Friday, October 22, 2010

Vampire Stories, edited by Richard Dalby

(hb; 1993: vampire story anthology. Forward by Peter Cushing OBE.)

From the inside flap:

"Few mythological creatures can have fascinated writers so much as the vampire: dark legends have been passed down from generation to generation of these undead beings, possessed of supernatural powers of metamorphosis and hypnotism, stalking the night for the blood of the living. Ever since Bram Stoker's novel Dracula projected the vampire into the public's consciousness, vampire stories have had an uncanny hold over readers.

"Loathsome, yet charged with decadent glamour, it is small wonder that the vampire has been a popular and recurring theme of horror fiction, and has inspired some of the finest writing in the genre.

"In this volume are gathered tales that may keep the reader awake long after midnight; a multitude of variations and unexpected twists of the theme which make few concessions to those of a squeamish nature. Included are works by such renowned writers as John Wyndham, Anne Rice, Robert Bloch and the undisputed master of the vampire tale, Bram Stoker, plus an introductory word from a man who has, over his acting career, staked numerous Princes of Darkness -- Peter Cushing."

OVERALL REVIEW:

Eighteen-tale, solid anthology that's worth checking out. Peter Cushing's literate, warm and wise Foreword adds futher charm to this collection.

STANDOUT STORIES:

1.) "Dracula's Guest" - Bram Stoker: A fool-hardy Englishman with a strange benefactor visits a haunted village on Walpurgis Nacht. Spooky, atmospheric, brisk-paced, this. (This originally was an excised chapter from Stoker's novel, Dracula.)

This story resulted in two films.

The first, Walpurgis Nacht, a seven-minute short directed by David Kruschke, was released in 2004.

Michael Glover Smith (billed as Michael Smith) played Jonathan. Jerry Blackburn played Johann. Charity Grella played "Countess". James Hurwitz played "Innkeeper". Mark Johnson played "The Host" / "The Captain".


The second film version, Dracula's Guest, was released stateside as a direct-to-DVD film in August 2008.

Wes Ramsey played Bram Stoker. Amy Lyndon played Mrs. Witham. Andrew Bryniarski played Count Dracula. Kelsey McCann played Elizabeth.

Michael Feifer scripted and directed the film, which re-imagined the story in a slow-paced, different way.


2.) "The Lovely Lady" - D.H. Lawrence: Pauline Attenborough, an outwardly youthful, secretly poisonous old woman, preys on the insecurities of her son (Robert) and her niece (Cecilia).

Theme-rich, classic (in a good way), character-centric tale, with a Pauline-true finish.


3.) "The Author's Tale" - L.A. Lewis: A fireside-chat takes a gripping turn when the Author tells a tale about an otherwise gentle man plotting torturous revenge on his crafty, vicious ex-wife.

Spooky, unsettling work that's equal parts Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker.


4.) "Close Behind Him" - John Wyndham: Two men (Spotty and Smudger) pick the wrong house to burgle. Strange, psychologically-taut story.


5.) "Vampires Ltd" - Josef Nesvadba: Tight, satirical and original story about an amazing vehicle and the darker side of the human drive.


6.) "The Master of Rampling Gate" - Anne Rice: Two adult siblings (Julie and Richard) return to their mysterious family estate, one they haven't seen in almost two decades. Romantic, Gothic, this story plays to Rice's popular, passionate strengths.


7.) "Quiet is the Night" - Jessica Palmer: A girl kills her emotionally abusive father, only to discover a darker fate. Sad, suitably Gothic, spooky -- this possesses a fresh authorial voice; I look forward to reading other works by this author.


8.) "The Last Sin" - Ken Cowley: Lord Ruthven, an immoral wealthy man, gets his bloody comeuppance in this lean, script-flipping morality tale (and update of Dr. John Polidori's famous character).



SOLID STORIES:

"Phantoms" - Ivan Turgenov; "The Haunted House" - E. Nesbit; "An Episode of Cathedral History" - M.R. James; " 'And No Bird Sings'" - E.F. Benson; "Chastel" - Manly Wade Wellman; "The Apples of Sodom" - David Rowlands; "The Undead" - Robert Bloch; "China Rose" - Ron Weighell; "Saint Sebastian and the Mona Lisa" - A.E. Kidd



DOGS**T STORY:

"The Woman on the Stairs" - Margery Lawrence (pretentious, bloated, homophobic "detective" tale)

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