Steinmeyer (The Last Greatest Magician in the World, 2011, etc.) reveals the variety of influences on Stoker’s most (some would say only) memorable work of fiction.
The author posits that the four greatest influences on Stoker were Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Jack the Ripper and the actor Henry Irving. Stoker was Irving’s general factotum and “acting manager” over a period of 30 years, and his influence would be obvious. Whitman was a childhood hero, and Jack the Ripper’s murders in London at that time piqued everyone’s interest. The city in the 1890s was rife with characters like Wilde, who affected the tastes of that golden age, and most crossed paths with Stoker. Just as 1920s Paris housed a vast menagerie of writers, actors and other artists, so Stoker’s life working for Irving at the Lyceum Theatre brought him into contact with all of the era’s adventurers and storytellers. They met after productions in the Lyceum’s Beefsteak room with their own tales of travel, discovery and absurdities; many of these tales found their way into Stoker’s story of the Transylvanian vampire. Oddly, Stoker was obsessive about making sure his facts were correct, right down to the landscape of Yorkshire, tides and London train schedules, but he never visited the Carpathians, where the novel takes place. Further, his notes never mentioned Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure most identify as the inspiration for Dracula. Steinmeyer takes us inside the genesis of the novel, “a swirl of nightmarish images that had been borrowed from real heroes, villains, heightened dramas, and theatrical tragedies."
The author does a solid job analyzing the birth and development of Dracula and illustrating the character traits Stoker cherry-picked from his wide circle of friends.