Everybody and his brother seems to have become involved in the vampire writing business, one of the most lucrative genres around, or at least, that is, everybody and his great-grandnephew. John Polidori may have kicked off the bloodsucker craze when he wrote Vampyre in 1816, but it was Bram Stoker who gave it its enduring imagery, rules of engagement and iconic figure with Dracula in 1897. Now Stoker’s descendent Dacre Stoker, along with co-author Ian Holt, a Dracula-obsessed screenwriter, has picked up the tale in Dracula: the Un-Dead. The younger Stoker is a Montreal native—one of Bram’s brothers immigrated to Canada in 1910—and a godson of the other famous Stoker, H.G. Dacre Stoker, who won a DSO for his extraordinary submarine actions at Gallipoli in the Great War and later became a prominent actor.
In Dacre’s sequel, the story is set in 1912, the last year of Bram’s life, when the older Stoker—a theatre manager when he wasn’t writing penny dreadfuls—is attempting to adapt Dracula for the London stage. With a nice meta-fictional touch, Dacre has the original “characters” find themselves in gruesome peril. (That, naturally enough, astonishes Stoker, who thought they had all been invented by the crazy old man in the pub who told him the tale in the first place.) They have all been scarred by their first battle with the Count decades before: Van Helsing, now an old man, lives in the past; John Seward is a morphine addict; the Harkers’ marriage is troubled by secrets they have kept from their son Quincy (the main protagonist of the sequel). Now they learn that the evil is stirring once again.
The entire combination works like a charm, propelled by a fast-paced narrative (airplanes! the Titanic!) that ramps up the sex and gore—this is a novel that makes passing reference to “the intoxicating aroma of seared human flesh”—to levels Bram’s sublimated Victorian prose couldn’t even hint at. Publisher Penguin has certainly got into the spirit of it, putting on its own one-night stage show at Toronto’s Bathurst Theatre. In costumes by award-winning designer Alex Amini, 18 actors will meta-dramatize the meta-fiction. And for Halloween, conveniently close to publication date, the publisher hooks up with Canadian Blood Services for a Dracula Blood Drive. All good, clean, bloody fun.