The Making of a Monster – Behind the Scenes of the World’s Most Famous Vampire
By Jim Steinmeyer
Jeremy P. Tarcher, $26.95, 295 pages
While quietly serving the egotistical actor Henry Irving, Bram Stoker created the most well-known vampire of all time. The inspiration wasn’t entirely Irving. And Jim Steinmeyer writes that Stoker knew little about the historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes. Who was Dracula? presents a Victorian Who’s Who like suspects in a court case, and after his summation describes how theater and movies changed Dracula from Stoker’s ugly, snarling old monster to the handsome, seductive heartthrob that is the pattern of the modern vampire.
Asking “Who was Dracula?” assumes the character was stolen piecemeal from life. The answer is more complex – and more fascinating, if you like reading about historical people and attitudes. Steinmeyer is a careful researcher with a high enthusiasm for his subject. However, he raises a few historical questions that leave the reader hanging. Did the letters-to-the-editor signed “Jack the Ripper” match the handwriting of the murder suspect? He also doesn’t mention that Stoker’s description of Dracula gorged in his coffin is closer to that of a corpse suspected to be vampires in old folklore than of a couple of peoples’ strangely grotesque descriptions of Oscar Wilde.
All in all, it’s an interesting read.
Reviewed by Robin Layne