Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman (Anno Dracula series: Book 4)

"Fallen from grace and driven from the British Empire in previous instalments, Dracula seems long gone. A relic of the past. Yet, when vampire boy Johnny Alucard descends upon America, stalking the streets of New York and Hollywood, haunting the lives of the rich and famous, from Sid and Nancy to Andy Warhol, Orson Welles, and Francis Ford Coppola, sinking his fangs ever deeper into the zeitgeist of 1970s and 1980s America, it seems the past might not be dead after all..."

Set between 1976 and 1991, this is Kim Newman’s fourth instalment in his irreverent and highly entertaining Anno Dracula series.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the in-jokes and pop culture references in this alternate universe world, where Dracula succeeded in the late nineteenth century in establishing an empire and a new world order. The early chapters feature an amusing take on Francis Ford Coppola filming Dracula in 1976 (rather than in 1992), with the cast from Apocalypse Now. Film and horror buffs will love the mirrored worlds and the experiences the film crew encounters along the way. This reveals Newman at his most creative and knowledgeable.

When the action moves to the USA, New York City and Los Angeles in particular, it is like a Dracula Renaissance. This alternate history world mingles with the real world to heady and pleasing effect. Newman has crafted an exotic, scary, comic and utterly original novel.

We have Disco and the cult of celebrity, as well as the new in-drug “Drac” clearly referencing the real celebrity drug of choice of the 1970s and 80s: cocaine. We have a whirlwind tour of the beautiful people, the artistic and the hangers on and wannabes.

I do not want to reveal the characters that we meet from history, television and cinema for fear of ruining others enjoyment, let’s just say that Newman’s encyclopaedic and enviable knowledge of the horror genre and of film in general is used to terrific effect.

Like the previous books, I found this world totally immersive and addictive. The recurring characters of Kate Reed, Genevieve Dieudonné and Penelope Churchward are all here, providing a much needed sense of continuity and perspective. They have all clearly changed from when we first met them in Anno Dracula.

For all the shocking violence and gore, there is also a wistfulness and melancholia permeating this entry. At times it is quite reflective and there is a true sense of time passing, even for vampires!

If the previous entries were about notoriety, legacy and power, this one concerns itself with the cult of celebrity and fame. My only criticism, and it is a minor one, is that it can seem a little meandering at times, it does tend to stray. But there is so much to enjoy here that it would be churlish to dwell on that. This series has never been short on ideas and concepts and above all has been enormous fun.

Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman
Published 2013 by Titan
ISBN: 978-0857680860

9/10 This series has never been short on ideas and concepts and above all has been enormous fun.

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