What an amazing book this is, one of my best reads in a long time! ‘In the Shadow of Dracula’ is a compilation published by IDW of old vampire stories dating from 1819 to 1914. That means many predate Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’!
Many of the stories are ones that I had heard about for years as a fan of vampire fiction in general, and when I saw all of them compiled in a single volume I brought it home right away.
Among those are ‘The Vampyre’ by John Polidori, which stars the blood-thirsty Lord Ruthven, based on the real-life Lord Byron. We also have ‘Varney the Vampyre’ by James Malcom Rymer and ‘Carmilla’ by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Many others I had never heard of before, but all of them seem extremely interesting reads, and not only for their historical importance in horror literature. (Like I mentioned before, most of these stories were written well before ‘Dracula’ was.) Speaking of the Count, Bram Stoker’s short story ‘Dracula’s Guest’ is also included. I believe many modern publications of ‘Dracula’ include this short story as part of the main book these days.
This compilation is edited by Leslie S. Klinger, who also provides annotations where necessary for the contemporary reader to comprehend Victorian speech and habits. While I have only read the first few stories, the quality of this book and the stories it contains has already taken over all of my reading time. While I usually juggle between different books at the same time depending on my mood when I decide to read something, I now only go back to this one, and believe that I’ll do so until I’ve turned over its last page.
Every story has a page before it with a paragraph giving us a small historical account about the writer(s). I browsed some by curiosity, finding writers from different countries and styles. The very last story of the book has caught my eye, to the point where I might actually read it next instead of continuing the book in order, but then again I might stick to reading them in chronological order as the book has set them. In any case, this last story is ‘Aylmer Vance and the Vampire’. From the description that precedes the story, Aylmer Vance is a character somewhat similar to Sherlock Holmes who appeared in many published stories that were finally collected in ‘Aylmer Vance, Ghost Seer’ in 1914. The description made this character out to sound very interesting indeed, and if I enjoy this story featuring him as much as I’m expecting to, I’ll track down the rest of them.
If you’re a fan of vampire stories, this book is highly recommended. These days the vampire has been adapted to all genres and styles to the point of sometimes becoming unrecognizable, so it’s a welcome change for me to go back to their roots in fiction.