Kim Newman Judgement of Tears-Anno Dracula 1959 aka Dracula Cha Cha
Rome, 1959. Remember? The Via Veneto, la dolce vita. Coins in the fountain, trysts in cafes, midnight bacchanals, parties till dawn. We danced giddily to the music of the Dracula Cha Cha. Jet setters, intellectuals, artists, film stars, socialites, vampires – everyone who was anyone among the living and the undead was making a scene in the Eternal City that year. Celebreties rollicked; warm blood flowed. Paparazzi were flashing bulbs everywhere, and the vampire press had gathered to cover the upcoming social event of at least several centuries: the October wedding of Vlad, Count Dracula, in Italian exile from Transylvania, to the Moldavian princess Asa Vajda. Rumor had it that the marriage marked the first step in the vampire king´s campaign to restore his power and position as Lord of the Undead. Vampire star reporter Kate was there. She got detoured in her pursuit of a scoop on the royal couple not by coins but by corpses in the Fontana di Trevi. Al over Rome, in fact, vampire elders were falling in the gory path of a flamboyant murderer known only as the Crimson Executuioner. Unded British secret agent Bond, a vampire with a license to kill, was called on the case, but ultimatley the fates of all of us – the lovers, knaves, monsters and revelers, as well as Count Dracula himself – were determinded by the ancients-of-ancients Mater Lachrymarum: child, saint, harlot, crone and Italy´s own Mother of Tears.
I originally read this when it was published back in 98, even bought the hardcover which I seldom did. But I couldn´t embrace it like I did with Anno Dracula or Bloody Red Baron. The constant name-dropping which in Mr Newman´s work is a an important part began to weary me, and I didn´t appreciate the plot much, thought it kind of lame.
Now I re-read this again, a lot of years later and after a definte change of some interests. In the meantine I watched a lot of italian movies, became a fan of the giallo, the italian adult comics of yesteryear like Zora or Cimetteria, Jimmy Sangster and writers like Agatha Christie which frankly I thought silly.
And I was really surprised how good this is. Mr. Newman catches so perfectly the bittersweet atmosphere of the Rome of those old movies, has fun with James Bond and his vampires. Gives his hero Beauregard a fitting death. And delivers a take on Dario Argento´s Mater Lachrymarum which is everything the disappointing movie is not. (But should be)
Sure, some of the elements borders on self-parody, the sometimes list-looking quotes of people and vampires, the mixture of real and fictous people. But Mr Newman is on the other hand really inventive with his borrowing, what a fun idea to do the autopsy of Dracula by Dr. Preatorius and Herbst West of all people. And he can be so good with his prose, even if he maybe is too clever. Like his view of Bond, "He´s always been a thin character, too easily slotted into a sterotype."
This is a wonderful novel which gets better if you recognize all the easter eggs. I guess this makes it sometimes a bit elitist. You don´t get important characters like Tom, who is none other as Patricia Highsmith´s Tom Ripley, if you can´t recognize him. Of course this makes this a bit difficult for younger readers.
It may not be a typical horror novel, even if it has interesting things to say about vampirism. And an interesting take of the postmodern and the new age after the bomb. It manages to develop the characters introduced in Anno Dracula and is a fine hommage of all those movies and books I read and saw when I grew up. And especially those I saw later in advanced years, when I finally "got" them.
I just hope the long promised last book will be published as announced by Titan.
Post by franklinmarsh on Jan 16, 2011 23:33:40 GMT
Nice one Andy. I've never managed to track this one down. Read Anno Dracula a couple of times and liked it. I have The Bloody Red Baron still sitting around unread. One day... The Mrs and I recently watched the film Nine, a film of a musical about Fellini trying to come up with 8 1/2. This novel doesn't refer to La Dolce Vita at all, does it?
Nice one Andy. I've never managed to track this one down. This novel doesn't refer to La Dolce Vita at all, does it?
It relies heavily on La Dolce Vita. (It´s been ages I saw that one, but I looked it up.) Newman makes the films hero Marcello the lover of vampire reporter Kate while he tours the bars of the city with his dark glasses and his Ferrari.
Newman tries to do the neo-realistic thing here with his descriptions of Rome. I don´t know enough about the neo-realistic works to say if he is successful with that (even if there are scenes in the novel which seem to be lifted out of a Fellini movie, well, if he had done anything with vampire-zombies ;D ).
But Newman really tries to do the whole spectrum of Rome as a city and a symbol here, from the Collisseum to the Vatican, the wild and opulent parties in old palazzos to the slums with cheap and sad hookers. Which makes this novel so impressive as the city here is an important part of the plot and not only the usual dutifully Baedecker read up.
Nice one Andy. I've never managed to track this one down. Read Anno Dracula a couple of times and liked it. I have The Bloody Red Baron still sitting around unread. One day...
Jumping in here, I believe this one is due to be republished by Titan Books in the UK under its original (and better) title: Dracula, Cha Cha Cha. I haven't read it myself, but it's sitting on my shelf calling out to me...
Kim Newman - Dracula Cha Cha Cha (Pocket, 2001: originally Carroll & Graf, 1998)
Cover illustration by Ian Miller
Blurb: Rome, 1959, and everyone who was anyone among the living and the undead was making the scene. Celebrities rollicked, warm blood flowed and the vampire press had gathered to cover the upcoming social event of at least several centuries: Count Dracula was to marry the Moldavian princess Asa Vaida in a move that looked set to return him to the position of Lord of the Undead. You don't remember? Once you've read this vampire history you will never forget.
`He writes with sparkling verve and peppers the text with cinematic and literary references. Dracula Cha Cha Cha has full rations of gore, shocks and sly laughs' - THE TIMES
`Engaging, breathlessly clever' - SFX
`Newman is endlessly inventive in his creation of this world and deeply touching in his characterisation' DREAMWATCH
Really will have to get around to this, as i'm particularly interested in how the "vampire press" cover the happy event.
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.