Why I’m Following In The Footsteps Of Dracula
Bram Stoker’s novel has somewhat paradoxically become one of the most influential novels of the last century, considering it was written as a melodrama and went head-to-head with Richard Marsh’s ‘The Beetle’.
‘The Beetle’ was a bizarre hybrid novel of supernatural romantic mystery published in 1897, the same year as ‘Dracula’, and initially it eclipsed the undead count’s sales. Hysterical in tone, it concerned the worshipper of a secret Egyptian cult who possesses mesmeric shapeshifting powers, and his feverish pursuit of a British politician. Filled with swirling smoke, hypnotic commands and weird chemicals, it is told from four separate viewpoints and is really quite unique in the annals of Victorian literature.
But ‘Dracula’ had something even better – a kind of eternal longevity. Although Stoker didn’t invent the vampire he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.
Readers tend to forget that the story is told in epistolary form as a series of letters, diary entries and ships’ log entries, whose narrators are the novel’s protagonists, and that it’s occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings relating to events not directly witnessed.
The events portrayed in the novel take place chronologically, largely in Transylvania, Romania, and Whitby, Yorkshire, during the 1890s. All of the action occurs within the same year between the 3rd of May and the 6th of November. A short note is located at the end of the final chapter written 7 years after the events outlined in the novel. A piece from the original final chapter was removed in which Dracula’s castle falls apart as he dies, hiding the fact that vampires were ever there.
This Easter I’ll be duplicating Jonathan Harker’s trip, making three major stops in Romania, travelling into Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains, up to the castle (with an added side-trip to a Transylvanian salt mine) and back to Whitby. I’ll be recording the journey and running diary notes along the way. I have form with the original book, having once written ‘Dracula’s Library’, a missing chapter in which we see Jonathan Harker at work on part of the job he was hired to do for the Count – cataloguing his books for sale. After that I’ll be guest speaking at the Dracula Society in June, and writing a special novella for The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, hopefully based on what I experience. Altogether; ‘If you’re going to Transylvania, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair’. Join me.