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April 2, 2013

Review of Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood by Jim Steinmeyer

Who-was-Dracula

 
 
 

An acclaimed historian sleuths out literature’s most famous vampire, uncovering the source material – from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman – behind Bram Stoker’s bloody creation.

In more than a century of vampires in pop culture, only one lord of the night truly stands out: Dracula. Though the name may conjure up images of Bela Lugosi lurking about in a cape and white pancake makeup in the iconic 1931 film, the character of Dracula—a powerful, evil Transylvanian aristocrat who slaughters repressed Victorians on a trip to London—was created in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name, a work so popular it has spawned limitless reinventions in books and film.
But where did literature’s undead icon come from? What sources inspired Stoker to craft a monster who would continue to haunt our dreams (and desires) for generations? Historian Jim Steinmeyer, who revealed the men behind the myths in The Last Greatest Magician in the World, explores a question that has long fascinated literary scholars and the reading public alike: Was there a real-life inspiration for Stoker’s Count Dracula?

Hunting through archives and letters, literary and theatrical history, and the relationships and events that gave shape to Stoker’s life, Steinmeyer reveals the people and stories behind the Transylvanian legend. In so doing, he shows how Stoker drew on material from the careers of literary contemporaries Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde; reviled personas such as Jack the Ripper and the infamous fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes, as well as little-known but significant figures, including Stoker’s onetime boss, British stage star Henry Irving, and Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle, Robert Roosevelt (thought to be a model for Van Helsing).

Along the way, Steinmeyer depicts Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, his development as a writer, involvement with London’s vibrant theater scene, and creation of one of horror’s greatest masterpieces. Combining historical detective work with literary research, Steinmeyer’s eagle eye provides an enthralling tour through Victorian culture and the extraordinary literary monster it produced.

add to goodreadsWho Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood
by Jim Steinmeyer
Publication Date:  April 4, 2013
Publisher:  Tarcher

Available for Purchase:
Chapter-Indigo | amazon | B&N | TBD | indiebound

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** This title was provided to us by the Publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way paid for our opinions **

MaryAnn NewWe all know the stories of the significance of Vlad Tepes to Dracula was.  But what do Henry Irving, Jack the Ripper, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Jekyll and Hyde, and The Picture of Dorian Gray have to with Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

To be perfectly honest, I thought Who Was Dracula?:  Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood was going to be more about Dracula himself.  And I guess, in a sense it is, but it read more like a biography of Bram Stoker’s life and how he came about starting to write Dracula.  I, myself, am not a huge biography/autobiography reader, and so when I started to read this book, I was getting more and more disappointed as the book went on.  With a humorous line in the first few pages of the book where people depiction of Dracula was that of a “Latin lover in a long cape” which did elicit a chuckle from me, I was hoping for more.

The events start where Bram Stoker is a stage manager at Lyceum Theatre in London, England where he has not yet even written the book, to the days after he has passed away and his wife, Florence Stoker, looks after further the requests for other productions of Dracula.

The details in the book do touch base with the different individuals that Bram Stoker encounters in his life.  And how little details of either the person, their works, or their scandals somehow filter into how he creates Dracula, and who he sees him to be.  And that, my friends, is what I was hoping for when reading this book.  But just when it would start to go into detail on who and why a certain individual was speculated to be chosen to be immortalized in the character of Dracula, it would veer away from it all to soon, and go off onto another biographical read.

I did, however, find some parts of the book extremely intriguing.  For example the documentation of the Jack the Ripper events which included some grissley descriptions of the murders as well as a brief telling of who the suspect was in the killings and what came of him.  As well, it talked about how an individual who was an acquaintance of Bram Stoker was being suspected for the murders due to his current performance at the theatre.

I also have a great fascination in the story of Vlad Tepes and his correlation to the Dracula stories and myths.  And it was really interesting to read the accounts of how he came about, and how the measure he took to instill fear into the hearts of his enemies.  Although this is not new news to me, I can’ help but want to recount the details of this individual.

