Archive for the ‘Dracula’ Tag

Bram Stoker Battles Vampires in “Dracul.”   Leave a comment

 

DraculBy C. Michael Forsyth

Dracul, by J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker, is an instant classic, the best vampire novel I’ve read since Interview with the Vampire. Its premise is that in his youth, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, actually went toe-to-toe with the fiendish bloodsucker. The novel is genuinely scary, exciting and enriched by meticulous research that vividly recreates the 19th century Ireland of young Bram Stoker.

We first meet Bram as a chronically ill, bedridden lad in Dublin. He and his siblings are cared for by a peculiar young nanny named Ellen Crone, who keeps Bram alive by mysterious late-night ministrations. Bram and his spunky sister Matilda begin to investigate their enigmatic live-in servant, who is prone to dead-of-night outings and unexplained absences, but after a rash of brutal murders takes place nearby, Ellen abruptly vanishes. Years later, when Bram is 21, he, Matilda and their brother Thornley are forced to confront the evil that Ellen brought into their home and do battle with the undead.

 

Bram Stoker

BRAM STOKER, author of Dracula, suffered an unexplained illness as a boy.

 

Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great-grandnephew, has devoted more than a decade to researching his famous forebear. He travels the world giving presentations on the fascinating facts from he has gleaned from family documents, letters, journals and other sources. In Dacre’s research, he stumbled across an obscure Icelandic edition of Dracula that is quite different from the book we know. In its preface, Bram makes the astonishing claim that Dracula is not a work of fiction, but of fact. That intriguing suggestion fired up Dacre’s imagination. What if Dracula was intended as a warning to the world? Later, he and Barker got a rare glimpse at the original typescript of Dracula with markings and notes indicating that 102 pages had been cut from the opening of the manuscript. This material became fodder for their prequel.

Dacre and J.D. Barker

Dacre Stoker with co-author J.D. Barker

I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of Dacre Stoker’s presentations on Bram, so it doesn’t surprise me that Dracul contains rich and accurate descriptions of the Stoker family members, their home and its surroundings. What I didn’t expect was an engaging mystery, which Bram and his siblings unravel, gradually learning Ellen’s true identity and motivations. One of the great delights of the book comes when we finally hear Ellen Crone’s back story, a tale within a tale that has the flavor of an Irish folktale. Plus, at the heart of the novel—and you’ll find this turns out to be literal—there is a grand love story that spans centuries. (And nope, it’s not Drac pining for a reincarnation of his lost love).

The book is faithful to Dracula, even borrowing the epistolary format much of the story told through the interwoven journals and letters of Bram and his siblings. A challenge of this approach is to make each character’s voice distinct. I’m not sure the authors entirely pull that off, but the writing is lovely, in the gothic style of the era in which the novel is set.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey, on the Yorkshire coast, is a setting for a critical scene in Dracul.

The supernatural rules line up with vampire lore established in popular culture, yet the authors avoid the usual tropes. Startling visuals help the story feel fresh, for example, when Ellen descends deep into a bog under the moonlight or when a heart in a lab jar abruptly starts beating. Often, we’re baffled as to what is going on—in a good way. We have the same sense that we are dealing with the unfamiliar as did the earliest readers of Dracula. (“He’s scuttling down the castle wall like a spider? What the bloody hell?”) The authors also draw upon esoteric vampire lore that rarely shows up in movies. Most notably, the folkloric belief that suicides may return from the grave as vampires is put to good use.

 

Vambery portrait

Arminius Vambery is the “Van Helsing” of Dracul.

Bram and his siblings are aided by a seasoned supernatural sleuth, a worthy predecessor to Dr. Van Helsing yet a quite different type of man. The authors made the inspired choice of recruiting a real-life figure, Arminius Vámbéry, a Hungarian traveler, Turkologist and dabbler in the occult. A far cry from the priestly old Dr. Van Helsing, he is a member of the notorious Hellfire Club, a seeker of sensation and forbidden knowledge, not unlike Dorian Gray in TV’s Penny Dreadful. A man who has seen and done too many things.

 

 

 

 

 

Armin Vambery

World-traveler Vambery dons a Dervish outfit for one of his adventures.

