The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman
Review by Daniel Cann
This is the follow up to ‘Anno Dracula’ and like the first book it is filled with literary and historical characters, this time from the early twentieth century. In this alternate universe 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 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.’
Having read ‘Anno Dracula’ I was eager to see what Newman did to the First World War. I am happy to say that this is an intoxicating mix of history and fiction that sees vampires engaging in dog fights (and I never thought I would write a sentence like that!)
The fast and frenetic aerial action is juxtaposed with the brutal battles in the quagmire of trenches, barbed wire and disease of the ground. This is packed with shocking and striking images, plenty of exotic creatures, shape shifting vampires and of course lots of gore.
Thanks to Newman’s skill as a writer the gore and horror never threatens to overwhelm the narrative which manages to infuse some much needed humour into the poignancy and sacrifice. This is war in all its futility with propaganda from the likes of vampire writer Edgar Allan Poe (here as Edgar Poe) who attempts to turn the pilots into ‘knights of the skies’ masking the reality of lives wasted and unnecessary suffering.
Newman makes it clear that both sides are commanded by egomaniacs and glory seekers who have not an ounce of tactical nous or compassion for the thousands of men they are willing to sacrifice. The vivacious heroine, journalist Kate Reed is back and on hand to chart the terrible prolongation of the conflict which has reached an awful stalemate.
Beauregard is now an ageing and creaking hero but still as stalwart as ever and his young impulsive protégé Winthrop characterises the young men of the war desperate to prove themselves in serving King and Country.
The Red Baron is a cold-eyed killer and sociopath who only relates to life in terms of the ‘kills’ he has achieved. His monstrous transformations and aerial exploits are both thrilling and repellent.
With intrigue, action and a certain detached amusement and mischief added to the heady mix Newman has again done the Dracula legend proud. His encyclopaedic knowledge of film, history and novels is unparalleled in this genre and he has again succeeded in giving readers a unique and original take on a seismic episode in history here given a horrific twist.
‘Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron’ is a masterstroke of alternate world horror fiction.
Like the previous Titan new edition this is packed with an array of fascinating extras like ‘Red Skies’ a mooted film treatment that sadly never saw the light of day and a brand new novella ‘Vampire Romance’ with old favourite Genevieve Dieudonne. This features a conference of vampires at Mildew Manor in the Lake District. This is huge fun reading like a detective story with an impressive ensemble cast of vampires through the ages.
This new edition is definitely worth the investment, not only does it contain the ‘writers cut’ (if you will) of the original story but also so many added bonuses, annotations, notes and other projects offering the reader fascinating glimpses inside the creative mind of Newman who has to be one of the premier horror writers of today.
Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman
First Published 1995
This edition published 2012 by Titan Books
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