Sunday, October 15, 2017

Vampires: Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories

VAMPIRES (1987), edited by Alan Ryan, amply fulfills the promise of its subtitle, "Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories." Beginning with Lord Byron's cryptic "Fragment" and John Polidori's "The Vampyre" (the first known vampire story published in English), it includes almost all the classic nineteenth-century stories and the highlights of vintage fiction from the first half of the twentieth century, up through Richard Matheson's "Drink My Blood." Since only one story per author is included, the editor had to choose one each among the many vampire tales written by Matheson, Robert Bloch, M. R. James, and E. F. Benson. He covers the rest of the twentieth century into the 1980s with an excellent selection of widely varied tales. At this point, of course, choices have to be subjective, since there's room to include only a fraction of the "great." As for the two classic Victorian novels, VARNEY THE VAMPYRE is represented by its first chapter and DRACULA by the outtake known as "Dracula's Guest."

Ryan prefaces each story with background information about the author. Two appendices list major vampire films and twentieth-century novels (all of those post-1970 except Matheson's I AM LEGEND and Theodore Sturgeon's SOME OF YOUR BLOOD). The checklist of novels amounts to a representative sample of the best, since presenting all the outstanding book-length vampire fiction from 1970 to the mid-1980s would require an extensive bibliography. What makes this anthology uniquely valuable is that the stories are in chronological order, and the publication dates (or, in the case of "Dracula's Guest," the presumed year of its writing) are given with the titles in the table of contents. For anyone seeking a comprehensive overview of vampire fiction in English, this is THE indispensable book to read.

In case you want to acquire a copy of this volume, it may be easier to find under the title of the second edition, THE PENGUIN BOOK OF VAMPIRE STORIES.

Margaret L. Carter

Explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.