By Nigel Suckling
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Additional info for Book of the Vampire
In writing this I’m not setting myself up as any great authority on the subject. My starting point was simple uninformed curiosity and this book, with Bruce Pennington’s atmospheric original illustrations – plus archive material – is where it led. With any subject like unicorns or vampires there is a certain necessary repetition of basic sources and facts for those readers who are fresh to the area, and that is the case here. I apologise to any reader already familiar with some of the ground I cover, but it was mostly new to me when I came to it and will be new to many other readers; but, when dealing with well-worn topics such as the Polidori-Byron confusion and the true authorship of the groundbreaking thriller Va r n e y t h e Va m p y r e, I have tried to add some fresh details that even the well-informed will probably not have come across.
Considering the rarity of mainstream vampires in Irish tradition it is remarkable how great a part the Irish have played in launching them into the world’s imagination. Perhaps it has something to do with the nation’s troubled history and relations with its neighbouring island. The Irish connection continued with the establishment by author Leslie Shepard of the Bram Stoker Society in 1980, whose Journal for many years provided a forum for scholarly discussion and serious appreciation of Stoker’s work.
There is a whole raft of bloodthirsty sprites in Celtic folklore, but they are distant cousins. However, in the play this is what happens to the heroic Ruthven. After dying in battle abroad his body is taken over by the evil spirit of one Oscar Montcalm. This villain had once been rejected as a suitor by Ruthven’s fiancée, and much of the play’s action revolves around uncovering the impersonation in time to save the fair Lady Margaret, daughter of the Lord of the Isles. In a curious anticipation of Hollywood, stage versions of The Vampyre were often paired in a double bill with equally loose adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though no playwright went so far as to try and combine them into a single play, as has been done on film.
Book of the Vampire by Nigel Suckling