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Book Review: Vampire Stories – Chosen by Alan Durant

Vampire Stories is a collection of eighteen bone-chilling horror stories written by various writers, based on vampires and werewolves. Alan Durant has only compiled these stories into one book. This book is preferable for children aged nine to sixteen.

Vampires have always given many of us creeps: those piercing red eyes with their sinister, hypnotic powers, those sharp, menacing fangs and all that blood-sucking…Warevolves, on the other hand, have a pathetic quality about them that we find somehow endearing. Whereas vampires are cool and calculating in their malevolence, werewolves have the air of desperate, cursed creatures, acting from some unhappy compulsion. This may have something to do with the way the creatures were portrayed in the horror films we have seen. Dracula was a suave, cunning, remorselessly evil villain, while the Wolf Man was a hairy snarling, but rather brainless beast. Both creatures, though, have inspired a rich and varied literature – and indeed continue to do so. Vampire stories, in particular, appear in print with amazing regularly.

The myth of vampires is not new, of course – even the Ancient Greeks had their bloodsuckers (they were female demons called Lamiae) – but since the 19th century their popularity as literary subjects has grown enormously. Much of this is due to one book, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the most famous vampire story of all. It is a very long book and often tedious but it has some exceptional hair-raising moments. But as a thrilling tale of terror, Clemence Houseman’s ‘The Werewolf’, is a classic of its kind.

Some of these tales you may already have encountered – for example, the ironically macabre ‘Gabriel-Ernest’ by Saki, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s ingenious ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, which features his celebrated detective, Sherlock Homes. Many of the stories, however, you probably will not have come across before. They encompass a wide time span, from the medieval French legend of the Werewolf to the writer’s own story ‘Howl’.

With the exception of one or two, all are tales of terror, though they may invoke other reactions too: repulsion perhaps, excitement, wonder, shock, even pity. It’s hard not to feel compassion for the ghostly vampire in August Derleth’s ‘The Drifting Show’ and we defy anyone not to be moved by the resolution of Jane Yolen’s haunting story, ‘Mama Gone’. On a lighter note, one or two of the stories - Woody Allen’s spoof ‘Count Dracula’ and William F. Nolan’s fang-in-cheek ‘Getting Dead’ – will make you laugh.

All the stories are finely chosen and magnificently illustrated by Nick Hardcastle. With compelling nature of the storytelling, different in style and content, this collection is a spine-chilling pleasure to read.


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