The Vampire Archives

Vampires…it seems like they’re everywhere these days. Stories, movies, it appears that the living cannot have enough of the dead. I have to say that not all vampire movies are great and the same can be said about stories. There were some novels I stumbled upon on my frequent visits to the bookstore, but to be honest the modern vampires just don’t do it for me. Give me a cape wearing gentleman who lives in a castle or a beautiful woman who comes from an ancient family bearing an even more ancient curse and I’ll take them anytime. Those are the stories I like and there are plenty of them in this big anthology. When I say “big”, I mean over a thousand pages, although a little over a hundred of them are filled with names of authors and books of the same genre. An even bigger thank you to Vishy, who sent me this amazing book – it was a lovely surprise for which I am grateful.

There are 86 stories grouped into 13 sections, with each section having a different name. 45 of those stories I have read before, most of them in two anthologies called Fangs and Blood Suckers, but was happy to read them again. The rest were new and they were also a pleasure to read.
Here are some of my favorites:

Good Lady Ducayne, by M.E. Braddon (the author of Lady Audley’s Secret) – an old aristocratic lady is looking for a companion, and a young and poor girl is looking for a job. But while they seem like a perfect match, things get complicated when a young doctor notices an uncanny transformation in the girl’s appearance and realizes there’s something more to the strange affliction which seems to drain her of energy with each passing day. There is however quite a turn to the story which reminds me of that well known line “everything happens for a reason”.

The Old Portrait, by Hume Nisbet
Who would have thought a portrait could hide such evil…certainly not the protagonist of this story whose passion for old fashioned frames gave him a nasty surprise.

The Horror at Chilton Castle, by Joseph Payne Brennan.
A pleasant European summer spent researching one’s roots. An old castle with a mysterious room whose secrets are the stuff of legend. And a descendant of the once great family who lived in it, whose curiosity is about to be satisfied. Mix them all together, throw in a dark and stormy night and a witch and the result is one of the creepiest stories I have ever read. And I loved it! Probably the most horrific story in the whole book, it’s certainly one that I will remember.

Doctor Porthos, by Basil Cooper
Even if one can’t help but notice the Alexandre Dumas reference, there were no musketeers in this story. Instead, it’s about an inheritance that offers the narrator and his wife the chance of an early retirement. But it comes with a price: the couple must live for five years in a secluded place, in an old house lacking modern amenities like say, electricity. After they move in, the wife falls ill and doctor Porthos is ever at her side, trying to help. Suspicions abound, as the cause of the wife’s illness is loss of blood, and the husband suspects the doctor. The ending provides the answer, and it’s shockingly (un)believable.

Count Magnus, by M. R. James
Old papers found by curious people, a traveler looking for a story and a traumatic experience that will eventually be the reward for a man’s curiosity. The events take place on Swedish soil, where the curious traveler had gone in search of new material for a travel book. What he found was mystery, an ugly portrait and something that scared him for the remainder of his life.

When it was Moonlight, by Manly Wade Wellman
The story starts with a verse from The Raven, the well-known poem by Edgar A. Poe. The famous writer, Poe himself, is described as sitting at his table, trying to write a story that will put food on his table. He’s poor, his wife is sick and his story could do with a bit more detail. So out he goes to try and find out about a rumored tale he’s heard of, of a wife buried which came back from the land of the dead – and in doing so he almost went to that land himself. Inspiration comes at the most unexpected moments, and as Poe works towards extricating himself from the nasty situation he got in, there are references to his other works: he mentioned a black cat, a premature burial, and of course, vampires. Beautifully crafted, the story seems even more believable as it incorporates details from the writer’s life. Being a great admirer of Poe’s work, I’d say this is one story worth shining more light on.

Dracula’s Chair, by Peter Tremayne
No haunted castle this time, but an accursed chair that is so much more than a piece of carved wood from another time. For whoever shall sit it in, life will never be the same again. Acting like some sort of time machine, it brings its occupant to a house and place somewhere in the past, and there immobilized, the man who sat down one evening awakes to meet a horrible creature who wants his blood.

