Monday, January 15, 2018

The Undead

Another older vampire anthology well worth tracking down, THE UNDEAD (1973; paperback 1976), edited by James Dickie, ranges beyond the familiar, often-reprinted stories and, as the title hints, includes a few pieces that aren't quite traditional vampire tales. The reader encounters some of the usual suspects, such as Stoker's "Dracula's Guest," "For the Blood Is the Life," a haunting portrayal of love beyond the grave by F. Marion Crawford, and "The Room in the Tower," by E. F. Benson. Other works in this volume might be less familiar, even to some devoted vampire fans.

In Manly Wade Wellman's "When It Was Moonlight," Edgar Allan Poe meets a vampire revitalized by moonlight, like Polidori's Lord Ruthven and Varney the Vampire in the penny dreadful novel of that name, a motif seldom used in more recent fiction. "The Canal," by Evelyn Worrell, about a lonely vampire woman trapped on a barge by the power of running water, was adapted for an episode of NIGHT GALLERY. "The Tomb of Sarah," by F. G. Loring, "Revelations in Black," by Carl Jacobi, and "The True Story of a Vampire," by Eric, Count Stenbock (a sympathetic rendering of a vampire unwillingly obsessed with a young boy) offer various other takes on the traditional undead. Lesser known, "The Old Man's Story," by Walter Starkie, tells of a girl seduced and transformed by a vampire in the archetypal Eastern European setting.

Two tales by Clark Ashton Smith are included. "The End of the Story," set in Smith's imaginary French province of Averoigne in the eighteenth century, portrays a lamia lurking in a ruined chateau. "The Death of Ilalotha," taking place in an exotic fantasy kingdom, features a seductive witch who rises from the dead as a demonic predator. I've never seen either H. P. Lovecraft's "The Hound" or Ambrose Bierce's "The Death of Halpin Frayser," both offering unconventional variants on the undead, in any other vampire anthology. Bierce narrates the title character's encounter with the revenant of his over-possessive mother. In "The Hound," a pair of treasure-hunting tomb robbers become the prey of a monstrous creature from the grave.

The book begins with six lines of verse by Yeats, a haunting poem by Richard Wilbur, "The Undead," and an introduction by the editor that gives an overview of vampire folklore and nineteenth-century vampire fiction. All the stories definitely merit the labels of "classic" or "vintage," the most recent dating from 1940 (Wellman's).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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