want to pick up a copy of this anthology.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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