The Nocturnal House: Anno Dracula

Welcome back to The Nocturnal House, Snarklings! Thank you to everyone who read the first post, commented, or linked to it. Also, thanks to several comments posted on that first post, I have tracked down a copy of Fred Saberhagan’s The Dracula Tape and added it to my enormous, teetering to-be-read pile. (No, I’ve never read it before. Don’t give me that look! It always slipped through the cracks for me, I don’t know why.)

This visit to The Nocturnal House is still related to Dracula (Vintage Classics), though, oh yes. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite vampire books, and probably my absolute favorite in terms of Dracula “spin-offs”:

Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman.

Imagine, if you will, that when the Fearless Vampire Hunters confront Dracula in Mina’s bedroom at Purfleet asylum, they don’t drive Dracula away. Instead, Dracula defeats the Fearless Vampire Hunters, goes on to court the widowed Queen Victoria, marries her and becomes Prince Regent, and ushers in a new era of vampires living publicly and a fashion for vampirism across Europe. And that is just the back story!

The main plot of Anno Dracula centers around the Jack the Ripper murders, with the twist that all the murdered women are vampire prostitutes, offering sex or the chance to be turned into a vampire.

“‘Come on and kiss me, sir.’

I stood for a moment, simply looking. She was indeed a pretty thing, distinctive. Her shiny hair was cut short and lacquered in an almost Chinese style, sharp bangs like the cheek guards of a Roman helmet. In the fog, her red lips appeared quite black. Like all of them, she smiled too easily, disclosing sharp pearl-chip teeth. A cloud of cheap scent hung around, sickly to cover the reek.

The streets are filthy, open sewers of vice. The dead are everywhere.”

Some of the people you’ll meet: Charles Beauregard, investigating the Ripper murders on orders from the Diogenes Club, a shadowy cabal that oversees the interests of the Empire;Genevieve Dieudonné, a 500+ year old vampire girl who was once a follower of Jeanne de’ Arc but is now working at the Whitechapel clinic run by; Doctor Jack Seward, who gave up running his Purfleet Asylum in the wake of being defeated by Dracula, and can’t forget his part in the destruction of Lucy; Lord Arthur Godalming, who decided the best way to deal with the rebirth and destruction of his fiancee and the fanged new world order was to become a part of it; Prime Minister Lord Ruthven, another elder vampire, who turned Lord Godalming; Miss Penelope Churchward, Charles Beauregard’s fiancee, who has plans involving fashionable immortality; and Miss Kate Reed, aspiring journalist suffragette, and long-suffering friend to Penelope. Not to mention a cast of other people drawn from Victorian-era fiction and history and cameos and walk-ons by vampires from almost every book and movie you can name.

Those vampiric walk-ons and cameos are part of the reason I love Anno Dracula so. It’s a game of hide-and-seek for fans of vampire fiction, and every time I re-read it, I recognize a new person or figure out a new reference. Montague Summers shows up, for heaven’s sake, in an off-handed reference to the medical science of vampires! (You know, Montague Summers? The infamously eccentric English scholar who wrote The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, one of the seminal non-fiction books about vampires? Here, this is from the biography about him:

“During the year 1927, the striking and somber figure of the Reverend Montague Sommers in black soutane and cloak, with buckled shoes — a la Louis Quatorze — and shovel hat could often have been seen entering or leaving the reading room of the British Museum, carrying a large black portfolio bearing on its side a white label, showing in blood-red capitals, the legend ‘VAMPIRES’.”

Look, just humor me, and go look him up.)

Does this mean you need to be a Serious Vampire Fiction Scholar to enjoy Anno Dracula? No, not at all. The in-jokes and nods to other works are a bonus for us vampire aficionados, but are just that: a bonus. You don’t need to catch all of those references to find the book a fun read. In addition to the twisting plot to find and stop Jack the Ripper, there’s the mounting unrest and tension between the warm, still-living masses and the vampires who have been placed at the top of the social and political order (fueled by the swaggering, bully-boy tactics of Prince Regent Dracula’s Carpathian Guards), and a fascinating look at what Victorian society would be like if it suddenly had vampires in control.

