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A 'Dracula' sourcebook that will stoke fans

October 31, 2009 | 11:00 am

Dracula-musical

It’s probably no surprise, but vampires are No. 2 on the list of top adult Halloween costumes this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. (No. 1, by the way, is witch; No. 3, pirate.) Thanks to a string of successful books, movies and TV shows, these creatures of the night are mainstream.

"Vampires no longer appall us or even stir superstitions," wrote Richard Rayner, who recently reviewed an anthology of vampire stories for us Sunday. "These days a vampire is much more likely to rise up in a high school corridor than from the graveyard mists of some decaying Eastern European pile."

What is surprising, however, is how easy it is to miss the reference to "Dracula" in Bram Stoker's 1912 obituary in the Times of London, one of many documentary materials provided in "Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'," edited by Elizabeth Miller. It was Stoker's association with actor Henry Irving that was most remembered at the time of his death, while the granddaddy of all vampire novels was dismissed near the obit's end as an example of "a particularly florid and creepy kind of fiction."

Miller's excellent book gathers vampire lore and history (the first vampire treatise was written in 1645 by a Greek theologian), poems and stories before Stoker (including a poem by Goethe and John Polidori's Byron-inspired story), the circumstances of Stoker's composition of "Dracula" and a look at the novel's critical and popular influence (I didn't expect a mention of "Twilight" or Sookie Stackhouse; but it's a little strange to find a listing, in Miller's bibliography/checklist of reading, for a preface written by actor Frank Langella but no mention of Elizabeth Kostova's enormously successful novel "The Historian" or Leslie Klinger's annotated edition of "Dracula" published by W.W. Norton).

You'll find yourself enchanted by this book for hours. "Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'" does an invaluable service to anyone interested in this subject but without the time, or a decent search engine, to do the research themselves. 

Nick Owchar

Photo: Tom Hewitt in a production of "Dracula, The Musical" (2001); credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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