It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. His polluted bloodline spreads through London as its citizens increasingly choose to be vampires.
In the grim backstreets of Whitechapel, a killer known as ‘Silver Knife’ is cutting down vampire girls. The eternally young Genevieve Dieudonne and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club are drawn together as they both hunt the sadistic killer, bringing them ever closer to England’s most bloodthirsty ruler yet.
Kim Newman is an Empire Magazine hero, single handedly guarding the dungeon at Empire HQ and watching those straight to DVD films, separating the wheat (not much) from the chaff (lots).
He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of horror, having written books, both factual and fictional, as well as radio plays, even directing a film. He’s a jack of all, and annoyingly, a master too. So it is no surprise that his novel, Anno Dracula is also, well, masterful.
The book was actually written in 1992, so the re-release only highlights how far ahead of the curve Newman was. Think of the films that have appeared in the interim; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Interview with the Vampire; the Blades, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Van Helsing; Twilight; Daybreakers… Some good, some bad, but all feel as though they could have been directly influenced by Newman’s amazingly realised vampire novel.
The year is 1888. The Prince of Darkness, Dracula has married Queen Victoria and now vampires and humans live alongside each other, tussling for power, in a violent, foggy, Victorian London. Our protagonist, Charles Beauregard is a member of the Diogenes Club, a cabal of the utmost secrecy, for which he is a spy. Charles has been tasked with hunting down the Silver Blade
Throw in to this story a list of iconic characters, from John Merrick, Sherlock Holmes, Dr Jekyll, Dr Moreau, Bram Stoker and Jack the Ripper, to name just a few. This novel is a melting pot of cleverly intermingling characters- some from history, some from fiction, all brought to vivid life by Newman’s writing.
You don’t have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of vampire lore to enjoy this book. It pulls you along with the force of the narrative; it’s thrilling. I can only hope the re-issue has happened because it has finally got the green light in Hollywood. This is insistently filmic and seeing it on the screen is a tantalising prospect.
As for the book, it’s a political-horror-vampire-action-period-thriller and you should read it. Not because vampires have become fashionable, but because this is a bloody good read.