Dacre Stoker’s previously co-authored Dracula: The Un-Dead, a sequel to Dracula. Though a highly entertaining novel, it was not as true to Bram’s creation as the current work. It presented Dracula as he likely saw himself: a romantic, misunderstood Byronic figure not unlike the dreamy hunk Frank Langella played in the 1979 movie.
Langella Dracula

 

In Dracul, this IS your great-granduncle’s Dracula. I believe that if Vlad the Impaler really were vampirized this is what he would be like: monstrously cruel and tyrannical. He is even more of a badass than in the original novel, inflicting a form of torture on one character that can only be described as epic. In Dracula, Bram only vaguely alludes to the historical 15th century Vlad Tepes, and we never learn exactly how Vlad went from warlord to vampire. In Dracul, the authors connect the dots in a plausible way.

Vlad the impaler full

Take-no-prisoners warlord Vlad the Impaler 

Vampire fans will be thrilled by the many Easter eggs, such as scenes set at Whitby Abbey, a locale that featured prominently in Dracula. There is a cameo appearance by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, author of the classic vampire tale Carmilla. The climax of the novel takes place in a “city of the dead” in Germany populated entirely by vampires. Presumably this was inspired by the vampiric ghost town in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 German-language film Vampyr. (That movie, every bit as creepy as the silent film Nosferatu, was based on a story by Le Fanu, by the way.)

All in all, I give Dracul an enthusiastic five-stake rating.

Vampyr

THE final showdown in Dracul takes place in a city of the dead similar to the one in the 1932 film Vampyr.

 

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Researchers’ Reckless Plan to DRINK THE BLOOD OF DRACULA!   2 comments

By C. Michael Forsyth

BOTTOMS UP? Would YOU have the guts to guzzle Dracula blood from this bottle?

BOTTOMS UP? Would YOU have the guts to guzzle Dracula blood from this bottle?

In what critics have branded “the most reckless scientific undertaking in half a century,” three maverick researchers are preparing to drink the blood of Vlad the Impaler – the historical Dracula.

If all goes well, the trio will prove once and for all that Vlad was no vampire – but if it fails, experts fear the trio could become vampires themselves.

“This so-called experiment is shockingly arrogant and foolhardy,” blasts Romanian folklorist Costica Popescu. “The risk is not only to them. They could unleash a vampire plague that sweeps through the entire region in a matter of weeks.”

But German researchers Albrecht Holtzmann, 54. Leopold Koertig, 44, and Johanna Eichelberger, 37, insist that nothing could go wrong.

“We are taking every conceivable precaution,” Holtzmann assured reporters. “We will be properly restrained and security staff will be on hand, equipped with crucifixes and holy water in the unlikely event that something extraordinary occurs.

“If we’re right, we’ll prove to the world that Dracula was not a vampire, clearing his name. But if we’re wrong, the scientific community will have a unique opportunity to examine these mysterious, marvelous creatures the world knows as vampires.”

The strange scientific saga began in 2002 when a small bottle sealed with wax and labeled “Blood of Vlad Dracul-a of Wallachia” was discovered beneath the ruins of a deconsecrated church in Romania. The site – just 35 miles from Castle Poenari, the legendary stronghold of the 15th century warlord — was being excavated by archaeologists. DNA tests conducted on the contents in 2008 and compared to living descendants of Prince Vlad found an 87% chance the blood was indeed that of the notoriously brutal ruler.

“It was all very puzzling,” explains science writer Hans Fruehaul. “The vast majority of historians say that Vlad, while widely described as ‘bloodthirsty’ in texts from his time, did not literally drink blood. It is generally believed that Bram Stoker, the author of the famous novel Dracula, merely borrowed the name and background of the historical figure for his book. But there are a handful of experts who disagree, insisting that Prince Vlad was a bona fide vampire. And the fact that the bottle of his blood was found at a site known to be a gathering place for devil-worshippers in the late Middle Ages did give some credence to that assertion.”

BLOODTHIRSTY 15th century warlord Vlad the Impaler.

BLOODTHIRSTY 15th century warlord Vlad the Impaler.

