Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Vampire Book – review


Author: J. Gordon Melton

First Published: 1999

I’ve had this a little while and have decided it is time to review it. Normally I would read a book through its length before review but the volume, subtitled “The Encyclopaedia of the Undead”, which comes in at over 900 pages including index is somewhat of a behemoth and, to be fair, I doubt many would read it cover to cover. It is, very much so, a dip in book and, more so, a reference source.

I mentioned I had it to a friend who waxed lyrically about its dubious nature. She informed me that it was inaccurate and that she had attended a talk by Melton, whose entire presentation was filled with glaring inaccuracies. She had tried to speak to him about this but had been dismissed out of hand. I always try to keep an open mind, however, and tried to dismiss this story as I looked at the volume.

It didn’t help, therefore, when I picked an entry at random and found that it was flawed. The entry was for Count Yorga. Melton points out that there were two Count Yorga films, Count Yorga, vampire and the Return of Count Yorga. He mentions that a third film was planned and then dropped but then states “Quarry revived the Yorga role in another horror film, Dr Phibes Rides Again.” Somehow I do not think that is true.

Robert Quarry was in Dr Phibes Rides Again, a film I must admit I have not seen. However a quick check on imdb shows that he plays a character named Darius Biederbeck who seems to be an Egyptologist. Perhaps Melton was becoming confused with the film Deathmaster, filmed between the two Yorga films but released thereafter, in which Quarry plays a vampire – who is not Yorga.

This was the first entry I looked at and it did not bode well, other randomly picked entries had issues also. We all, to be fair, make mistakes. Unfortunately when someone makes mistakes in reference material, especially material which folks are expected to buy, the readership becomes less tolerant. As this is the second “re-vamped” edition one would have thought a clean-up of material would have been in order. The book is large and contains many facts about vampires in popular culture. Unfortunately, when you loose faith that the entries are going to be accurate you loose faith in the book. You second guess and have to cross reference any fact garnished before accepting it.

Due to the flaws this only gets 3 out of 10 and a plea to go through and tidy up the entries before a third edition is released.

6 comments:

Derek said...

Wait until you see the pseudo-companion "Werewolf Book." Whoa...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

lol... luckily my one track mind will spare me from that

christine said...

Werewolf book! Whoa indeed! The guy was just interested to describe what this and that sex criminal did, with the every sleazy, nauseating detail! If I were a wolf or get a book of werewolves when buying it, I would be one happy camper...

House of Karnstein said...

A quick story I thought I'd share with my friends. Somehow Melton tracked me down (I have no idea how he found out about me?) a few years back to help him find some rare vampire films. I of course obliged and sent them to him and in return he emailed me a link for what was to be the new upcoming revised 3rd edition of this "The Vampire Book" and asked me to help look over and correct wrong/missing info, missing movies, etc, etc. Lol, I sent the guy a *long* email with all kind of corrections/additions and he emailed me back on the defensive. I never returned his emails again after that. 3 out of 10 is spot-on for this book and I can't recommend it unless you find it in a cheap thrift store for a $1.99.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

HofK, your story underlines my friends story in the review.

I said that, if folks have to buy something they are less forgiving of mistakes... However I think we can all be forgiving if there is some humility involved. In a volume like this mistakes will occur... if I had written it there would be mistakes, for sure, but I would happily hold my hand up if I had made them and they were pointed out.

Melton seems incapable of accepting that he is not the infaliable expert he suggests he is, that is a shame because if he listened to other and tidied this up then, eventually, it could transmute into the singularly most important vampire genre reference book around.

House of Karnstein said...

Very well put and I wholeheartedly
agree, Taliesin.