Simply amazing! First-novelist Kupfer, who teaches film and lit studies largely devoted to horror, has a grandfather . . . well, that’s too involved, but a Kupfer family heirloom exists: a diary written by none other than Bram Stoker’s great vampire hunter, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.
Which is what Kupfer here presents. It’s nicely illustrated by someone with an unreadable signature (“VH”?) who clearly loves celebrated fantasy artist Virgil Finlay. Professor Van Helsing tells us (back in 1886) that he’s open-minded about folk cures, herbs, fetishes, etc., and so when he hears Hungarian Dr. Radu Borescu lecture about a blood contagion in Transylvania, he decides to accept Borescu’s offer of a visit to darkest Hungary for further folk-learning. Meanwhile, Van Helsing’s wife Rita lies quite pale from this very contagion, though Abraham thinks she’s only mildly ill. No sooner does he arrive at Borescu’s country retreat than a vampire dissolves before him into green muck when it tries to cross running water. Shocking? Well, Van Helsing absorbs this horror rather easily. That evening he himself is attacked by a child vampire and a naked, large-breasted Lamia named Malia, whom the erotically entranced doctor must invite into his room before she can caress and strike her canines into his neck. When Dr. Borescu tries to save Van Helsing, however, Malia does attack and fatally infect Borescu. Then it’s up to a pious Father Dobra and Van Helsing to drive a wooden stake through Borescu’s heart as his crimson eyes mark his full turning and befoulment. Van Helsing vows to fight these creatures, but the train he leaves on is attacked by Malia (who turned Vlad Tepes centuries ago), giant bats, and slavering wolves that leave an abomination of bodies in the compartments. Can things get worse? Yes, indeed, as Van Helsing finds when his seemingly recovered wife wastes and falls into crimson-eyed delirium. Will Rita need . . . the stake?
Lively fun, though not as stylish as Stoker or Kim Newman.