Another fascinating point in the book was that in order for an author to claim his work as his own and prevent other adaptations of the work from other individuals, the legality of it was to have the work performed on a stage.   It did not have to be extravagant, nor did there have to be a full house.  And it was interesting to read that Bram just threw a bunch of parts of his book to try and make something that would resemble a play, and that it was the only performance during Bram Stoker’s lifetime where he would see his own Dracula performed on the stage.

I also really enjoyed being able to see one of the first few reviews done for Bram Stoker’s Dracula when it was introduced to the word.  And I really liked that we were shown the positive and the negative reviews.

I would recommend this book to those interested more in the history and background of the Bram Stoker.  There are tidbits of information that you will find very interesting, and may illicit a drawn out “ohhhhhhh”.  If you’re looking for a read that focuses more on Dracula himself, this may be a bit of a disappointment for you.  There are parts in the book you may find interesting and may have you thinking back and perhaps see the similarities of the individuals suspected to have played a small part in the creation of Dracula.

About the Author:

 

 

Jim Steinmeyer was born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois, and graduated in 1980 from Loyola University of Chicago, with a major in communications. He is literally the man behind the magicians having invented impossibilities for four Doug Henning television specials, six touring shows, two Henning Broadway shows, and numerous television and Las Vegas appearances.For one of David Copperfield’s television specials, Jim proposed the scenario and secret by which the Statue of Liberty could “disappear.” Jim has also served as a consultant for Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield and Lance Burton. He developed magic for Orson Welles, Harry Blackstone, and the Pendragons and many, many others.

In addition to his books and many accomplishments on stage and screen, Jim currently holds four U.S. patents in the field of illusion apparatus, and has also served as an expert witness in this field.

He currently lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife Frankie Glass, an independent television producer who has worked extensively in Great Britain and the U.S.

Connect with the Author:  Website  | Goodreads

Tarcher/Penguin announces the

WHO WAS DRACULA?

Fanfiction Competition

 

 

Tarcher/Penguin announced today the launch of the WHO WAS DRACULA? Fanfiction Competition to celebrate the much-anticipated new book from LA Times bestselling author, Jim Steinmeyer (THE LAST GREATEST MAGICIAN IN THE WORLD, CHARLES FORT). The winner of the competition will be rewarded with a 16GB iPad Mini and a signed copy of the book!

 

Steinmeyer’s work has been praised by the likes of author Neil Gaiman, who called Steinmeyer’s “combination of enthusiasm and erudition a joy,” to Teller (of Penn and Teller) who said he “writes about events a century ago as vividly as if he had been there.”

 

In the spirit of bringing new life to classic characters, Tarcher’s WHO WAS DRACULA? fanfiction competition will reward the best adaptation (fitting into the provided guidelines) of Dracula’s creation story with an iPad Mini and a signed hardcover copy of WHO WAS DRACULA? Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood by Jim Steinmeyer.

 

There is no fee for entry, though reading the book is encouraged.

 

For full Official Rules,
go to http://bit.ly/Dracu1a

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3 Comments

  1. Rhiannon Frater
    4/2/2013

    I did a lot of research for THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE and one of the best books on the subject of the real man behind the myth was Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times. It was while reading that book that I found the key to my own portrayal of the famous vampire. Another really great read by the same authors is In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Both books are by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally.

    Prince Vlad Tepes was NOT a man to be trifled with and a true sociopath. He’s immensely fascinating to read about, but some of his exploits are not for the squeamish. He was brutal.

    [Reply]

    Chapter by Chapter Reply:

    Those books and authors are actually both referenced in this book. I totally agree with you about Vlad Tepes. I’m always fascinated in reading anything about him. He was very brutal and knew just how to mess with his enemies minds. It’s interesting sitting with my hubby’s parents and listen to the stories/tales they’ve heard back home in Romania about Vlad Tepes. Even though it’s repetitive every time, I still can’t help but be totally engrossed in the stories.

    [Reply]

  2. Midnyte Reader
    4/3/2013

    Thank you for the great review. I actually have seen Dacre Stoker (Bram’s great nephew-I think) speak about what could have shaped Bram’s novel Dracula and it was very interesting. It does sound like some of this book would be a bit dry however.
    Midnyte Reader recently posted..Authors After Dark 2013 Reading Challenge Contest.My Profile

    [Reply]

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