Titan Books has released a new edition of Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the third book in the Anno Dracula series. Derek recently had a chance to interview author Kim Newman and learned more about the novel’s Italian horror influences. We also have a status update on the long-awaited fourth book, Johnny Alucard.
Can you tell me a bit about the origin and perhaps any influences of this installment in the series?
After the gruesome, muddy, gloomy carnage of World War One in The Bloody Red Baron, the previous book in the series, I wanted to something more fun, but still serious. The summer of 1959 is personally important to me, since I was born then, and the world of la dolce vita in Rome – the real one and the Fellini film – struck me as an underexplored, interesting area. It also enabled me to play with Italian horror, bringing in giallo, Maciste, Bloody Pit of Horror, Argento’s Three Mothers and Mario Bava movies. Other influences are obvious – Ian Fleming, Patricia Highsmith, Simon Raven, Vincente Minnelli’s Two Weeks in Another Town.
Why was the novel called Dracula Cha Cha Cha?
It’s from an Italian popular song, originally the theme tune of a movie with Christopher Lee called Tempi duri per i vampiri or Uncle Was a Vampire, but also heard in Two Weeks in Another Town. It’s catchy and creepy, and I wanted it to be the signature tune of the novel – it was a big hit, and when the book was published in Italy a few years back, my publisher there remembered it and knew all the lyrics. The Bloody Red Baron is named after a song, too, as is ‘Aquarius’, the new novella included with this reissue of Dracula Cha Cha Cha.
This novel is much more humorous to me than the others. Did you ever fear people would be turned off by the humor and “out there” situations in which you place the count? There’s even a Bond-like character in here!
I’ve always intended that there be a streak of satire in these books, partly to leaven how dark they can get. This is a lighter episode in some of its aspects, though I think it’s also the most emotionally-invested of the series too – after books about murder and war, I think this is a book about looking for love. There are vampires in it, too. And I really enjoyed writing Hamish Bond, vampire secret agent – I’m tempted to go back and play with the character some more.
Setting the book in Rome allowed some exercise of your admiration of Italian filmmakers, you even named a chapter Cat O’ Nine Tails. Are you ever hesitant to allude to so many other films and literary creations for fear of it alienating your readers if they don’t know what you’re referring to?
I hope that the story upfront is engaging enough that you can get past the references – a lot of them are just for context or scene-setting, populating and set-dressing the world like any historical or science fiction novelist has to. Some readers really like tracking this stuff down – quite a few elements I’ve actually forgotten what I meant or was referring to. If I co-opt a character, I tend to bend them to my own purposes. Early on, I decided that outside my core cast of characters – mostly people I’ve made up – I’d try to draw everyone from history or other fictions, but often their roles are what’s important. I look around for, say, an Italian policeman or a French call girl and pick from the real or fictional characters who fit the brief.
Speaking of the book’s heavy Italian influence, is Princess Aja named for Barbara Steele’s character in Black Sunday? Were you drawing any specific comparisons between the two films/characters and if so, what?
Yes, of course. I’ve tried to deliver my version of all the major vampire characters in the series. I love The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday/La Maschera del demonio, and especially Steele’s presence. The actress is also in Fellini’s 8 1/2 and was a real presence in the social scene of the era, so some of that filters into my version of the Princess.
With this series of books, you’ve written about vampires, and Dracula, in a way I’ve never seen. Where do you see your contribution to the ever expanding Dracula legend fitting?
I suspect I’m permanently part of the Dracula syllabus. I’ve been more concerned with addressing everyone else’s post-Bram Stoker contributions to think much about my own, but I have started noticing vampire books and films and TV shows which feel influenced by my series.
What is the status of the fourth novel in the series, Johnny Alucard? When would you like to see it released?
Next Spring. Finally.
Can you give us a tease of what we can expect from Johnny Alucard?
It’s set over a longer period than the other books, from 1971 (after a 1944 prologue) to 1990, and mostly in Romania and America in the entertainment industry. It includes some previously-published novellas (‘Coppola’s Dracula’, ‘Andy Warhol’s Dracula’) and has a more elliptical plot, following a Romanian orphan vampire who insinuates himself into America and rises to power within the vampire community.
Synoposis: Written by award-winning novelist and movie critic Kim Newman, this is a brand-new edition, with additional never-before-seen novella, of the popular third installment of the Anno Dracula series.
Rome 1959 and Count Dracula is about to marry the Moldavian Princess Asa Vajda. Journalist Kate Reed flies into the city to visit the ailing Charles Beauregard and his vampire companion Geneviève. She finds herself caught up in the mystery of the Crimson Executioner who is bloodily dispatching vampire elders in the city. She is on his trail, as is the undead British secret agent, Bond.
Learn more at: http://titanbooks.com/anno-dracula-dracula-cha-cha-cha-5193/