Just Finished Reading: Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman (FP: 1998)
Rome, 1959. The worlds press, celebrities and the new jet-set are arriving in the city in ever increasing numbers to witness the social event of the century. The reclusive Count Dracula, previous consort to Queen Victoria, is to marry Moldavian princess Asa Vajda in an attempt widely perceived as the prelude to him emerging back into the world of European power play. Amongst the late arrivals is Irish journalist Kate Reed who previously fought in the English resistance under Dracula’s iron rule. Within hours of her arrival her vampire companions are brutally attacked by a killer of immense speed and strength – yet Kate in convinced that the killer is no vampire himself. With a mystery to solve she turns to her long time companions the elder vampire Genevieve Dieudonne and her long-time lover Charles Beauregard late of the British Secret Service. As more vampire elders are murdered against all logic the suspicion falls on all the powerful organisations represented in Rome – the Mafia, The British, Russian Special Forces, the Vatican, or maybe Dracula himself clearing out the elder vampires to make way for the new and vibrant undead. What few of them realise is that forces older than Dracula himself are moving into opposition to him regaining power and they will let no one or nothing stand in their way – be they vampire or human.
I’ve read Kim Newman before – The Bloody Red Baron – so knew at least something of what I was letting myself in for. What I had forgotten was the delightful and playful way he weaves the real and the fictional into a compelling and highly original, to say nothing of outrageous and hilarious, tale of the power struggles of vampires now very much in the public eye. The basis of this frankly bizarre ‘alternate world’ is that the Bram Stoker story is true (indeed was a subversive and banned book under Dracula’s rule of England) but that he survived the supposed victory of human over vampire, emerged into the light – metaphorically speaking – and began creating a European dynasty for himself and his kind. Vampirism in effect goes mainstream distorting history, culture and economics along the way (part of the continual fascination in the book is the plethora of little details – like raspberry ripple ice cream where the ‘ripple’ is in fact blood – that make it out as a very different world). The characterisation is practically flawlessly handled although the author does sail very close to the wind from time to time but always manages to pull back before comedy becomes farce. There is a real love of the genre here and not simply a jumping on the band-wagon. Newman knows his subject and milks it for all he’s worth. The plot moves at a generous pace and certainly kept me guessing almost to the end. He has created a compelling and totally believable universe where fiction vampires (and fictional humans) co-exist uneasily with the rest of us. A delight and, in consequence, recommended. More of Mr Newman to come I think!