Thank you for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. With as much as Dracula and vampires are seen in pop culture, what made you want to tackle this subject?
Kim Newman: I first got interested in horror through a TV screening of Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). The Bram Stoker novel was one of the first horror classics I read. So Dracula has always been my favourite of the great horror characters. The very proliferation of Dracula and vampires – not the same thing, which is one of the themes I wanted to address – in popular culture is one of the subjects of the series, really – especially the forthcoming Johnny Alucard, which is about the media ghosts of Dracula. I’m also interested in invasion narratives, and – as I’ve said often – the germ of Anno Dracula was a footnote I added to a thesis I wrote at university on turn of the century apocalyptic fictions where I made links between Dracula and the narrative devices of books like The Battle of Dorking, War of the Worlds and When William Came where alien invaders of some sort show up and conquer/occupy/transform/oppress Britain.
Why did you decide that now was the right time to have these books reworked and reissued?
Kim Newman: It wasn’t so much the time as the treatment Titan offered. While the books were out of print – for dull publishing/rights reasons – I had a couple of offers to reissue Anno Dracula as a small press/collectors edition, but I wanted something more for the general reader. Enough time had passed since the original publications of the first three novels for me to accrue bonus materials to sweeten the package.
Kim Newman: I made only minor amendments to the original texts of the first three novels – fixing a few long-standing glitches (I was astonished to find a word processing error on the first page of Anno Dracula that no one had noticed in twenty years), misspellings and some tiny continuity things. With The Bloody Red Baron, I have restored a chapter (‘The Private Files of Mycroft Holmes’) that was originally cut (signposted so it can be skipped if the reader prefers) – which is the only really substantial change to the books. But I have added footnotes, essays, and other stuff. With Anno Dracula, I had a couple of other versions – a novella-length draft (‘Red Reign’) and a screenplay I did just after the book came out – so I included some alternate scenes and add-ons for contrast with the novel.
For The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha, I didn’t have equivalent materials, so I took the opportunity to include new, substantial novellas which fill in historical gaps in the series, enable me to address some of the developments in vampire pop culture in recent years and set up some continuing threads. Put together, these novellas are the length of a whole new novel, so I hope they encourage folks to pick up the books again even if they have old editions. The Bloody Red Baron had ‘Vampire Romance’, set in 1923, and Dracula Cha Cha Cha will have ‘Aquarius’ (provisional title), set in 1968 (which I’m still writing).
The new additions at the ends of the books are great. The screenplay treatment, Red Skies, that is printed in The Bloody Red Baron was interesting, and hints at what could have been. Is there still more you’re holding back?
Kim Newman: I’ve got a bunch of other things written over the years which may or may not show up in the other books. Johnny Alucard, the fourth novel, is already quite long and so won’t have as much additional stuff – I don’t think it’ll have the same sort of footnotes, since it would seem presumptuous to clutter a new book with the kind of explanations allowable in a reissue. If I’m holding stuff back, it’s most likely the new fiction rather than the extras.
These books are very informed in a way that a lot of pastiche fiction isn’t. You blend your love of horror movies with real life horrors so well. Could you describe how your work as a film critic and scholar, especially in the horror genre, has fed the fiction and vice versa?
Kim Newman: I’m not sure I write pastiche – which I think of as trying to expand an original canon as seamlessly as possible and imitate another author’s (or another era’s) voice. I tend to give whatever I co-opt into my ongoing fictional universe my own particular spin, which is why some of the characters I borrow aren’t much like the original versions. I certainly feel that there’s a blurred line between my fiction and criticism – I often say that I write stories about (or informed by) movies, TV, pop culture and pulp for the same reason that Arthur C. Clarke wrote about satellites, rockets and space elevators. He spent a lot of time thinking about these things, and that tends to throw up ideas for made-up stories. The influence does work the other way – when I was starting out as a critic, I worked on the often-overlooked business of making the prose readable and distinctive rather than just concentrating on the one-liners. I probably worked over Nightmare Movies for the prose as much as any novel I’ve written.
Speaking of a love of horror films, the mammoth expansion of Nightmare Movies, it’s quite a read! What are your thoughts on reworking and adding to novels, much like directors revisit their films years later? Do you worry as much about audience reaction?
Kim Newman: As I’ve said, I’ve mostly left the novels alone except for copy-edits. I wouldn’t know where to start rewriting or expanding old books – I’m much more likely to want to do new stories with the same characters or settings.
Do you have screenplay versions of all your novels banging around somewhere? I recall Anno Dracula had a bit of screenplay printed with it originally.
Kim Newman: I’ve done a few scripts based on my books: Anno Dracula and The Quorum (which went through a bunch of drafts but never happened), and one reason for the delay in the appearance of the forthcoming An English Ghost Story is that I worked on the novel and a script version concurrently and when the movie project stalled I was left with a book that wasn’t finished either.
I’ve always been intrigued by Jack the Ripper. And at this point he could just as well be a fictional character he has fallen into such myth. What made you want to fuse the Dracula/vampire legend with the ripper?
Kim Newman: I had various ideas which added up to Anno Dracula, but it wasn’t until I thought of doing it as a Jack the Ripper story that the actual plot fell into place – a police/private investigation of serial murders with a conspiracy angle allowed me to visit all strata of my invented society. And you’re right – though real, the Ripper fits in with the Chamber of Horrors monsters (Fu Manchu, Mr Hyde, Dracula, Dorian Gray) of about the same period. My version of the Ripper is very much the mythical one – the doctor with a gladstone bag full of knives – rather than an attempt to come up with an idea about who he might ‘really’ have been.
The Bloody Red Baron takes place during World War 1, and you have this vampire war inside of the bigger war. Was there any influence from Romero’s zombie films and using the vampires to illuminate something bigger in society?
Kim Newman: I’m a great admirer of George Romero, and Nightmare Movies is essentially about his influence on horror cinema. I didn’t specifically think of those films in the context of The Bloody Red Baron – though there’s an Italian zombie sub-plot in Dracula Cha Cha Cha. The major nod to Romero in the series is the inclusion of Martin Cuda, from Martin, as a member of the Carpathian Guard in Anno Dracula.
Lastly, after the reissues are all out, will we be seeing more of these characters, a Dracula 1972 A.D. of sorts?
Kim Newman: I’m wary of saying too much, but there will be a fifth Anno Dracula novel.
We've included the description for The Bloody Red Baron below and you can learn more at: http://titanbooks.com/anno-dracula-the-bloody-red-baron-5192/
"Written by the critically acclaimed novelist Kim Newman, The Bloody Red Baron is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the bestselling Victorian vampire novel, Anno Dracula. Filled with literary and historical characters from the early 20th century, in the second book in this groundbreaking series the War of the Great Powers in Europe is also a war between the living and the undead.
It is 1918 and Dracula is commander-in-chief of the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Diogenes Club is at the heart of the British Intelligence and Charles Beauregard and his protégé Edwin Winthrop go head-to-head with the lethal vampire flying machine that is the Bloody Red Baron.
This brand-new edition of The Bloody Red Baron includes a special added bonus: a lengthy new novella, Vampire Romance, which is set in the 1920s between the events of The Bloody Red Baron and the third novel in Anno Dracula Series, Dracula Cha Cha Cha. This volume also boasts intriguing new annotations from Kim Newman and an action-packed outline for a film version of The Bloody Red Baron called Red Skies."