Imagine the excitement when, in digging through the texts, notes and drafts left behind by Gothic novelist Bram Stoker, it's been discovered that the author's first 100 pages never made it into the published version of Dracula.
Like literary detectives traveling back in time, first time collaborators J.D. Barker (author of Forsaken, The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die) and Dacre Stoker (great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker) sought out clues all over the world — from an Icelandic translation, to a rare draft found in a Pennsylvania barn in the 1980s to research notes archived in Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum and Library — and what they discovered was enough to send chills down their spines.
"[Dacre] sprung two things on me the first time we sat down. The original preface from Dracula, from the Icelandic [edition], Bram said this was a true story with real people; the names had been changed. That was bombshell number one," says Barker.
"Bombshell number two: I’ve read Dracula a million times; it always started with Jonathan Harker on the train. But that’s page 102 of the manuscript; the first 100 pages were stripped out," adds Barker. "His publisher pushed it back, 'We can’t do this [say it's a true story];' Jack the Ripper was running around, people were scared to death at the idea of a vampire."
Dacre offers proof that Bram really believed that his vampire story was based on true events, and reads two paragraph from the Icelandic edition.
"I am quite convinced that there is no doubt whatever that the events here described really took place, however unbelievable and incomprehensible they might appear at first sight. And I am further convinced that they must always remain to some extent incomprehensible."
"All the people who have willingly – or unwillingly – played a part in this remarkable story are known generally and well respected. Both Jonathan Harker and his wife (who is a woman of character) and Dr. Seward are my friends and have been so for many years, and I have never doubted that they were telling the truth." — Bram Stoker, Icelandic edition of Dracula
Dacre says he followed that thread to ask the question, "What would happen if Bram Stoker really felt there was a presence of a vampire?"
"What would he do if he went to the police in Dublin at the time? They would have said, 'You're a whack job.' But Bram Stoker, being the writer, thought 'I’m going to write this story as fiction and warn people,'" says Dacre.
It's well-known that, as a child, Bram was sickly and bedridden with a mysterious illness until he was seven years old, at which point he was miraculously cured and went on to become a robust young man and athlete.
"I think he had a very close encounter with a vampire, the research we did on him," says Dacre. "What happens if there was a potion, a weird elixir, but maybe just maybe there’s some vampire connection. Maybe there’s a vampire fluid.
"In the rules for vampires, it's said that a vampire has the strength of ten men. [Bram] went from invalid to champion athlete, he was taller than everybody, an all around athletic stud from being this crippled kid," adds Dacre.
Dracul is being described as a prequel to Dracula, introducing a mysterious female character and giving insight into the Gothic vampire that would go on to frighten generations to come. The authors already knew how the story would end — where Dracula begins — but expanded on Bram's themes of science versus superstition, the natural world versus the supernatural world.
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Dacre says that Bram knew how to capitalize on readers' fascination with the supernatural, and quotes Van Helsing, the keeper of myths, from Bram's text. "There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve in part."
"Just because my brain, my eyes, my level of consciousness cannot see something, it doesn't mean it’s not there," says Dacre. "Just because present scientific data can’t prove this, it doesn’t mean it's not true."
Dacre's first novel, Dracula: The Un-Dead, released in 2009, was cowritten by Dacre and screenwriter Ian Holt.
Authors J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker will be on hand for a presentation, Q&A and book signing for Dracul at 6:30 p.m. October 10 at Murder By The Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 713-524-8597, murderbooks.com.