“In the gloom of the afternoon, new-born gentlefolk paraded themselves on Hampstead Heath, skins pale, eyes shining red. It is quite the thing to follow fashions set by the Queen, and vampirism — although resisted for several years — has now become acceptable. Prim, pretty girls in bonnets, ivory-dagger teeth artfully concealed by Japanese fans, flock to the Heath on sunless afternoons, thick black parasols held high.”

“A new-born couple cooed over an especially fine coffin, large enough for a family and ostentatious enough to cow a provincial alderman’s wife into a fit of silent envy. The other premises displayed an array of jewel clusters and rings in the shapes or insignia of bats, skulls, eyes, scarabs, daggers, wolfsheads, or spiders; trinkets favoured by that type of new-born who styled themselves Gothick.”

“They favoured shroud-like dresses, thick cobweb veils, scarlet lips and nails, waist-length coils of glossy black hair. Their beaux followed the fashions set by Lord Ruthven; high-waisted, immodestly tight trews; floppy Georgian cuffs; ruffle-fronted shirts in scarlet or black; ribboned pompadours with artificial white lightning-streaks.”

(Yes, I giggle knowingly every time I read this particular section. Being able to recognize your adopted clichés and embrace them to you even more tightly is important, dammit.)

Anno Dracula is the first of three books in Kim Newman’s look at the vampire world; its successors are The Bloody Red Baron and Judgment of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959. Johnny Alucard, what is (I hope!) the next book in the series, is due out in 2012, and I am eagerly awaiting it.

Sequels or spin-offs to Dracula are almost their own sub-genre of vampire books. On the shelves of my vampire book case alone, in addition to Anno Dracula and The Dracula Tapes, there’s Freda Warrington’s Dracula the Undead which was written long before and is far superior to the wretched and disappointing “official” sequel of Dracula the Un-Dead by Dancre Stoker and Ian Holt, (I’m serious, I don’t know if I can properly articulate my loathing for that book without hand gestures and facial expressions. My apologies to those of you who liked it.), Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambley, Mina: The Dracula Story Continues by Marie Kiraly, and Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula: Or, The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count by Loren D. Estleman. As I said in our first visit to The Nocturnal House, my favorite dark count casts a very long and bat-winged shadow over the vampire genre.

Do you have a favorite Dracula sequel or re-imaging? Talk about them in the (moderated, just like last time) comments!

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29 Responses to The Nocturnal House: Anno Dracula

  1. RaeAnne Fox says:

    I knew there was a whole genre of Dracula sequels but I was always timid to cross over to that but with these recommendations I just might give it a go

  2. Lucy says:

    I didn’t know that this book even existed before now, but it’s definitely something that I’ll be buying this summer! 🙂

  3. Brandy says:

    I loved this book! I picked it up ages ago, but that cover is SO much better than mine. I haven’t read too many Dracula spin-offs, but this is definitely a favorite (along with Mina by Elaine Bergstrom).

  4. Brandy says:

    Elaine Bergstrom/Marie Kiraly?

  5. Monique says:

    woa woa woa! this is great! Thank you for sharing these books, really. It’s the first time I hear about this titles though I knew of the existence of this “genre”. I wanted to ask dear lady will you be writing about Anne Rice’s vampire books? I’m so anxious to hearing your opinion over Interview with the vampire or the vampire lestat! though until than I’ll go take hold of Anno Dracula

  6. Lady of the Manners says:

    Brandy, yes. I think the more recent editions of Mina are published under Elaine Bergstrom’s name.