Some of the other writers whose stories were put together in this book include Stephen King, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Goethe, Bram Stoker, Lisa Tuttle, D.H. Lawrence, Arthur Conan Doyle and Guy de Maupassant. Many of these stories I’ve read before and I liked some better than others. But what I liked the most was having a book with so many great stories in one place, a book that I will certainly go back to some dark and quiet night, because that’s when vampires are at their best.

*Read in April, 2012

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14 Responses to The Vampire Archives

  1. Jenners says:

    That is a big book!! Be careful it doesn’t eat all the others … or suck their blood.

  2. Caroline says:

    That would be a nice companion to some of the modern anthologies I have.
    It’s fascinating how vampires evolved, the changes they undergo in popular culture.
    I know what you mean about the cape though. I like them a bit on the Goth side as well.
    I’m not surprised M.R. James wrote one but M.E.Braddon surprises me

    • Delia says:

      What’s more fascinating is that they’re everywhere again! Even Johnny Depp is one of them these days. 🙂
      This book is amazing, I actually went back and read some of the stories again. I love it! And I’m always up for recommendations.
      I had no idea some of the well-known authors – like Goethe for example – explored the vampire myth, besides writing other types of stories.
      Yes, the cape does it, there’s no true Gothic vampire without a cape. Or a gorgeous dress.

  3. Caroline says:

    I didn’t know about Goethe although I thought I was very familiar with his work.
    They must be good if you re-read so mayn of them.
    When it was Moonlight is a story I’d like to read as well. I’ve read a lot of Poe and admire him.

    • Delia says:

      Goethe’s story is in verse and it’s called “The Bride of Corinth”. You can find it online.
      “When it was Moonlight” was published in 1940! I don’t know why but I thought it was more recent. I’m a big fan of Poe’s work as well, his stories and his poems are truly special.

  4. Ina says:

    I have lots of vampire books as well. But I like the old version of vampires best. Not Twilight – vampires. They are too weird for me. Vampires don’t sparkle in the sun 😉

    • Delia says:

      Vampires have come a long way since the days of dark castles and long capes. Who knows what other qualities they’ll have in future stories…
      And yes, that sparkle is weird but not unpleasant altogether.
      What’s your favorite vampire book?

  5. Vishy says:

    Glad to know that you liked ‘The Vampire Archive’, Delia 🙂 When I saw ‘Fangs’ and ‘Blood Suckers’ in your picture, I was a bit worried that you might have already read most of the stories in the anthology. I am glad to know that ‘The Vampire Archive’ had stories that you hadn’t read before, as well. I liked the descriptions of all your favourite stories. I would like to read ‘Good Lady Ducayne’ and ‘The Horror at Chilton Castle’. I found that reference to Porthos from ‘The Three Musketeers’ quite interesting. ‘When it was Moonlight’ seems to be a very well-written story. I liked very much what Jenners said and your reply to her 🙂 I loved the picture of your bookshelf. I could see some Stephen Kings, some H.P.Lovecraft and an Oxford anthology there 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      Another thing that I like about this book (apart from the stories in it) is that it gives the reader some info about the writer at the beginning of each story. Sometimes those details are quite interesting, like the fact that M.E. Braddon was called the Queen of Sensation and wrote more than eighty novels during her lifetime. Where are they, I wonder? I would like to read some of them.
      There’s also a poem by a well-known Romanian poet, Vasile Alecsandri – reading it made me feel nostalgic.
      “When it was Moonlight” is a very good story – using Poe as the central character and building a story around him made it sound very believable. There are so many other stories I didn’t write anything about and they are also good, but describing each one in a book of this size…I’d like to leave some surprises for future readers.

      That shelf is one week old, home made. 🙂 I’m so happy that all of my books have a proper home now, instead of lying here and there gathering dust. Now they can gather dust together. 🙂

      • Vishy says:

        Nice to know that you liked the brief biographies of the writers at the beginning of each story. Wonderful to know about your shelf. Homemade shelves are always wonderful! I loved what you said about your books gathering dust together 🙂

        • Delia says:

          Gathering dust together – now, isn’t that romantic? 🙂
          I’m being silly, it happens, especially on Mondays.
          I’ll post a pic of the shelf but it needs a coat of paint first.

  6. Pingback: Books of 2012 – the great, the good, and the disappointing | Postcards from Asia

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