Edited by David J. Skal
There are many vampire compilation books on the market, walk into a bargain book store and you are bound to find one. Unfortunately, the bargain book end of the market, more often than not contain much the same material and the dedicated fan finds themselves buying such anthologies to pick through for the one thing contained within the volume that they may not already have..
This book, compiled by David J Skal, however, is something special. A weighty 600 page+ hardback tome, it splits its stories into four categories; these being historical, romantic/Victorian, twentieth century and post-modern.
Many of the classics are present and correct, Polidori’s “The Vampyre”, Tolstoy’s “The Family of the Vourdalak”, Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Stoker’s “Dracula’s Guest” to name but a few. The book also contains excerpts from novels, including Matheson’s I am Legend, Stoker’s “Dracula” and Rymer’s “Varney the Vampyre”.
I am not overly sure about the concept of adding extracts from novels. To be honest I would rather read the whole novel, and avoid excerpts religiously. However, that is just a personal preference and many readers like excerpts in order to ascertain whether they will purchase the whole novel.
The joy of this tome, however, is not so much the rich stories that Skal has chosen to go into the volume, nor is it the fact that the volume is illustrated, which is always a nice touch, rather it is the sidebars that run by every story. Each page has a side-column of text. If we look at “Carmilla”, the sidebars contain:
- a section about “Le Fanu”,
- an extract from “Femme Fatale: Images of Evil and Fascinating Women” by Patrick Bade
- an extract from the 1823 English translation of “Wake not the Dead”
- an article regarding Countess Bathory both historical and regarding film treatments
- a piece about the film “Vampyr” (1931) – the first film which claimed “Carmilla” as an inspiration
- a piece about the film “Blood and Roses” (1961)
- a piece about the film “The Vampire Lovers” (1970)
- a piece about the film “Lust for a Vampire” (1971)
- a piece about the film “Twins of Evil” (1971)
- a piece about the film “The Blood-spattered Bride” (1972)
- a paragraph regarding the TV adaptation “Carmilla” (1989)
- & finally a section about “Carmilla” on stage.
Of course, the list is just a taste from the sidebar of one story and the wealth of information surrounding and supporting each and every story is simply staggering. It is presented in such a way that the reader can happily choose to pick their way through the bonus material (to use a DVD analogy) or simply concentrate on the actual stories.
In “Vampires – Encounters with the Undead” there are some of the best vampire short stories available, some like the Tolstoy quite difficult to find currently, and a vast wealth of trivia and discourse. Skal himself is a scholar of all things macabre and obviously has a genuine love of the vampire genre.
This anthology could only receive 10 out of 10.