  7. Hiraeth says:

    I’m amazed that you’ve never read the Dracula Tape. Shocked, I must say. I thought you’d read every Dracula book there was.
    Be that as it may, I applaud you for acquiring a copy and I have to say you’ve piqued my interest in Anno Dracula. You have a wonderful writing style and any author would be fortunate to have a positive review of their work by you.
    Oh, and I have never had an opportunity to read it (I can’t find it anywhere) but my parents have told me that Fred Saberhagen’s Holmes/Dracula files was quite good. You might want to check it out.

  8. Florie says:

    oooh! Anno Dracula looks most fabulous! I shall definitely be looking out for it!

  9. Betty says:

    I’ve read this book! Quite an amazing read I stumbled upon at my local library whist searching in their database for vampire novels. Now if you’ll excuse me I must retreat to my shadowy corner of the library for more literary enjoyment of woe and vampires. 😉

  10. Juushika says:

    I read this book some time ago and took issue with it then–I think that the Dracula-wins scenario never quite won me over, and the present plot wasn’t quite enough to win out against that weakness. It’s not a review I really stand by any more, though. Those are rare, but they happen.

    But while Anno-Dracula didn’t leave a large or wholly positive impression, I am still struck by some of Newman’s imaginings of vampires–I still find myself thinking of the vampire who was growing fur and … vulpine, was it? features at all sorts of random times for no reason at all other than it was particularly striking. I doubt I’ll reread this book to see how my opinion of it has changed, but I’m glad at least that that image sticks with me.

  11. Absotively says:

    I recently read a fantastic, though not particularly Dracula-related, anthology of vampire stories called evolve, which was edited by Nancy Kilpatrick. I very much recommend it.

    However, it is not solely the desire to recommend it which has inspired me to comment. I also wished to mention that it has a remarkably charmless foreword by none other than Dacre Stoker, which thoroughly erased any desire I might have had to read his book. So I am grateful to learn that I’m not missing a literary masterpiece.

    That said, evolve really is a lovely book. The stories (and one poem) are all quite good, and I believe that none of them had been previously published elsewhere. They cover a fairly broad spectrum of vampire types, generally leaning more towards monstrous vampires than angsty ones.

  12. Josie says:

    After reading this I will attempt to locate a copy of Anno Dracula and peruse it at the earliest opportunity.

    May I also recommend my favourite vampire novel to you all?
    The Historian by by Elizabeth Kostova
    It’s a wonderful reimagininng of the mythos surrounding Vlad the Impaler, full of libraries, rare books, old maps and delightful travel stories about unspoilt Europe. Add to this disappearing professors, missing mothers, romance and of course vampire attacks and you get one very fine novel indeed.

  13. Rebecca says:

    Elaine Bergstrom and Marie Kiraly are the same author. just love her 🙂 I love Anno Dracula, Fred Saberhagen, Barbara Hambly and anything Nancy Kilpatrick does is excellent 🙂 Lots of other great vampire novels from that period, Karen E. Taylor had a wonderful series.

  14. Ashley says:

    I really enjoyed the book trilogy The Diaries of the Family Dracul by Jeanne Kalogridis (the first book is Covenant with the Vampire, then Children of the Vampires, and lastly Lord of the Vampires). It is a new spin on Bram Stokers Dracula since it takes place about 50 years before Stokers novel. It is also told in diary entries.I thought the books were thoroughly entertaining and exciting and I highly recommend that you should read them.

  15. Delorian says:

    I second “The Historian”.

    It is the only vampire story I have ever read that has really ensnared me from start to finish– it is well researched, clever, wonderfully detailed and very realistic. In most vampire books (even if I love them) there are points that make me go “really?” and roll my eyes, but there’s nothing like that in “The Historian”.

    It’s the vampire novel I suggest to people who don’t like supernatural lit as well as lovers of the genre.

  16. Chylde says:

    I’ll have to add this to my reading list! Ever since I gave up on the modern fad of female writers living out their carnal fantasies through plotless vampire novels, I’ve been looking for something new to read. Perhaps it’s time I explored some of the classics of the genre.

