Magazine article The Spectator

'The Rivals of Dracula', by Edited and Introduced by Nick Rennison - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Rivals of Dracula', by Edited and Introduced by Nick Rennison - Review

Article excerpt

The Rivals of Dracula edited and introduced by Nick Rennison

No Exit Press, pp.288, £9.99, ISBN: 9781843446323

Nowadays a vampire is usually a Transylvanian in need of an orthodontist. But, as Nick Rennison demonstrates in this entertaining anthology, it was not always so.

Bram Stoker's Dracula was simply one of a crowd when it was published in 1897. Nor was the novel particularly successful at the time. It was only in the 20th century that Count Dracula became the world's vampire of choice, and that was due to Hollywood rather than Stoker. Dracula's contemporary colleagues are ripe, as it were, for exhumation.

Vampires, particularly in their late Victorian and Edwardian prime, formed a staple of Gothic horror and assumed a variety of guises, some more subtle than others. Their literary ancestry stretched back to 18th-century Germany. Polidori, Byron's physician, and Sheridan le Fanu were among Stoker's predecessors.

The 15 short stories collected here provide a formidable gathering of the undead. Some of the authors are familiar: M.R. James leads the pack with 'Count Magnus', a textbook example of how to make your readers' flesh creep as much by what you don't say as by what you do. E.F. Benson's 'The Room in the Tower' is almost equally good, and a warning to those who have recurring dreams.

Rennison, whose previous books include a companion anthology, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes , has ferreted out many lesser-known gems. Julian Hawthorne's 'Ken's Mystery', for example, deals with a young American who rashly falls in love with a young woman in County Cork; even his banjo ends up as an object of horror. …

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