Dracula Cha Cha Cha

As we march into this new year, I’ve been continuing my exploration of vampire novels and movies while working on my novel Ordeal of the Scarlet Order. Today, I’m taking a look at Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which is the third novel in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series. Originally released as Judgment of Tears, this novel is set in 1959 Rome where Dracula is planning a high profile wedding. Vampire reporter Kate Reed, who has appeared in many of the other Anno Dracula novels, has traveled to Rome to report on the event. She’s immediately swept into the entourage of an elder vampire and his “niece,” an actress named Malenka. In recent weeks, a mysterious figure known as the Crimson Avenger has been murdering vampires and sure enough he strikes at the end of Kate’s first night in Rome. The Crimson Avenger kills the elder vampire and Malenka. Kate is the only witness and she hopes to solve the mystery.

Kate is also in town to say farewell to her human friend, Charles Beauregard, who is being tended through his last days by the vampire elder Geneviève Dieudonné. Geneviève gets swept into the mystery along with Kate. It also turns out that a British spy called Bond is on the trail of the Crimson Avenger. I was especially amused that Newman notes that Danny Dravot of both his earlier novels and Rudyard Kipling’s novella The Man Who Would be King is the one who turned Bond into a vampire. What’s more, he notes Bond and Dravot bear a superficial resemblance. Movie fans might recall that Sean Connery portrayed Danny Dravot in John Huston’s adaptation of the story as well as his more famous role as James Bond.

Once again, Kim Newman gives us a solid, suspenseful mystery with references to numerous cinematic vampires. In other novels and stories featuring long-lived and immortal characters, a lot is made of these characters outliving people they’ve grown to love. In this novel, Kate, Geneviève, and their vampire acquaintance Penelope Churchward must face the ultimate demise of Charles Beauregard even as the spymaster who has appeared in many of these novels helps them put many of the puzzle piece in place. It helps to ground the novel and give it emotional weight I’ve found lacking in some of those other stories.

The Titan Books edition of Dracula Cha Cha Cha also includes a novella set in 1968 called Aquarius. Again, Kate Reed is involved in a murder mystery. In 1960s Britain, vampires and humans have learned to coexist, so it comes as a shock when a human girl is drained dry by a vampire. Kate soon uncovers clues that point to a nearby university which admits both human and vampire students. Again, it’s a solid mystery and well resolved.

In addition to the two stories, Newman walks us through many of his cinematic influences. This is a nice feature, since it gives me some new movies to seek out.

I was amused that in the lead-up to Dracula’s wedding, many of the characters were dancing to a song called the “Dracula Cha Cha.” As I read the book, I thought Kim Newman had made it up. It turns out it’s a real song recorded by Bruno Martino in 1959 and you can find numerous cover versions of the song. I definitely need to add the song to my vampire song playlist.

Clearly, I would recommend Dracula Cha Cha Cha to vampire fans who like a good mystery. If you’d also like to get ready for my forthcoming novel, you can learn about the Scarlet Order vampire novels at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

The Literary Bond

Bond. James Bond.

The name is a fixture of the English-speaking pop culture landscape. Films featuring Ian Fleming’s famous spy are so ubiquitous, I find it hard to think of spy thrillers without “hearing” the iconic theme from Dr. No in my head.

This past week, I’ve been working on a short story that’s something of a spy thriller with notes inspired by James Bond. I can’t say much yet about the story or the anthology series it’s written for. The editor wants to keep things under wraps until closer to release and I don’t want to jinx things by saying too much too early. I will say that I do have one story accepted for this series of anthologies and the story I’ve been working on this past week would be the second for the series, presuming it’s accepted.

Writing this story has required a fair bit of research. I’m thankful to live in an age where I can sit at my desk and watch videos that take me aboard an aircraft carrier or let me walk the streets of a land I haven’t visited before. However, there’s another aspect of research that’s not always appreciated and that’s getting the right tone for a story, especially when the guidelines specify an established tone like the one in this series.

Although I’ve seen large portions of most of the James Bond films, catching bits and pieces here and there when they aired on television, I can only recall sitting down and watching five of the films from beginning to end. What’s more, I’m sad to say that until a few days ago, I’d never actually read any of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels. The only Ian Fleming novel I’d ever read was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and that was only a year ago. I did find Chitty Chitty Bang Bang an utter delight and had been wanting to explore Fleming’s Bond novels since then.

I settled on Moonraker as the novel to start with. I picked it because I wanted a novel early enough that Fleming wasn’t being influenced by the films but late enough that he’d established his voice. I also wanted a novel that included a certain technological aspect because of the type of story I was writing. Also, although I enjoy a good card game now and then, I wasn’t sure if I was passionate enough about cards and gambling to stay glued to a novel like Casino Royale.

The novel Moonraker is quite a bit different from the movie. This is perhaps no surprise since the novel dates from 1955. The premise of the novel is that Sir Hugo Drax has been supervising a bunch of German scientists who are building England’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. Drax has become something of a national hero and the first test is imminent. The problem is that Drax is suspected of cheating at cards at the elite gambling club he belongs to. Bond is brought in to tactfully expose the cheating and quietly get it to stop before scandal taints Drax and his project. So, the first third of the book ends up being about Bond figuring out how Drax cheats and then turning the tables on him. This was compelling enough that I may have to give Casino Royale a try after all.

On the same night as Bond is working to prevent a scandal, one of Drax’s German employees shoots the head of security for the Moonraker project then shoots himself. The coincidental timing is enough for higher echelons in the British government to decide Bond should lend a hand to the investigation. It was all a good thrill ride of a novel that reminded me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, especially when Fleming speaks passionately of good food or fast cars. I was also reminded at times of Robert A. Heinlein’s young adult science fiction novels, especially with the fear that Nazis may be hiding in the woodwork, getting ready to unleash some dastardly plan.

I liked how Fleming’s Bond has a little more self-doubt than his onscreen counterparts and while 007 definitely pursues a woman in this novel, she proves to be a force to be reckoned with. I’m delighted I had the chance to read Moonraker and I suspect I’ll be diving into more of Fleming’s Bond novels soon. After all, I need to make sure I get the tone right in my story!