    I’m rather ashamed to admit I’ve never actually read the original Dracula.

  17. Amelia says:

    I adore this series (well, parts one and two anyway, I can’t find The Bloody Red Baron anywhere)
    I’m not even all that keen on Stoker’s original (I prefer Carmilla) but these are dark glittering jewels of books.

    It might help book hunters to know that book three is also known as Dracula Cha Cha Cha.

  18. FyrDrakken says:

    Loved Mina, yes, and loved The Dracula Tapes chiefly as a prequel to The Holmes-Dracula File, which you definitely should go on to afterwards.

  19. Gibson says:

    Dude! Anno Dracula sounds GREAT! ^_^

  20. Black Raven says:

    WoW! I never knew there were so many books on dracula by so many writers as a book-lover i’ll be sure to read all of them !!

  21. Christine says:

    there was a book I read once that was pretty funny. it wasn’t exactly a dracula spin-off but it humourously claimed that Abraham Lincoln was an under cover Vampire Slayer and told a quite detailed biographical story from the first time he saw a vampire kill his father, to his existence as our sixteenth president.. cool.

    I usually don’t really read that many vampire books, but after reading the last post it persuaded me to switch sides. Now I can’t put the book down. And I most definately will read this spin-off. Tahnk you for the reccomendations.


  22. I will have to pick up Anno Dracula when next I have book funds.

    And I recognize that quoted description of Montague Summers! It’s from Vampire Forensics, probably my favorite non-fiction vampire book ever. Ah, history and mythology. I definitely recommend it.

    Rev. Summers also has a book about werewolves, The Werewolf, and one called Witchcraft and Demonology, both of which are free Kindle Books along with The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. No excuses not to read now!

  23. Miscellaneous Goldfish says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who disliked Dacre Stoker’s Dracula sequel. However, Anno Dracula sounds fantastic! I’ve been looking for something new to read, and I think I may have found it.
    Unfortunately, I’m rather new to the Dracula spin-off/sequel/re-imagining genre, so I have nothing to add, but I’m excited about all of the recommendations in the comments. They should keep me busy for weeks, if not months!

  24. Keiya says:

    I’m possibly going to Barnes & Nobel tommorow so i hope i can find a copy there!

  25. Gene Wirchenko says:

    Well, well. Never read “The Dracula Tape”? I am sho… no, wait, that schtick has been used already. Do not forget to get the others in the series.

    While I have heard of “Anno Dracula”, I have not read it. I shall have to get a copy of it. Some of the other posters’ suggestions sound good, too.

  26. The Divine Ms. M says:

    Finally got my hands on it! Eagerly looking forward to making my way way through it’s pages!

  27. Madame de Lioncourt says:

    Don’t worry; i throughly despised “Dracula the Undead” too; so much i returned it to the book store 😛 an insult it was to Bram Stoker, to Mina Harker and her REAL beloved John Harker; and to Seward (who personally was always my favorite 😛 )
    I loathed every page of that nightmare 😛
    Anno Dracula however, positively delightful…ah…humor, gothica, ripper, victoriana, and other lovely randomness from the glory of the latter 1800’s
    PS the club they mention in it is also a reference–to Sherlock Holmes.

  28. Sylvia Schlinger says:

    I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the impressive articles on this website. Keep up the wonderful work.

  29. Sarah says:

    I picked up a copy in Oxfam on the recommendation, I’m having a great time sleuthing out the cameos with the aide of google/wiki, although as you said in the review it’s a cracking read even without knowing your victorian history and literature…got to love any book that opens with Lulu’s death from the end of ‘Pandora’s Box’, especially as I’m a huge Brooks fan (I was wondering about the anachronistic bobbed hair in the quote, but it all fell into place) a great read so far, that I think will inspire me to go back to the source materials too-thank you for the review.

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