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Anno Dracula 1959

by Kim Newman

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7867-0558-2

With his third in a series, Newman remains in top form as our sharpest vampire novelist, a far more inventive stylist than Anne Rice. In Anno Dracula (1993), the Count married Queen Victoria and became England’s Prince Consort while Newman regaled himself with dense Victoriana. In The Bloody Red Baron (1995), German vampire battle-aces of WWI fought English vampire battle-aces while Newman reveled in the gallows humor of pilots on the edge of darkness. Now in exile, Vlad, Count Dracula, steals Victoria’s throne and is about to wed Moldavian princess Asa Vajda in Rome, circa 1959, amid the decay of the Via Veneto so richly observed by Federico Fellini in La Dolce Vita. Newman appropriates much of Fellini’s anti-plotting, or cumulative mode of storytelling, introducing the arrival by plane in Rome of the bustiferous starlet Malenka (Anita Ekberg), who’s greeted by battering flashbulbs and jaded tabloid journalist Marcello (Mastroianni). On hand from the earlier novels are vampire journalist Kate Reed and vampire detective Geneviäve DieudonnÇ (in the company of British secret agent Hamish Bond, a vampire with a license to kill), as well as fresh walk-ons amid the dress extras: a dissolute Errol Flynn, an enormous Orson Welles, H.P. Lovecraft’s re-animator Dr. Herbert West, Bride of Frankenstein’s Dr. Praetorius, and William Peter Blatty’s exorcist, Father Merrin. When Dracula is beheaded on the eve of his wedding, is Rome’s Crimson Executioner—who has been killing elderly vampires—the culprit? At last all converges on Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears, Rome’s four-fold guardian girl/youth/woman/crone who protects her city from the living dead. At heart a costume drama in dark glasses rather than tights, with Newman noting every Playboy club signet ring and Patek Lioncourt wristwatch worn by wealthy bloodsuckers. As did Fellini’s, Newman’s artistry meets the challenge with energy to spare.