Two weighty new collections shine new light on literature’s famous vampire, and on a motley assortment of bad guys/gals.
Anthologies are necessarily mixed bags, in crime fiction as elsewhere, but an astute editor can minimize a book’s dead weight. Here are two such books, each big enough to serve as a handy offensive weapon.
The editor of “In the Footsteps of Dracula” (Pegasus, 704 pp., $27.95) is the alarmingly prolific British horror expert Stephen Jones. He draws here from a deep well of writers old and new for stories about or inspired by that gentleman who never drinks … wine.
One high point is the book’s opener: a turgid but fascinating prologue written by Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker, for a theatrical performance of his masterpiece.
Other standouts: Kim Newman’s cheeky “Coppola’s Dracula” (vampires as technical consultants for the director’s 1992 film) and Nancy Kilpatrick’s clever “Teaserama” (a wistful Dracula is hooked on soft-core porn through the centuries, including stalking the real-life ’50s pinup cutie Bettie Page).
Most Read Stories
Not everything hits the mark. Take Manly Wade Wellman’s “The Devil is Not Mocked,” in which Nazi soldiers arrogantly encroach on Dracula’s turf. (Big mistake.) Despite this promising setup, the story is thin and, well, kind of bloodless.
“The Big Book of Rogues and Villains” (Vintage, 928 pp., $25) is the latest in Otto Penzler’s peerless “Big Book of …” series.
Penzler, the owner of NYC’s Mysterious Bookshop, founder of Mysterious Press, and an icon in the world of mystery publishing, is surely one of the most qualified people alive to edit this zesty collection. His rough distinction between rogues and villains: one is a scoundrel with a twinkle in his (or her) eye, while the latter is just a bad guy (or girl).
The stories and excerpts are arranged chronologically into sections like “The Victorians” and “The Pulp Era.” Authors include the familiar (Donald E. Westlake, Erle Stanley Gardner) and some surprises (Robert Louis Stevenson, Sinclair Lewis).
But the majority are neglected authors not even the most rabid fan might know today. As a result, “Rogues and Villains” is a treasure chest of delightful discoveries. Penzler’s choices are eclectic and knowledgeable, though there are some…