Publisher’s Comments: It is 1918 and Graf von Dracula is commander-in-chief of the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The war of the great powers in Europe is also a war between the living and the dead. Caught up in the conflict, Charles Beauregard, an old enemy of Dracula, his protégé Edwin Winthrop, and intrepid vampire reporter Kate Reed go head-to-head with the lethal vampire flying machine that is the Bloody Red Baron…
In the brand-new novella Vampire Romance, Genevieve Dieudonne, newly returned to England, infiltrates a singular vampire gathering in the service of the Diogenes Club.
Hello dear readers and fellow devotees of the weird and terrorific,
After reading his review, I can’t wait to get my own hands on this series and give them a read, as they sound thoroughly entertaining.
Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula cycle of books and novellas has one of the most audacious premises in either the horror or the alternate history genres: what if Dracula triumphed over Doctor Van Helsing and company? Newman’s answer is that he became Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, thus revealing to the world that vampires are not mere myth, and causing more individuals to willingly join the ranks of the undead. As a fan of this series, I am thrilled that Titan Books is releasing new editions of previous entries in the series (complete with bonus features), as well as some brand-new novels in the cycle. The Bloody Red Baron, Newman’s re-imagining of World War I as fought by vampire pilots, shows an even more horrific version of that conflict than what was experienced by soldiers in our world, as Germany devises a new form of aerial combat that could turn the tide of battle.
Inspired by groundbreaking science fiction author Philip José Farmer’s series of works dealing with the vast family tree of literary and pulp heroes known as the Wold Newton Family, the Anno Dracula tales are filled with appearances by dozens of characters from both history and fiction. Besides Dracula himself, the most important recurring “borrowed” element in the series is the Diogenes Club, which fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will recognize as the club to which Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft belongs. (Newman adopts the premise, first proposed by Billy Wilder in his film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, that the Club is in fact a front for the British Secret Service; Newman has also used this premise for three story collections to date published by MonkeyBrain Books.) As a fan of crossovers, one of my favorite parts of reading Newman’s work is identifying who comes from what source, in which case Google is very helpful. The Bloody Red Baron is brimming with characters from fiction that were active during World War I, from Jake Barnes of Ernest Hemingway‘s The Sun Also Rises to Private Charles Godfrey from the British sitcom Dad’s Army. Often, these characters are recast as vampires within the Anno Dracula Universe. Of course, many fictional characters who were vampires to begin with also appear, encompassing everyone from Severen (brilliantly portrayed by Bill Paxton in Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent film Near Dark) to Alex Brandberg, whom Newman describes as probably the most obscure vampire he’s ever referenced (for the uninitiated, Alex is from the horror/porno film Bite!)
Unlike many authors, Newman does not glamorize vampirism. While many of his undead are fairly pleasant individuals (such as journalist Kate Reed, a character from the original manuscript for Stoker’s Dracula who was omitted from the final novel) despite their dietary habits, just as many are outright monsters, as exemplified by the chapters where Diogenes agent Edwin Winthrop and wounded pilot Albert Ball (an historical figure) are captured by a group of undead deserters called the troglodytes, including such luminaries as Jules and Jim from Henri-Pierre Roche’s novel of the same name (not to mention the film adaptation by Francois Truffaut) and the title character of Jaroslav Hašek‘s novel The Good Soldier Švejk. The troglodytes are among the most debased of all vampires in the series, and the chapters dealing with them are some of Newman’s best writing ever.
This excellent new edition has some superb bonuses as well. “The Private Files of Mycroft Holmes,” a chapter excised from all previous editions of The Bloody Red Baron, has been reintegrated into the text. Newman also provides footnotes for the text, elaborating on such elements as the origins of the titles for each section of the book (all of them being the titles of famous works of WWI fiction) and info on some of the real and fictional characters appearing in the story. A new novella, “Vampire Romance: Anno Dracula 1923″, is a hilarious spoof of both the locked room genre and trends in contemporary vampire fiction, most specifically a certain wildly popular young adult book and film series that has a less than sparkling (pardon the pun) reputation among many old-school vampire fans. Finally, Newman provides us with excerpts from a screenplay he wrote for a film that would have been produced by Roger Corman and aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (as it was known before its pointless renaming), blending World War I history with the Norse gods. These excerpts are far more entertaining than the majority of the original movies.
Kim Newman is one of the most innovative authors in fiction today. His work is incredibly well researched, blending history and fiction together in unique ways. In none of his works does he do this better than the Anno Dracula cycle, with The Bloody Red Baron serving as one of the best examples. Newman brilliantly brings new angles to one the oldest subgenres in horror. Equal kudos goes to Titan Books, one of the best publishers active today, for bringing these excellent novels back into print. I give this magnificent book 5 tentacles.
Sean Lee Levin, Minion/Reviewer