Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker (spoiler free).
WRITTEN BY TONY FRAME
I came upon Dracul quite by chance when I was browsing the Horror section in Waterstones one afternoon. It’s a testament to shopping in stores as opposed to purchasing online. I only ever buy books online if it’s something I have read before or if I am unable to source the book elsewhere.
To be honest, the Horror section in Waterstones is generally not that great. It’s practically full of Stephen King’s entire catalogue with the rest of the space filled with cliché zombie apocalypse novels and classics from Poe and Lovecraft. There are great writers out there—writers of our generation—who would be better known if they were given that little extra shelf space. Otherwise those shelves would be better served with adding some more James Herbert and Shaun Hutson novels to give a better variety.
That slight pet peeve aside, I always find a relaxing comfort in book stores. The quiet atmosphere and shelves filled with wonderful stories, some of which can change your outlook on life, is a place that so many take for granted. I like browsing aimlessly with no agenda in mind; picking up books solely because of their titles and giving them a quick flick-through.
Having re-read Dracula a few years ago I was pleasantly surprised to find that upon reading the inside sleeve of Dracul, after picking it up in Waterstones, I discovered that it is a prequel of sorts to Bram Stoker’s immortal novel. Written by Dacre Stoker (Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew) and J.D. Barker, it would be fair to say that writing a follow-up to one of Horror’s most iconic novels of all time was a tall order to undertake by any writing team. And I am sure Dacre and Barker knew they had big shoes to fill before they undertook the task of putting pen to paper.
The source material for Dracul was drawn from Dacre’s research into Bram’s original journals and notebooks from Dracula, which was first published in 1897. The crux of the story in Dracul is about Bram; a young sickly boy who is confined to his bed and the strange presence that is Ellen – the family nanny who cares for him and his sister. It all reads like a classic Gothic tale but without the clunky grammar that so heavily weighed down a lot of novels written in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It’s a mystery novel at heart with some choice creepy moments that echoes with its predecessor.
Unlike Dracula, which was written entirely as a series of diary entries, Dracul has a slight variance in writing styles which helps avoid the monotony that I felt the former suffered from at times. Dracul is predominantly written from Bram’s first-person point of view as he talks about his sickness and the strange goings-on in the village nearby. It has a nice blend of his internal thoughts and observations detailing the unravelling mystery that he finds himself caught up in. The dialogue is excellent, it doesn’t feel contrived, and flows smoothly off the page. There is the occasional diary entry from other protagonists which gives their insights and helps round-off their character arcs. And the interwoven chapters, written in the present tense, are masterly executed and really do add to the mounting tension building up in the story.
Even when it’s all over and done we are gifted an additional ten pages of the author’s notes which detail some of the writings from Bram’s original manuscript. Unbeknownst to myself, prior to reading Dracul, was that Bram Stoker had intended to publish Dracula as a story that was entirely true. Due to the recent murders by Jack the Ripper at the time, Stoker’s editor requested this be changed and subsequently the first one-hundred pages were removed and it became the novel that so many of us have read. This is one of the many intriguing things to find in Dracul and it’s certainly my recommendation as a must-have novel for all Horror fans out there.