Born To Be Vlad
He married Oscar Wilde’s old bird, he never went to Eastern Europe, he was the author of ‘Miss Betty’, he managed the Lyceum Theatre and he wrote ‘Dracula’ (which I always couple with ‘Frankenstein’ as the readable half of the pair). In 10 days’ time it’s the anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death, and in that time we’ve switched from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to RPatz, all valid versions, (although the last is more tepid than valid) and one hopes we’ll continue to see more startling innovations like ‘Let The Right One In’ and fewer like that dreadful film series with Kate Beckinsale that I can’t even recall the name of.
Dracula’s undead career has, appropriately, outlived his life. At the time, ‘Dracula’ was outsold in it’s first year by Richard Marsh’s ‘The Beetle’, which is now all but forgotten (although it’s rather wonderful). The number of books that appear on the subject are astonishing. Dacre Stoker, the author’s great-grand-nephew, has co-edited ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker’ with Elizabeth Miller, based on a notebook discovered in his attic, whose entries offer new insights into the author’s mind. Even I once wrote ‘Dracula’s Library’, purporting to be a missing chapter of the Stoker book, for an anthology.
But why Dracula over, say, the fascinating premise of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’? Both have the same mixture of sensuality and cruelty but Dracula adds the extra appeal of aristocracy into the mix. The Wolfman story, even with its heady mixture of bestial sexuality and primness, never seems to work very well. Perhaps its because the Dracula mythology is easier to absorb; there are clear rules to follow, and much of it is about resistance, fighting the desire to give in to primitive urges.
When I wrote ‘Hell Train’ I sought to create four new monsters, ranging from the cadaverous, blue-blooded ‘Biter’ to the Red Countess, based in no small part on Pushkin’s Queen of Spades, but creating an entirely new monster mythology is a tricky business. I’d love Hammer to remake ‘The Reptile’ and bring back a cold, snakelike female creature – but didn’t Stoker’s ‘Lair of the White Worm’ already do that?