If you have been in a bookshop in the last year or so, you can’t have missed the creaking shelves of what we used to call the horror section. Vampires, zombies, demons, ghosts and werewolves are seemingly up for anything, whether it’s romancing teeny Americans or munching their way through Regency England. If you want my opinion most of it is pretty dire.
Having grown up on a diet of Hammer Horror, Pan and Fontana books of Horror, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and MR James Christmas chillers on the BBC, I liked the world of properly defined evil supernatural monsters so imagine my joy on discovering Kim Newman’s alternate Anno Dracula reality.
In the world of Anno Dracula, the blood sucking Count has married Queen Victoria, vampires are an accepted, even fashionable part of society and characters from history and literature interact with each other as the story unfolds.
These books used to be really hard to find, but last year Titan books republished the first Anno Dracula novel in an expanded format with new material. The sequel The Bloody Red Baron was republished this week again with extra material including a new full length novella. The action has moved on from late Victorian England to the trenches of the Western Front in 1918 and the forces of Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary are under the command of Graf von Dracula. In the skies the aces of the Royal Flying Corps are under attack from the shapeshifting vampire squadron headed up by the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen. I won’t give away any more other than to say that like Anno Dracula there are real people like Richthofen, Mata Hari and the British fighter ace Albert Ball (no relation) and there are characters from sources as diverse as DH Lawrence, Jules Verne and Captain WE Johns. Part of the fun is seeing who you recognise!
Kim was doing a signing down at London’s Forbidden Planet bookstore yesterday so I went down and got a few books signed for the folks at home.
In my previous life as Royal Mail’s stamp product editor, I worked with Kim on a couple of projects including the presentation pack for the Hammer horror stamps in 2008. His encyclopaedic knowledge of film is quite astonishing (he is the go to guy for any BBC documentary as well as writing for Empire and Sight and Sound) and I have no hesitation in recommending his recently revised masterwork Nightmare Movies for an in-depth look at Horror Movies from the 1960s onwards.
For me this neatly takes up the story of screen horror from where Dennis Gifford with A Pictorial History of Horror and David Pirie with A Heritage of Horror, left it in the 1970s.