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      Samia Ounoughi: Telegraph For Garlic.

       Red Rattle Books 2013 ISBN 978-1909086088,  £ 6,99

David Saunderson: Dracula's Midnight Snacks.

Red Rattle Books 2013  ISBN 978-8190908603,  £ 6,99

Loyalty requires that we walk the line.  Vampire fans are loyal but like the vampire they can be easily tempted.  They are serious but they need to be wary.  Vampire fiction can easily lose its way and forget to walk the line.  We have had excess horror, gross sentimentality and heroes and vampires who did anything but walk the line which is odd because the myth is very much about walking the line, the space between good and evil, beauty and horror, immortality and death, youth and decay, masks and identity and much more.  ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ and ‘Telegraph For Garlic’ are two new additions to the vampire genre.

The books have been released as a two-part sequel to ‘Frankenstein Galvanized’, which appeared last year from Red Rattle Books.  Like the earlier book on Frankenstein, ‘Telegraph For Garlic’ focuses on a literary classic.  This time it is ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker. 

‘Telegraph For Garlic’ contains a selection of challenging academic essays and well-chosen extracts from the novel that help to illustrate the essays.  Does it walk the line?  Well, it subjects the text to serious and devoted analysis and that is the kind of loyalty that we recognise.  It is critical but appreciative, which is welcome because this complex response helps readers understand the scope and achievement.  The introductory essay on gothic fiction makes clear the daring of Bram Stoker.  To ensure the book is not drowned in academic excess, it also includes the short story ‘Dracula’s Guest’ and two essays on 20th Century American vampires that provide modern context without compromise.  It walks the line.

‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ has 14 stories and those who want ‘Twilight’ type adolescent fantasy will be disappointed.  There is not a trace of sentimentality in any of the stories.  ‘Feel Like Going Home’ which features a suicidal vampire might be sympathetic to the doomed night creature but there is no glorification of pesky bloodsuckers.  Evil is there to be understood but resisted.  The stories include a wide range of ideas and themes.   ‘Comanche Vampire’ is a tight tale that evokes well the Westerns of Budd Boetticher.  We also have a vampire who is on Disability Benefit and another who becomes a New York celebrity.   Another is a kind NHS worker.    But no story resorts to trendy heroes or gimmicks.  This is avoided because the stories are conceptually strong.      Various themes emerge.  Loss of innocence is to be expected but in the very subtle ‘Episode of Don Francisco Figueredo’ the son is not disillusioned with the vampire.  Instead, he merely emerges from the experience with a more realistic understanding of his flawed father.   ‘Basarab’s Boy’ combines a fascinating look at 19th Century wrestling with a warning about ambition and whether virtue is rewarded.  Different readers will ponder what ‘Life After Death’ actually means.  Even the unsure will delight in the playful dialogue.   ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ is full of mature warnings and it is a welcome addition to a genre, which still has plenty of life. 


 Irene Keith