Controversy arose when the German lab where the genetic testing was conducted refused to return the blood, instead transferring it to a vial where it has remained stored in a refrigerated compartment for the past seven years. When Holtzmann, the lab’s director, announced on June 2 his team’s plan to sip the blood, he was met with a firestorm of criticism. There have even been calls for the government to put an evacuation plan in place for the area in the event that things go awry.

But the researchers have adopted a lighthearted — some say frivolous — attitude to the risky venture. They plan to take sips of the blood exactly on midnight next December 1, believed to be the anniversary of Vlad’s birth.

Said Holtzmann, “We will either open our eyes normal and pop open a bottle of champagne, or awake as new beings with remarkable powers and characteristics to discover.”

RESEARCHERS plan to take the title of this Christopher Lee movie literally.

RESEARCHERS plan to take the title of this Christopher Lee movie literally.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

If you found this story by fiction writer C. Michael Forsyth entertaining, you might enjoy his novels…

The creator of Sherlock Holmes and the world's greatest magician probe a paranormal  mystery in new thriller.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes and the world’s greatest magician probe a paranormal mystery in new thriller.

More about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in the Adventure of the Spook House.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

In Hour of the Beast, a young bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. When her sons grow up and head to college, things REALLY get out of hand.

In Hour of the Beast, a young bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. When her sons grow up and head to college, things REALLY get out of hand.

Read Hour of the Beast.

The Blood of Titans is a story of love and adventure set in the golden age of Africa.

The Blood of Titans is a story of love and adventure set in the golden age of Africa.

Check out The Blood of Titans.

BRAM STOKER’S GREAT-GRANDNEPHEW PENS TERRIFYING DRACULA SEQUEL   3 comments

Bram Stoker wrote the grandpa of all vampire books.

Bram Stoker’s kinsman reclaims the famous character in this gripping sequel.

By C. Michael Forsyth

The story of Dracula ends with the blood-drinking fiend destroyed and newlyweds Jonathan and Mina Harker living happily ever after.

Or does it? In the book Dracula the Un-Dead, an exciting sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic written by the author’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, the tale of terror continues to unfold.

I had the good fortune to run into Dacre at the Horror Writer’s Association’s Bram Stoker Weekend, an annual gathering that pays tribute to his famous forebear. A courtly resident of South Carolina, he was quite generous with his time. After his presentation on Bram, we chatted about the extensive research that went into the novel. We traded books, and I’ve finally had a chance to sink my teeth into this juicy vampire yarn.

The book is set in 1912, about 25 years after the events in Dracula, and the band of heroes who put the vampire down are in a sorry state.

Jonathan Harker, once a paragon of Victorian virtue, has been reduced to a whoring, alcoholic wretch. He’s tortured by his inability to sexually satisfy his wife the way that her superhuman “dark prince” could.

Mina, forever tainted by her sip of Dracula’s blood, remains eternally young like Dorian Gray. Guilt-ridden, she counts her youthful appearance as a curse, not a blessing.

Dr. Van Helsing, the wise and fearless vampire killer, is now a frail, vulnerable old man terrified of death.

Dr. Seward, once the esteemed head of the asylum that housed Dracula’s bug-eating flunky Renfield, is himself a drug-addicted lunatic.

Aristocratic Arthur Holmwood, who was forced to stake his fiancée Lucy, is a bitter recluse who blames his former friends for her fate and is driven by a death wish.

IN HAPPIER TIMES: Jonathan Harker, played by Keanu Reeves in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” finds that middle age is “totally bogus.”

New characters are introduced, most prominently Elizabeth Bathory, a real-life relative of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula. The 16th Century noblewoman was the most prolific serial killer in history, making dudes like Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy look like pikers. The Bloody Countess tortured and killed at least 650 servant girls, bathing in their blood in a quest for immortality. Here, she too is a vampire – and a far more vicious one than the gentlemanly Count Dracula.

BLOODY COUNTESS: Elizabeth Bathory slaughtered at least 650 young maidens — for their blood.

Also taking the stage is Basarab, a handsome and charismatic actor who is Bathory’s hated foe.

Details from the original are cleverly woven into the novel and supporting characters like Renfield and Seward are fleshed out with interesting backstories. Arthur Holmwood, usually little more than an uptight prig in movies, is a fully realized character who’s led a colorful life of adventure. Even Quincy Morris, the Texan who almost never makes the cut in film versions, is given his due.

