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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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U.S. Soldier’s Book Reveals Link Between Jesus & Vampires   Leave a comment

In Vengeance, a man does the unthinkable to strike back at the vampires who destroyed his family.

By C. Michael Forsyth

I finally got a chance to read the book Vengeance, the first novel by Robert Cruchfield. I picked up a copy after serving on a panel with the author at the Undead Con organized by the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

The back story here intrigued me. Crutchfield was a U.S. soldier fighting overseas during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he began reading Anne Rice’s vampire series in the base library. He was so inspired, an idea for a vampire novel of his own came to him. In a fan email to the author he mentioned what was then a vague aspiration to write. To his surprise the mistress of the macabre emailed him back within a few days and encouraged him to put his story on paper. And so he did.

The plot revolves around Jayden Endsley, a high school football coach In Las Vegas whose family is decimated by a pack of vampires. To seek revenge on the ruthless bloodsuckers, he does the unthinkable: He allows himself to be converted into a vampire so he can take the gang on. Before long, Jayden’s surviving family members join him among the ranks of the undead.

The book is fast-paced, well-written and many of the action sequences are especially vivid. The scene in which Jayden’s family is set upon by the vampire crew is genuinely horrifying. I liked the idea of an ordinary middle-class family suddenly becoming vampires. And there are touches of humor. After her conversion, Jayden’s teen daughter Katie comes out of the movie “Twilight” complaining about the corny manner in which vamps are portrayed.

My biggest complaint about the book is that after Jayden turns into a vampire, has no qualms about murdering innocent people. Nor does he think twice about converting loved ones – even his teenage daughter. This threw me for a loop because the hero’s personality appears to make the human-to-vampire transition intact.

There’s also one glaring plot flaw. The vamps target Jayden because he’s inadvertently come into possession of a book prized by their kind. Jayden, who knows the book is valuable and has it tucked away in a safe, has a chance to bargain for his family’s safety, yet inexplicably, he doesn’t do so. The vampires, likewise, could simply drop in on the Endsley household and use their mind-reading skills to get the book from Jayden. But they insist on doing things the hard way.

JESUS would be unlikely to condone the spilling — or drinking — of blood.


The book treads into controversial territory: Vampirism is linked to disciples of Jesus who consumed the Savior’s blood at the Last Supper.

This isn’t the first time an author has had Jesus mix it up with the undead. Previous writers have picked up on the similarity between elements of vampirism and the New Testament themes of blood-drinking, supernatural powers and return from the grave.

In some books, Jesus himself is a vampire, such as Shadows and Saints and The Last Days of Christ the Vampire. In other variations on the theme, Judas becomes a vampire, as in the movie “Dracula 2000,” or the soldiers who crucified the Messiah are cursed to walk the Earth forever as nosferatu. Sometimes, Jesus bats for the human team, most famously the movie “Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter,” a bizarre musical comedy about the Second Coming.

What I found a bit disconcerting in this book is how Jesus and his followers are portrayed. Hopped up on the blood of Jesus and endowed with super strength and speed, Saint Peter and other disciples take bloody revenge on those who put him to death, launching a sadistic killing spree that leaves Pontius Pilate, Herod and scores of others dead.

When Jesus returns from the grave and learns of the bloodbath, he tells Peter, “I cannot say I condone it.” You’d expect our Lord to take a firmer stance on mass slaughter! And you’d think if anything, drinking Jesus’ blood would make you more peace-loving.

Nevertheless, on the whole, I’d call it a successful and entertaining outing from a first-time author. Keep an eye out for Robert Crutchfield’s name. I have a feeling he’s just warming up.

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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