PrintE-mail Written by Tony Jones


Titan Books has released a set of Penny Dreadful classic horrors including Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s presented in hardback with a new cover and livery to match the other titles released in this set. The pages are edged in red and the book is scattered with new illustrations by Martin Swift.

Various films have presented different elements of the Dracula story and most focus on lost travellers, the mysterious count and his castle. All this is normally set in the wilds of Transylvania. If you haven’t read Bram Stoker’s novel, it may come as a surprise that much of the book is set in England (Whitby to be precise) and is a far more intriguing tale than many realise.

The story is presented as a collection of letters, journal and diary entries, starting with a solicitor called Jonathan Harker, sent to visit Count Dracula in his home near Transylvania. He starts as a guest, but soon finds he is a prisoner and is left to the mercies of a group of female vampires, only just escaping with his life.

Back in England, the number of characters expands – Dracula is after Jonathan’s fiancée Wilhelmina Murray, whose friend Lucy Westenra has three offers of marriage to juggle. This is where the plot is at its most strained. Lucy rejects Dr Seward but stays friends. It’s Dr Seward who not only spots the influence of the vampire on Lucy, but also invites his former mentor Abraham Van Helsing to help out. While Van Helsing is frequently re-created in film and television versions of Dracula, there is a more sinister figure lurking in the wings. One of Dr Seward’s patients is the insane Renfield, who’s obsessed with eating flies as part of his path (like the old woman in the nursery rhyme) to move onto spiders then eventually rats and birds. This is all driven by his insanity, and is exploited by Dracula also providing a back-channel whereby Dr Seward and Van Helsing can also get clues as to Dracula’s plans.

The tale moves through plenty of vampire coffin hunting and chasing across Europe before the heroes finally face the Count back in his castle. Gripping stuff!

Dracula is a classic of the genre on any measure and deserving of serious attention by any devotee of horror and the gothic novel. If you don’t own a physical copy, or wish to collect the set of Penny Dreadful titles this is heavily recommended. If you just want to read the story, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives, though they don’t all come as attractively packaged.

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