Usually just an upper-crust square (as played here by Cary Elwes) Lucy’s fiance Arthur emerges as a swashbuckling hero.

Dacre and his co-author Ian Holt, in addition to having access to family lore, dug deep into original sources to find nuggets that enrich the sequel. Dacre traveled to the Rosenbach Museum to comb through Bram Stoker’s notes. Among the fascinating tidbits he uncovered was the character sketch for a detective Bram toyed with including in Dracula but ultimately abandoned. Dacre resurrects Inspector Cotford in the sequel.

Equally painstaking research into early 20th Century London is evident in the authoritative descriptions of locations such as the Lyceum Theater that bring the setting vividly to life. Real people of the time show up, including boozing stage legend John Barrymore — and, surprisingly, Bram Stoker himself!

TOO WISE TO LIVE? Dr. Van Helsing (Everett Sloane) had the will power to resist Dracula in the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie.

Yet despite the loving attention to detail, Dracula the Un-Dead is not slavishly true to the original in that it inverts Dracula’s nature, reimagining him as a Byronic hero rather than a monster. In a sense, the book is not a sequel to Dracula as Bram Stoker told the story so much as a sequel to the story as DRACULA would have told it. (It made me think of the kids’ book My Side of the Story, in which Sleeping Beauty is retold from the witch Maleficent’s perspective.)

MR. NICE GUY? Dracula (portrayed by Gary Oldman in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”) saw himself as a romantic hero misunderstood by medding male mortals.

In turning the Victorian worldview upside down Dracula the Un-Dead is likely quite different from the sequel Bram Stoker would have written. But who cares? Do we really need another follow-up to Dracula that carries forward the plot on its trajectory in an easily anticipated way? We’ve already seen movies and comics in which Mina’s son Quincy Harker is an elderly hero waging a crusade against the undead.

Here instead Quincy is a naïve young aspiring actor who puts his dreams of stage success above all else and fawns over his idol Basarab. (Quincy is so clueless he makes Jimmy Olsen look like Albert Einstein). That’s only the first of many surprises the book offers. Co-author Holt is a screenwriter and the fast-paced, action-packed novel is perfectly suited for a movie adaptation.

IN PAST follow-ups in comic books and movies, Quincy Harker is often a gutsy old vampire slayer.

I asked Dacre whether the Stoker clan was still living off “all the Dracula money.” He gave a wistful smile and said no. Sadly, he explained, the family lost the U.S. copyright to Dracula through a clerical error early on and it’s been in the public domain ever since. They haven’t been paid a dime by Hollywood since the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie and unlike the kin of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, have had no control over the wildy popular character and his many — often embarrassingly stupid — incarnations. One of Dacre’s goals was to reclaim Dracula for his family.

“I think Bram would be proud that a family member has taken this initiative and finally done justice to the legacy he created,” he writes in the afterward.

IN THE BLOOD: Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker with C. Michael Forsyth, author of Hour of the Beast, at the Horror Writers Association convention.

IN A RELATED STORY…

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.


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I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

ON THE HOUR OF THE BEAST FRONT…

I attended Dragon*con 2012 in Atlanta to promote my horror novel Hour of the Beast and pick up tips on independent filmmaking. Some great panels on subjects ranging from movie pre-production and distribution to the future of black science fiction. The highlight was Stan Lee talking to a packed ballroom. The comic-industry giant is feisty as ever, his brain still bubbling with creativity. Of course, I didn’t completely ignore the gazillion gals in skimpy costumes. Some were marvelously imaginative, others not so much. You’d think a guy would never get tired of seeing women in that barely-there bandage getup from “The Fifth Element,” but after number 30, I did!

STAN THE MAN

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

SHREK’S GAL

LADY IN RED

The author of this article also wrote the acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast. In the opening chapter, a bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. Then things get out of hand.

Hour of the Beast is available in hardcover and softcover at Amazon.com. But you can save $4 by clicking HERE! The Kindle version is just $7 and the Ebook is a measly $5. Be the first on your block to read this bone-chilling tale — before the motion picture hits the big screen.

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