I have been continuing my read of the Anno Dracula series and today, I take a look at the fourth book, Johnny Alucard. The series asks what would have happened if Count Dracula escaped Dr. Van Helsing at the end of Bram Stoker’s famous novel and married Queen Victoria, thus bringing vampires into public view for the first time in history. The series has been full of allusions to famous literary and screen vampires along with pop culture icons of the various time periods visited. In the previous novel I read, Dracula Cha Cha Cha, the count finally died for real in Rome of 1959. That noted, Dracula largely exists as a background presence in these novels, which are mostly told from perspective of one of three vampires: the elder and doctor Geneviève Dieudonné, Victorian activist and reporter Kate Reed, or socialite Penelope Churchward.
Johnny Alucard opens with a prologue in 1944 when Dracula visits his native Transylvania and turns a young man named Ion Popescu into a vampire. We then jump ahead thirty-two years to 1976. Francis Ford Coppola is in Transylvania filming his version of Dracula. This isn’t an alternate version of the one we know from 1992. Instead Coppola is creating this world’s version of Apocalypse Now with Marlon Brando as Dracula and Martin Sheen as Jonathan Harker. Katherine Reed is on hand to document the filming and serve as a consultant. Also on hand is the vampire Ion Popescu with Dracula’s blood in his veins and Dracula’s will in his consciousness. Ion is captivated by the production and over the course of this first part begins his transformation into John Popp who follows the film crew back to New York.
We then take a brief interlude into 1977 and find Geneviève in Southern California. She helps a man track down his daughter who has been taken in by a cult out in the desert. I enjoyed the cameo at a diner by a trucker known as the Duck. Through her long history, Geneviève has helped people by working as a doctor, but this episode gives her a taste for working as a private detective.
Our episodic novel next continues John Popp’s journey in America where he winds his way into Andy Warhol’s inner circle. Also in Warhol’s orbit is Penelope Churchward. Through the series, we have learned that a little vampire blood can give humans a boost of strength and stamina. It can help heal them and make them feel very good. Popp realizes that in America, people will pay for this rush and begins selling his blood like a drug. As vampire blood hits the streets and becomes increasingly addictive and expensive, Popp encourages other vampires to get in on the action. Ultimately he stops sharing his own blood and becomes something of a kingpin in the world of vampire blood dealing. Through his association with Warhol, Johnny Popp learns there’s an even better way to wend his way into the hearts and souls of Americans and that’s through Hollywood.
In 1981, Orson Welles hires private detective Geneviève Dieudonné to find out who is funding his version of the Dracula story. During this episode she gets involved with Columbo and even Buffy, or rather Barbie, the vampire slayer.
The novel continues to trace Popp’s transformation from Transylvanian peasant Ion Popescu to Hollywood mogul Johnny Alucard. Meanwhile Dracula’s influence over him continues to increase. In both the Universal and Hammer films, Dracula was often killed at the end and the screenwriters found inventive ways to bring him back for the next film. This book effectively becomes Kim Newman’s story of how Dracula can come back after he’d been killed off in the previous version. Unlike other volumes in the series, this one took me through a tour of the pop culture I actually experienced first hand. I gather the sections of the novel originally appeared as short stories and novellas. This might put some readers off, but I enjoyed this journey through the years and through multiple points of view. Overall, threads from the different eras come together at the end of the novel to deliver a satisfying conclusion.
Like the novel Johnny Alucard, my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order started life as short stories in a set of publications. You can learn more about my novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html