Review: In the Footsteps of Dracula: Tales of the Un-Dead Count, Edited by Stephen Jones

In the Footsteps of Dracula: Tales of the Un-Dead Count, edited by Stephen Jones, is a vampire anthology with more than thirty chilling stories and novellas featuring Bram Stoker’s King of the Vampires: Count Dracula, Prince of Darkness! 

It’s October, which means it’s Halloween season. And what better way to celebrate the season than by putting aside that pumpkin-spice latte and dipping into an anthology inspired by the Prince of Darkness himself, Count Dracula? 

This hefty compendium collects nearly 700 pages worth of vampire goodness, including poems, short stories, novellas, and one play—a theatrical version of Dracula’s prologue, written by Bram Stoker himself. There are more than 30 separate entries and something for everyone’s reading taste.

Where to start? The table of contents is overstuffed with tempting treats, and you won’t have to skim very far down before you’ll find something by a favorite author—like Christopher Fowler’s “Dracula’s Library,” which is told in the voice of Jonathan Harker:

I have always believed that a building can be imbued with the personality of its owner, but never had I felt such a dread ache of melancholy as I experienced upon entering that terrible, desolate place. The castle itself—less a chateau than a fortress, much like the one that dominates the skyline of Salzburg—is very old, 13th century by my reckoning, and a veritable masterpiece of unadorned ugliness.

Fowler goes on to tell his story in a mock 19th-century style that echoes the period of the original novel in a way that’s beautifully crafted and an affectionate homage. And it’s a great story too! Just one of many delights and discoveries that include tales by horror masters like Ramsey Campbell, Manley Wade Wellman, Brian Lumley, and Graham Masterson, whose story “Roadkill” is one of the shortest tales in the anthology, mixing the medieval and the modern in a chilling way. 

At the opposite end of the story spectrum is Charlaine Harris’s “Dracula Night,” a Sookie Stackhouse one-off that roots its dark deeds in a cloak of total normalcy that sucks readers in. (See what I did there?)

I found the invitation in the mailbox at the end of my driveway. I had to lean out of my car window to open it, because I’d paused on my way to work after remembering I hadn’t checked my mail in a couple of days. My mail was never interesting. I might get a flier for Dollar General or Wal-Mart, or one of those ominous mass mailings about pre-need burial plots.

Today, after I’d sighed at my energy bill and my cable bill, I had a little treat: a handsome, heavy, buff-colored envelope that clearly contained some kind of invitation. It had been addressed by someone who not only taken a calligraphy class but passed the final with flying colors.

The invitation is to a birthday in honor of Prince Dracula, and because nothing in Sookie’s world is ever simple, we know this isn’t going to be an ordinary themed party where everyone dresses up in cheap satin capes and dons fake fangs.

But wait, there’s more! In fact, there’s more than one story for every day in October, and you can binge them all or take your time. It’s a pure pleasure paging through this beautifully designed book with its pretty typography and headers that are both creepily Gothic and endearingly naïf. Each page brings something new to the vampire canon, the way a kaleidoscope rearranges its basic shapes to form new designs with each turn.

For sheer intensity, though, it’s hard to match the final story in the collection: F. Paul Wilson’s “The Lord’s Work.” Featuring a mad nun who will remind readers of “Trashcan Man” from Stephen King’s novel The Stand, this story is a standout for its depiction of insanity wed to religious mania. Sister Caroline is on a mission from God, and if that means she’s going to hell, so be it. In many ways, she’s already there.

So yes, sink your teeth into this collection and devour the literary feast within. 

 

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Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine. She edited the charity anthology Nightfalls. Her dark fiction has appeared in Shotgun HoneyA Twist of NoirLuna Station Quarterly, and Eaten Alive, as well as anthologies, including Weird NoirPulp Ink 2Alt-DeadAlt-Zombie, and the upcoming Grimm Futures, which she also edited. Her most recent collection of short stories is Suicide Blonde. She sees way too many movies.

Read all posts by Katherine Tomlinson on Criminal Element.

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