Sunday, December 15, 2019

Vampire Stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Distinguished vampire literature bibliographer Robert Eighteen-Bisang edited this collection, titled simply VAMPIRE STORIES (2009). Sherlock Holmes fans unfamiliar with Doyle's many other works of fiction may enjoy exploring the lesser-known stories in this volume, which does include a few Holmes adventures as well. Eighteen-Bisang provides a short introduction about Doyle, focusing mainly on his friendship with Bram Stoker and occasional annoyance at being famed solely as the creator of the Great Detective. Each tale is followed by a few paragraphs of background and commentary about the story.

Sherlock Holmes's "Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" is here, of course, and after almost a century it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that the alleged vampirism has a natural explanation. The best-known non-Holmes piece is Doyle's classic novella of psychic vampirism, "The Parasite" (1891). Like the later DRACULA, this story explores the mysteries of hypnotism, the science of which was relatively new and esoteric at the time. The journal of the narrator, Professor Gilroy, reveals how he gradually falls under the spell of an unattractive yet strangely fascinating woman named Miss Penclosa, who not only drains his energy but forces him to perform humiliating and even criminal acts. According to the Gilroy, "She creeps into my form as the hermit crab creeps into the whelk's shell." He ultimately escapes her control by sheer luck.

Other energy vampire tales in this collection include "The Captain of the Pole-Star," "John Barrington Cowles," and "The Winning Shot." "The Ring of Thoth" stars the resurrected mummy of an Egyptian priest, granted immortality by a magical elixir. "The American's Tale" features a blood-drinking plant similar to H. G. Wells's strange orchid and other predatory plants in late-19th-century fiction. "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client" and "The Adventure of the Three Gables" impress me as vampiric only in a metaphorical sense, although Eighteen-Bisang's afterword to the former lists a longish catalog of intriguing parallels to DRACULA. The editor pads out the collection with a concluding story not written by Doyle, a Holmes pastiche, "The Case of the Vanished Vampire," by Bill Crider, in which Bram Stoker meets the Great Detective. The volume wraps up with a valuable resource for fans of Victorian horror and mystery, an annotated bibliography of fiction by other authors in which Sherlock Holmes confronts vampires.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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