Ornella Volta & Valeria Riva (eds.) - The Vampire: Presented by Roger Vadim (Pan, 1965)
Foreword - Roger Vadim
Augustine Calmet - The Vampires of Hungary and Surrounding Countries Lawrence Durrell - Carnival Sheridan Le Fanu - Carmilla Theophile Gautier - The Beautiful Vampire Edgar Allan Poe - Berenice Simon Raven - Chriseis Guy de Maupassant - The Horla E. F. Benson - Mrs. Amworth Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire Robert Bloch - The Cloak Nicolai Gogol - Viy E. C. Tubb - Fresh Guy Luigi Capuana - A Vampire Ray Bradbury - The Man Upstairs Bram Stoker - The Death of Dracula.
An early attempt at compiling the very best bloodsucker stories into one volume, which accounts for the familiarity of many of the tales that made the cut. The Stoker, Raven and Durrell items have all been extracted - not too painfully - from their host novels, and Calmet’s piece comes from his classic examination of the vampire myth, The Phantom World.
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle - The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire: Holmes is asked to investigate when Ferguson’s second wife, a Peruvian, is twice discovered looming over their newborn child, sucking from a wound in her neck. On the face of it, a classic case of a vampire caught red handed (and fanged), but as the super-rationalist scoffs to his ever-bamboozled sidekick: “What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their graves by stakes driven through their hearts? It’s pure lunacy.”
J. S. Le Fanu - Carmilla: “Everyone must die. And all are happier when they do.” Laura’s father takes in the beautiful Carmilla after her carriage overturns, and it is agreed that she will remain as his guest until her mother is well enough to return and collect her. She and the narrator, the shy, lonely Laura, strike an intimate friendship, but Laura’s health declines the while and a plague decimates the peasant population situated around the schloss. Carmilla is prone to “sleepwalking”.
Beautifully told, and with several memorable scenes, notably Carmilla’s reaction to one of the many funerals and her fury at a hunchback who offers to file her elongated tooth. The gory climax, made all the more appalling because we’ve come to sympathise with a monster, and it’s chilling coda will be with me to the grave. And, hopefully, beyond.
E. C. Tubb - Fresh Guy: After the big bang, the few surviving humans dwell underground until such times as it’s safe to return to the surface. Their reemergence is eagerly anticipated by Sammy the Ghoul, Lupe the Werewolf, trad. vampire Count Boris and his despised progeny, Edward Smith. Smith has decided that he’s going to run the show his way. Sammy and the Count agree that, in this particular case, they might suspend the agreement by which monster does not feed on monster.
Robert Bloch - The Cloak: Henderson buys a cloak for $5 from a mysterious Hungarian in a costumiers. He wears it to the Lindstrom’s Halloween ball, he steals the show, attacking the host and generally causing a stir with his increasingly bizarre behaviour. Famously filmed by Amicus for their The House That Dripped Blood omnibus.
Luigi Capuana - A Vampire: Luisa’s dead husband preys on the blood of the child by her second marriage.
Edgar Allan Poe - Berenice: Any story which begins with the lines; “Misery is manifold. The Wretchedness of Earth is multiform” isn’t going to be a bundle of laughs. An almost-vampire story, by virtue of the narrator’s fixation with the doomed heroine’s immaculate teeth. Berenice suffers from catalepsy and is duly entombed alive. After she’s been consigned to the vault her cousin awakens from “a confused and exciting dream” …
E. F. Benson - Mrs Amworth: The village of Maxley, Suffolk, is roused from its slumbers with the advent of a very merry 45 year old widow, fresh back in England after a soujourn in India. Only one person doesn’t take the gregarious Mrs. Amworth - Mr. Urcombe, a retired professor with a deep interest in the occult who suspects there’s something of the night about her. when the residents begin falling ill and one young boy teeters ion the brink of death, Urcombe confronts her. She is so angered by his accusation that she walks in front of a car. But a small thing like death isn’t going to stand in the way of her bloodlust.
Ray Bradbury - The Man Upstairs: Mr. Koberman is strange. He works nights, barely speaks and eats with a wooden fork and spoon. Neither is he fond of young Douglas, who spies on him through the panes of coloured glass between floors of the lodging house where they both reside. When the glass is smashed, Douglas is blamed and punished. His hatred for Koberman intensifies and when he overhears other boarders discussing a spate of mysterious murders in the town, which one of the men attributes to a vampire, he plans on a course of action.
And then it all gets decidedly weird.
Cover of the 1972 edition
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.