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Monday, 8 February 2016

The Rivals of Dracula Edited by Nick Rennison

Published by No Exit Press,
22 October 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-632-3

A sumach tree which needs blood to turn its leaves red ... a withered brown creature with glittering eyes that scratches at the window ... a house which drove its owners mad ... a Viking warrior pitted against the undead ...

This wonderful collection shows the range of vampire stories published at the time of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As Rennison explains in the introduction, film adaptations have made Dracula the best-remembered example of a fashion that began with Polidari’s The Vampyre in 1819, continued with the hugely popular Varney the Vampire, published as a serial between 1845 and 1847, and Le Fanu’s Carmilla in 1871. These fifteen stories show that almost every prolific writer of the Victorian age had a shot at Gothic horror. Each story is preceded by a short biography of the author or authors, most of them very popular then, and almost unknown now – the only household name is M R James, with the antiquarian-in-Sweden yarn, Count Magnus. The only tale I’d come across before was the purportedly true The Vampire of Croglin Grange, by Augustus Hare. All the stories were very readable, with a good range of twists on the theme; surprisingly, as Rennison points out in his introduction, unlike our image of Dracula, almost all the blood-sucking vampires were female, the male undeads being of a different species, like James’ Count Magnus’s familiar, or the dead herdsman from Frank Norris’s Icelandic saga tale.

A gloriously Gothic collection of heroes fighting against maidens with bone-white skin, glittering eyes and blood-thirsty intentions.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Nick Rennison is a writer, editor and bookseller with a particular interest in the Victorian era and in crime fiction. He has written several Pocket Essential guides published by Oldcastle Books including Short History of the Polar Exploration, Roget, Freud and Robin Hood. He is also the author of The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Crime Fiction, 100 Must-Read Crime Novels and Sherlock Holmes: An Unauthorised Biography. His debut crime novel, Carver's Quest, set in nineteenth century London, was published by Atlantic Books. He is a regular reviewer for both The Sunday Times and BBC History Magazine.




Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.





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