Wednesday, 16 December 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Rivals of Dracula - Stories from The Golden Age of Gothic Horror

Think of vampires, you think of Dracula – at least you would have done before TV shows like True Blood brought the genre hurtling into the modern era.

But it is because of the success of Dracula that an obscure, mainly Slavic, piece of folklore has endured so long.

But Bram Stoker's bloodsucking blueblood was not the first exsanguinating fiend to stalk the fictional landscape.

Nick Rennison, pictured below, illuminates a dank corner of vampire lore before and contemporary to Stoker's opus, with fangtastic fables from so-called 'penny dreadfuls' and short stories consumed by a voracious, newly-literate 18th century audience.

Rennison's ability to contextualise and then let the obscure writers do the talking in this terrific anthology is a real triumph.

It blends fact, fiction, history and legend in a darkly spellbinding 287 pages, which touches on themes such as sexuality, hysteria and primal fear.
The book features virtually unheard of delights like MR James' Count Magus, Richard Marsh's The Mask and Frank Norris' Grettir at Thornhall-stead.

The many faces of the vampires in the anthology show archetypal fanged eastern European noble is not the only embodiment of a supernatural idea, which goes back to ancient history.

Count Magus explores the dangers of meddling with and prying into history, a theme which Dracula also used with the conflation of Dracula with Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler as he is infamously known.

Vampire legend is shown in the context of Norse mythology in Grettir at Thornhall-stead as an undead Icelander fights with Viking heroes in the days of the sagas.

The calm and calculating Count Dracula is also a million miles from the homicidal maniac portrayed in The Mask.

This book is a must for anyone with a penchant for the supernatural and a thirst for Gothic horror.
  • The Rivals of Dracula – Stories from the Golden Age of Gothic Horror is published by No Exit Press (@noexitpress) and priced at £9.99 (also available as an ebook). For more information click here

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