Sunday, July 23, 2006

Anno-Dracula by Kim Newman

As I began reading the recently released The Man From the Diogenes Club from Monkeybrain Books by the vastly talented and underrated Kim Newman, I was vividly and startlingly forced to recall my first tryst with a man from this esteemed and secret organization. In 1992, Newman punched the world in the teeth with Anno-Dracula, the single best vampire novel ever written.

Hubris; it takes quite a bit on my own part to make such an assertion, and it took quite a bit more for Newman to rewrite the Dracula mythos. The premise of Anno-Dracula is that Van Helsing failed in his bid to rid the world of Vlad Tepes, and the Count has since married Queen Victoria and spread the blight of vampirism throughout London.

The plot revolves around Jack The Ripper, and the eternal mystery of just who it is, and why is it he is committing these acts. The spin that vampirism throws upon this much-told tale is both queerly believable and wonderfully contrived.

Charles Beauregard is charged by the ancient order of the Diogenes Club to solve these mysteries and to bring Jack The Ripper to heel. (Hence, the original man form the Diogenes Club.)

Newman includes many wonderful cameos, including Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, The Elephant Man, and Bram Stoker himself -- all conceived deftly and unforced.

Often I am asked for recommendations of novels that someone may not have heard of before. Anno-Dracula, to this day, is the first to pass my lips if the questioner shows the slightest proclivity towards horror.

Anno-Dracula was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award in 1993 and the Bram Stoker Award in 1994, and lost both to Tim Powers and Peter Straub respectively. And, I submit, despite the doubtless talent of these two fine novelists, quite unfairly.


Collector's Notes:

Anno-Dracula is a cult classic and a somewhat rare and very collectible book. Fine condition copies of the US or UK first edition hardcover will cost you between 100 and 200 American dollars. (I've found them cheaper on eBay, and I'm quick to snatch up any copies I find.)

*Review of The Man From the Diogenes Club forthcoming.

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