Paperback: 230 pages
Publisher: Quickdraw Books (May 27, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.9 x 7.9 inches
In the forward to his homage to those classic Hammer Dracula movies THE CRYPT OF DRACULA, Kane Gilmour relates his glee at watching Universal and Hammer horror movies on late night TV during the 1970’s. While reading this I nodded my head in agreement because like him, I also grooved on those self-same movies back in the day. I lived for Saturday afternoons and nights when those movies were usually aired. He clearly sets for forth his mandate in his forward: he’s not out to re-invent the vampire novel or Dracula as a character. He just wants to present a simple, familiar Dracula yarn that hopefully will invoke the spirit of classic Hammer horror. Well, that he does. Maybe a little too well, for my taste. But we’ll get to that after the obligatory plot summary;
Master stonemason Andreas Wagner accepts a commission to work on restoring an old castle high up in the Carpathian Mountains. Wagner eagerly accepts the commission as he sees it as a way for him and his beautiful wife, Anneli to start life over. Their young daughter has died from a strange malady and since then, Anneli hasn’t uttered a word.
Upon arriving at the castle, Wagner finds things are a little odd, to say the least and the eccentric Count Dracula who owns the castle has a strange set of instructions for the way he wants the work to be carried out. Wagner also notes that the man keeps some really weird hours and has a servant who is never around but must be watching Wagner constantly as he appears to be able to anticipate Wagner’s every need.
You know how this goes…at first everything is sweet potato pie. But then the weirdness starts. Wagner is almost killed by falling masonry. Strange, gorgeous looking women in smoky flowing nightgowns roam the halls of the castle at night. The villagers seem to know something but they ain’t saying what. There’s a mysterious old man who sits in the corner of the tavern drinking, watching everything and biding his time. Despite his growing misgivings, Wagner stays on the job as he’s arraigned for his wife to join him, along with his best friend/assistant Fritz and Fritz’s lusty, busty girlfriend Gretchen. And once they arrive at the castle, that’s when the crazy really gets cranked up.
While reading THE CRYPT OF DRACULA I couldn’t help but feel that next to his keyboard Mr. Gilmour had a checklist of elements that had to go into a Dracula story: Crumbling Old Castle? Check. Vampire Brides of Dracula? Check. Half-Mad Faithful Servant Totally Dedicated To Dracula? Check. Cowering, Fearful Villagers? Double Check. Aged Fearless Vampire Killer? Triple Check. If you have even a passing familiarity with Hammer’s Dracula movies then there’s nothing here that’s much going to surprise you. Which is what Mr. Gilmour is telling you right up front. He’s not trying to startle his readers with innovation or re-invention. His purpose is to tell as simple and straightforward a Hammer inspired Dracula story as possible.
And in doing so, It’s my thinking that maybe he bent over a little too backwards to color inside the lines. There’s plenty of wiggle room he has in this story to really bust loose and indeed, there were several spots in the story where I wondered if he reined himself in, dedicated to his self-imposed mandate to present the familiar.
As a result there isn’t anything in this story that’s going to take you by surprise if you decide to read it. The characterization is just enough so that we recognize the roles these characters are going to play in the story. Dracula himself is off screen for much of the story and he’s very much in the style of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, who spoke very little and in a couple of them didn’t speak at all. But when he shows up, believe me, he makes his presence felt.
So should you read THE CRYPT OF DRACULA? If you’re looking for a prose version of a Hammer horror movie then you’ve come to the right place. Mr. Gilmour’s prose is lush and lavish and he works damn hard at evoking the right atmosphere and mood for this type of story. The language, violence and sex are PG-13 level so you don’t have to worry about being offended or shocked. It’s an undemanding, casual read and should be approached in that spirit. I’d like to see Mr. Gilmour write another Dracula novel but this time allow himself the room just amp up the crazy, splurge with the sex and gore and really go nuts.