Tombs and tomes
novel‘s setting on a university campus. Stableford concentrates on twin themes — the awakening of female sexuality. when love at first bite is ‘sexier than sex’. and vampirism as infection. though not explicitly AIDS. Tightly constructed. its impact goes beyond the usual boundaries of the genre.
The once clearly defined roles of monster and savant have been muddied over the years. to the extent that the psychopathic vampire killer Jonathan Frost in Peter
When love at first bite is sexier than sex.
Atkens‘s Morning Star (Harper
: Collins. £14.99) is mOTt: Hannibal
: Lecter than Dr Van Helsing. Ilere.
Almost a century after the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Alan Morrison discovers that the latest crop ofvampire novels does add something new to the genre.
Although the publishing world currently appears to have an insatiable passion for all things fanged. the vampire has successfully i popped his head out of his literary coffin only a few times over the last decades. no doubt cringing in the glare cast by the bright young things at the more fashionable splatterpunk i end ofthe market. Anne Rice‘s reputed $1 million advance for her manuscript of Interview With The Vampire in 1976. along with the book‘s escalation of the best-seller charts. showed the commercial potential of the bloodsucker novel. Rice‘s refined. aristocratic vampire Lestat has now made three subsequent appearances in print. most recently with the excellent 'I'ale ofthe Body let'efin which his air of noble tragedy is sharpened as part of an inventive. self-contained narrative. That. perhaps. is the secret of a good vampire novel: its ability to add to or play with well-known genre conventions while making sure they are cloaked in a decent story that non-enthusiasts will be able to enjoy.
The first paperback edition of SP. Somtow's 1984 novel Vampire Junction (Gollancz. £4.99) hit the shelves this year alongside a sequel. Valentine (Gollancz. £14.99). Somtow tells a tangled tale ofchild vampirism and Jungian philosophy. which tends to get lost in its long-winded explanations of the vampire as an archetype in the collective unconscious who appears at times ofcultural decadence. The philosophy of vampirism is also central to Brian Stableford‘s Young Blood (Simon & Schuster. £14.99). although his explanatory tracts fit the narrative better due to the
I the role ofthe vampire in the modern world is barely explained. but is
clearly unthreatening compared to Frost‘s sadistic games. It's a pity that the novel loses the electric charge of
1 its opening chapters as it progresses.
All cape and canine conventions are swept away in Kate Pullinger's
: Where Does The Kissing End." 5 (Serpcnt's Tail. £7.99). a sexy and subtle story oferoticism that takes
male fear of female promiscuity into the realm of the vampire. The style is closer to Ian McEwan than Bram
- Stoker. and all the more frightening
for its balance of real~life pleasure
‘ and pain.
In Anno Dracula (Simon & Schuster. £14.99). Kim Newman playfully rewrites the ending of Stoker‘s Dracula with Vlad Tcpes
now married to the widowed Queen
Victoria and in the process ofturning all of London to his wicked ways. Anno Dracula is The Player of
vampire fiction: familiar faces from
other novels pop up and keep the
; enthusiast smiling. while the
author‘s toying with history and
book‘s atmosphere without becoming too clever~clever. And. as a story. it‘s consistently funny and thrilling with more than a splash of gore. No self-respecting genre fan‘s bookshelf would be complete without it.
Stephanie Billen boldly faced an exceptionally nasty bloodsucker (and Janet Street-Porter) to get the story on the BBC ‘soap opera’ The Vampyr.
The vampire is avidly watching himself on the television, onlytoo pleased to answer his friends’ queries: ‘What’s happening? Why are you under water?’ whispers one. ‘Because I fell through a sewer, darling,’ comes the suave reply.
As Ripley, the evil bloodsucker in the BBC’s extraordinary new series, The Vampyr, Omar Ebrahim has certainly never performed anything quite so strange. It’s not so much what he does as how he does it- singing. For The Vampyr, subtitled A Soap Opera, is just that, a soap which unfolds through opera, with Ripley and his victims belting out arias whether they are in the throes of death, mid-conversation or even mid-coupling.
Packed with sex, bad language, blood and passion, The Vampyr is in fact a special-effects filled, modern-day adaptation of a 19th century romantic opera by Heinrich Marschner. This in turn was based on a story by John William Polidori resulting from an opium-befuddled weekend near Lake Geneva with Byron and Shelley.
The new version of The Vampyr is distinctly 19903 to the extent that Ripley the vampire is now an upwardly mobile businessman. ‘With his Armani suits, he’s a very gentle step away from what you see people in the City of London wearing and how you see them behave,’ says Ebrahim.
Or maybe not so gentle. Producer Janet Street-Porter, who conceived the project with director Nigel Finch,
VAMPIRE SPECIAL FEATURE
believes that Ripley is compulsiver
awful. ‘He's completely revolting; he‘s like JR.’
But can opera ever be more than a minority art form? Says Porter (best~known as the BBC’s Head of Youth and Entertainment Features): ‘Early opera was performed in circuses and music halls. It’s only in this century that it’s become remote and middle-class. The problem with most opera on television is thatwe shoot I performances. Nobody has ever done ? one using the conventions of television. it should be a big laugh. Opera is complete soap anyway. The stories are ludicrous and everybody‘s banking everyone else.‘ .
Helping to make it accessible is the refreshing libretto from Charles Hart,
L who wrote for Aspects of Love and The
Phantom of the Opera. It may be jarring l
tohearanopera singerproclaiming: ’ ‘Why does every man I meet/ Treat me
like a bitch on heat/ (refrain) l‘m buggered if I know. . . ‘but, except in
the rathertoo frequentscenes where
the cast all sing at once, there is no
Fiona O‘Neill. who plays the endangered heroine Mirands, recalls that not everyone was as receptive as she was to changing habits of a lifetime and performing an opera peppered with expletives. ‘Part of the orchestra (The BBC Philharmonic) got up a petition
over some of the language,‘ she says.
The soprano herself, was. if anything, more concerned about her many nude scenes: ‘l hate my legs . .. My nine-year-old niece is telling everyonethatheraunt is goingto be nude onthe TV.‘
The Vampyr—A Soap Opera is broadcast on five consecutive evenings from Tuesday 29 December on BBC2 at 9pm.
The List 18 December 1992 — 14 January 199315