Fiction Reviews

Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard

(2013) Kim Newman, Titan Books £12.99, hrdbk, 480pp, ISBN 978-178-3-29099-4


If you ever visit Hunter Towers, you’ll see a bookcase shelf devoted to Kim Newman with many titles published by Simon and Shuster and Pocket books, among them original copies of Newman’s Anno Dracula series, including two signed hardback copies of The Bloody Red Baron for some reason, and a 'Binary' copy (that’s flip book to you and me) of Michael Marshall Smith’s The Vaccinator and lo and behold, after some flipping, the back of the book is now the front of a brand new book, namely Andy Warhol’s Dracula by Kim Newman, a novella that boasted a cover of four Warhol-like coloured prints of a sneering Sid Vicious, and features in Newman’s new Anno Dracula title Johnny Alucard charting key events in his alternative vampire reality between the years 1976 and 1981. Other key parts of this mosaic 'novel' have appeared elsewhere, such as Coppola’s Dracula, The Other Side of Midnight, Castle in the Desert and You Are The Wind Beneath My Wing'. I had read them all, except for the latter 'Top Gun'- like tale, and great fun it is too.

Newman’s series started with the wonderful conceit that Dracula came to England and was not defeated by Van Helsing’s stolid band of vampire hunters, but went on to marry a widowed Queen Victoria to become Prince Consort, and thus was born an alternative British Empire with famous literary vampires taking many of the top positions. Now, in book four, it is the 1970s, but, first, a scene-setter from 1944, a teenage boy called Ion Popescu meets Dracula, the King of the Cats, his soon-to-be father in darkness, and bides his time until Francis Ford Coppola makes the creative and financial mistake of coming to communist Romania to shoot the definitive version of Dracula. Ion manages to return to America with the crew, and a whole continent lies before him, waiting to be conquered by a vampire with his degree of ruthlessness and creativity.

It would be unfair to say that Newman writes better female characters than male ones given the key role that the incarnations of Johnny Pop takes within these tales, but there are three-wonderfully rounded characters in Kate Reed, Irish journalist, and sometimes thorn in the side of the establishment; Geneviève Dieudonné, vampire elder who is older than Dracula himself and a well-kent face to readers of the series and in slightly different incarnations in some of Newman’s other works; and also Penelope Churchward as she oversees an elite aerial vampire squadron. Characters aside, Newman’s prose is a delight and there is a lot of fun in his sly take of the world of music, film, consumerism, and key historical events as well as the political machinations and skullduggery taking place between key figures and forces within the vampire and human worlds that co-exist uneasily beside each other. Appendix Two 'Wells Lost Dracula' by Jonathan Gates is a particular pleasure. This is book four of the series, and the ending of one of the novellas (no spoilers here) sets things up nicely for the – sadly – last book in the series.

I have always thought that after Stoker, and Richard Matheson, it’s been the female horror authors – Rice, Yarbro, Collins, Hamilton, Warrington et al  who have taken the familiar vampire tropes and given them their own unique spin, but Newman is right up there with the best of them. Recommended.

Ian Hunter

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