Anno Dracula: 1976-1991, book review

Celluloid daydreams and vampire nightmares collide as the undead get down to business.

Kim Newman is a Dracula fan. He writes under the name Johnny Alucard. He’s also a movie buff and history geek. He must have run Anno Dracula hundreds of times in his head as a mental fantasy before he wrote it. He obviously had a good time writing it and it is a fun read. First you have to immerse yourself a world of movie trivia, vampire literature and historic license. Under the Anno Dracula banner, Johnny Alucard has already written The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha.

Anno Dracula is set in an alternative time where Dracula is seen as the man who brought vampires to the public eye. Francis Ford Coppola is shooting his version of the events behind the hidden history as a follow-up to The Godfather, instead of Apocalypse Now. The cast is the same. The on-set problems are the same. Dracula even has splotches of Apocalypse Now all over the final shooting script. Dennis Hopper’s Renfield is his character from the iconic Vietnam epic. Brando becomes a leech fattened on the blood of peasants and Martin Sheen’s heart attack almost turns him into a vampire.

This of course all makes sense in a time frame we call Anno Dracula. Dracula, the famous Dracula, died in the 1950s. He’d died before that a few times, but this was the real death. Before he died, with the help of Bram Stoker, he outed vampires worldwide and became a legend. Now he’s kind of relegated to fifteen minutes of fame because his successor just got to New York and he’s been hanging with the maybe-vampire Andy Warhol, who sees big things in his future.

Future or past, the most fun thing about Anno Dracula is how Newman gives everything in popular culture a vampire twist. Famous actors and politicians are vampires, sure, but Columbo, the glass-eyed LA homicide detective, is working his first vampire case. Orson Welles is making and remaking his own version of Dracula to compete with Coppola’s. Everybody’s making vampire movies. Sean Connery’s The Rock is recast as a Stallone pic and the rock itself, Alcatraz, is the only place to jail vampires. Lost Boys is just a day in the life dhampire movie.

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International military forces have their own vampire squads. Bat-Soldiers could make a few bucks in Soldier of Fortune, but basic training is a bitch. When Bat-Soldiers drop out of the corps, they go down in flames. Newman’s universe takes in real life and movie technology, so anything is possible. History and geography follow their own typography, now covered in the blood of a century of vampire battles. Customs in this world is a bitch. Vampires involve themselves in international business. Their favorite, of course, is the business of show and vampires aren’t only making box office blockbusters and prestige films, vampires make the best porn stars. Well, they would if they showed up on camera.

Once you go vamp you never go back. Well, the only place that has to be won back for the vampires is Transylvania. But hey, nothing soothes the savage beast like a concert. All bands, whether they come from reality or the movies, are invited. Mick Jagger and David Bowie share the stage with Josie and the Pussycats, Dylan, Kylie Minogue, the Ramones, The Pet Shop Boys and Judas Priest. Stephen King himself jams with that werewolf of London Warren Zevon. The book doesn’t get into whether or not Warren Zevon is a lycanthrope in this universe, but I see him as a kind of Wolfman Warren. Hell’s Angels provide the security.

It all comes together through the efforts of a vampire journalist, the unpronounceable Genevieve. And Alucard himself. Part movie mogul, part emperor, part blood dealer. Vampire blood is like crack in Anno Dracula, but unlike crack, it’s expensive as hell.

This is for vampire fans who want to ride a rollercoaster in Santa Clara. Newman is having a blast. He’s writing about all the things he loves. Newman wracks his brain for all the fun facts he’s been hoarding. He is inventive about twisting these things into a vampire reality. But in the end, vampires are villains and prone to backbiting. 

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2.5 out of 5