The Dracula Dossier
by James Reese
The book isn’t about vampires. Let’s get that out of the way right now.
In 2007 an editor at William Morrow & Company received a mysterious letter claiming that amongst a lot of Bram Stoker’s papers, auctioned in 1913, was a personal journal of Stoker’s from the year 1888. This and many other bits of ephemera have been gathered and organized by the anonymous “Le Comte de Ville” into this Dracula Dossier, named after Bram Stoker’s famous novel, and heavily annotated by de Ville for the modern reader.
In the 1888 diary, Bram Stoker is utterly frustrated with his life. H is working for Henry Irving, one of the most prominent actors of his day, and trapped in a loveless marriage. (Indeed, Stoker spends the majority of the novel estranged from his son, whom he shows little affection, and his wife, whom he shows none at all.) His pen has been stilled in a creative drought. His good friend recommends a Mr. Francis Tumblety to Stoker, an acquaintance that quickly begins to sour for Stoker. It soon seems that Stoker cannot escape the man, who appears everywhere Stoker goes, a strange person selling snake oil potions and somehow charming his way into London’s literary and artistic circles. The more time he spends with Tumblety, the more Stoker suspects that there is something seriously wrong with the man, and that he is responsible for the grisly deaths of prostitutes in Whitechapel…
The absolutely brilliant aspect of this book is Reese’s writing. It also has the potential to the biggest turnoff. Reese does a wonderful job of mimicking Stoker’s gothic, verbose writing and he is truly evocative of Victorian England at the turn of the century. But I barely made it through Dracula, and a good many people are turned off that novel by Stoker’s overbearing prose. I’m not sure people will have the patience to put up with an imitation of that writing style.
I went back and forth on this. I was impressed that Reese nailed Stoker so absolutely. But the pacing of the novel is Just. So. Slow. Blood drips on the first page and then nothing happens for until well into the Second Epoch. But this is also how I remember Dracula. So I think that if you were a fan of Bram Stoker’s original novel, you’ll enjoy this potential history that led to the genesis of this novel. Jack the Ripper aficionados won’t want to miss this one, either.
I did enjoy this more than Dracula (which I would recommend reading before checking this book out; it isn’t necessary for the plot but the footnotes assume that you’ve done so and I wouldn’t want you upset by spoilers) and it’s a great homage to the great vampire book. It’s a great Victorian novel. But a modern novel for modern readers?
I’m not so sure about that.