A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: A Used Bookstore Jewel.

Picking up some books I’d ordered at the local indie, I first browsed a bit, in the mood for something suitable for Halloween time. Sad to say, I didn’t find anything there that piqued my interest, but on the way home, a stop at one of two nearby used bookstores yielded a treasure of sorts: A 1997 Illustrated Junior Library hardcover edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, illustrated by Larry Schwinger. It looked like-new and was only $7.99, so that bargain went home with me. 

Sure, I’ve read it before and more than once, but it is one of the grand-daddies of the horror genre, about as influential a book as you can choose, whether for its obvious place of honor in vampire literature, gothic horror literature and horror cinema, or simply its impact on pop culture. I’m nearing the halfway point (that is, as of the few pages I could devour over my drive-thru A.M. coffee earlier today). I wanted something suitable for Halloween. Well, reading Dracula alone in your car in an empty parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness (in a storm, no less, this morning) is pretty damn seasonal.

The book’s been dissected by vampire enthusiasts, critics and scholars alike, so I have little to add to their much wiser assessments, except to note that for all its flaws, and there are many, this re-read reminds me of just how ‘modern’ a novel Dracula really is, clumsy 19th century epistolary structure notwithstanding. A re-read also provides a healthy reminder that Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula is a wholly evil villain, which is almost comforting for an avid noir-ish crime fiction fan like me, being immersed so much in a literary and cinematic world of anti-heroes and sundry shades of gray. 

I suppose I’ll finish it over the weekend (it’s Thursday now as I write this), and I expect to be in the mood for more Dracula on-screen. Reading the novel is bound to find me watching the original, as in Todd Browning’s 1931 Universal film version with Bela Lugosi as the tuxedo and opera cape clad Transylvanian vampire. Its connection to the source material is thin at best, as is Lugosi’s iconic portrayal, but there are all those magnificent Charles D. Hall designed sets and matte paintings to marvel at, and after all, the film’s source material was the successful Hamilton Deane play more than Bram Stoker’s novel anyway. 

Of course, that’s a short film, so I’ll likely have to pick some other Dracula, vampire or horror flick to round out an evening of viewing, but there’s a classic horror DVD or two (well, way more, actually) lurking down in the writing lair. The 10.21.20 edition of Crime Reads (www.crimereads.com) could help, with Lit Hub and Crime Reads staff writer Olivia Rutigliano’s piece “The Fifty Best, Worst And Strangest Draculas Of All-Time, Ranked”. I won’t say who’s her favorite (but it wasn’t Bela…hmmmmm) and the list includes David Niven, Lorne Greene, Morgan Freeman, puppets and cartoons. It’s a fun read, and helpful for recommending a film or warning you away from some. Check it out – link below. 

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