Review Blog

Jul 27 2010

Vampires: The un-history of the undead by Tony Thompson

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Black dog books, 2010. ISBN 9781742031316.
Non fiction. Recommended. Just when you thought the vampire euphoria was dying down, up pops this most readable account of the history of vampires and their place in myth, fiction, film and television. I wish this little gem was around when researching for an article penned for Magpies earlier this year, To Fang or not to fang, it would have been indispensible in giving me a readable overview of the background to the Twilight phenomenon that besieges us today.
Thompson begins with the story of the writing of Frankenstein and The Vampyre in 1819, when a party which included Shelley and Byron, staying at a villa in Italy, resolved to write a horror story. What Shelley and Byron wrote is unknown but out of that idea came Dr John Polidori's The Vampyre, along with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and these two novels set in train a genre of horror story still being read today. From there Thompson goes back in time to give the vampire myth an historical perspective, showing how villages were torn apart by the fear of vampires, graves opened and the most horrific things done to bodies in the belief that vampires stalked their towns. Several stories held sway, but it was not until 1897, that Bran Stoker's Dracula appeared and gave the model for those seen ever since.
An account of film and television appearance by this character follows, with a brief summary of each of the major influences, Bela Lugosi, Nosferatu, the Hammer films of the 1950's, Blade, Buffy and Twilight, amongst others.
An engaging read, which includes a sound index, informative contents page, and a great reference list allowing the avid reader to read further. A list of Required Viewing (film) Required Reading (novels) and Required Listening (music) adds to the fun of pursuing this theme. I enjoyed this book immensely; the content added to my knowledge and gave me leads to further explore the vampire genre, and with some of the films, books and music available on the internet, my spare hours will be filled. Middle school readers will lap it up (sorry!). Come and meet Edward's ancestors.
Fran Knight

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