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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vampire Novel of the Century

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is an international association of writers, publishing professionals, and supporters of horror literature. The HWA recently announced the nominees for the Bram Stoker Vampire Novel of the Century Award, which will be presented on March 31, 2012, upon the centenary of the death of Abraham (Bram) Stoker, the author of Dracula. From a field of more than 35 preliminary nominees, a jury of writers and scholars chose the six vampire novels that they believe have had the greatest impact on the horror genre since the publication of Dracula in 1897. Eligible works must have been first published between 1912 and 2011 and published in or translated into English. 

I'll be reading and reviewing some of the books on the list in upcoming blogs. Here are the nominees:

The Soft Whisper of the Dead, by Charles L. Grant (1983). Grant (1946-2006) was a prolific American writer of what he called "dark fantasy" and "quiet horror," writing under six pseudonyms as well as his own name. Grant also edited numerous horror and fantasy anthologies. The novel is part of Grant's 12-part series, set in the fictional small town Oxrun Station, Connecticut. Grant was a former president of HWA and received its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.

Salem’s Lotby Stephen King. First published in 1975, this was only the second work by the now-legendary American author of dozens of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror stories, comics, and novels. Set in the town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine, it tells of a man's return to his hometown, where he finds a plague of vampirism. The book has twice been made into television mini-series and has been recorded by the BBC. King's work has won countless Bram stoker Awards from HWA, and King (1947-), a lifelong New England resident, was recognized with HWA's Lilfetime Achievement Award in 2002. (This is the very first horror novel I ever read. I just re-read it, and it still gives me chills. The old 1979 TV movienot the awful 2004 filmis also bloodcurdlingly good. You can still purchase it online.)

I Am Legendby Richard Matheson. First published in 1954, the novel is set in the mid-1970s, when a plague has swept the world, bringing with it flesh-eating creatures identified as vampires. Richard Neville, the book's protagonist, may be the last living human. The work has been filmed three times under various titles; its most recent adaptation (2007) starred Will Smith. Matheson (1926-), an American, has written screenplays as well as short and long fiction, and many of his works have been filmed or made into tele-plays. He wrote frequently for The Twilight Zone in its heyday. Matheson received HWA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.
Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman, first appeared in 1992. The novel imagines an alternate history in which Van Helsing and his cohorts failed in their attempt to rid England of Dracula. In this timeline, Dracula went on to marry Queen Victoria, ushering in an era of vampire aristocracy in England and elsewhere. The book is followed by two other novels and a number of shorter works set in the Anno Dracula universe, all meticulously researched to include numerous historical details and many characters of Victorian and more recent popular literature. Newman (1959-) is an English writer of fantasy and horror, as well as reference books in the field, and frequently appears as a host and critic for the BBC and other media.

Interview with the Vampire, by American author Anne Rice, first appeared in 1976 and achieved enormous popularity, selling more than 8 million copies. The book introduces the vampires Louis and Lestat, who, along with a dozen other unique individual vampires, appear in a long series by Rice known as The Vampire Chronicles. The novel was filmed in 1994 starring Tom Cruise as Lestat and Brad Pit as Louis, and was produced as a Broadway musical in 2006. Another work in the series, Queen of the Damned, was filmed in 2002. Rice (1941-) has written numerous other Gothic fantasy novels, selling more than 100 million copies worldwide, and has won many awards, including HWA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Hotel Transylvania, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, published in 1978, is the first of a 25-book (so far) series featuring le Comte de Saint Germain, a 2000+-year-old vampire. This novel overlaps in many details with the actual historical facts of le Comte de Saint-Germain a mysterious historical figure. An American writer, Yarbro (1942-) publishes three or four books a year under various pseudonyms in a variety of genres, including mysteries and romance tales. She was Awarded HWA's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

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