Ed Stephen Jones – Robinson, 2004, ISBN 1-84119-926-5, £7.99, 628pp
The Mammoth Book of Vampires does exactly what it says on the cover – it’s a huge tome and it’s full of vampires. It’s so big you could use it as a mallet to help hammer a stake home should you encounter one of the living dead on a dark and stormy night. But it would be far more enjoyable (and less gory) if you read it. It’s an anthology of vampire short stories written by a number of celebrated authors – Clive Barker, Brian Stableford, Michael Marshall Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, Hugh Cave, Nancy Kilpatrick and many more. And with such a diverse range of authors come an eclectic range of stories – we have vampire as metaphor, vampire as serial killer, updatings of time-honoured vampire tales (some modern and some classic) and many more. The influences extend from traditional Victorian literature to The Rocky Horror Picture Show with lengths ranging from a couple of pages to novellas. Some have appeared in print before and others are completely new, so you’re bound to find several stories of interest and, in fact, most of them are jolly good reads.
So, what’s on offer? Best of the bunch includes Les Daniel’s Yellow Fog which is a nod to the Victorian penny dreadful, with horror and mystery in equal measure. Neil Gaiman offers a series of unusual vignettes, all based around a vampiric tarot deck. Beyond Any Measure (Karl Edward Wagner) is a tale of decadence, debauchery and doppelgangers while Paul Macauley’s Straight to Hell offers us a sordid look at the rise and fall of rock star and the rise and rise of his vampiric mentor. Speaking of sordid, Harlan Ellison’s Try A Dull Knife tells the sorry tale of the downfall of empath Eddie Burma, drained of his psychic energy. Tanith Lee’s provides an alternative Snow White tale Red as Blood, where the Witch Queen seeks to destroy the vampire Bianca. Making full use of Christian mythology the story twists the reader’s perception of which character is good and which is evil. The highlight of the tome, however, is Kim Newman’s Andy Warhol’s Dracula (bit of a mouthful, that), especially for those who are know and love the alternate history Anno Dracula series. The latest story has reached the 1960’s and 70’s and pop is definitely, most definitely, in. The story is a particular joy if you are familiar with the culture of the time as it contains many presque deja vus to those who know about the beautiful people, works and writings of that particular era. It’s also great for film buffs as you try to spot the references – you can bet that many of the character names have appeared on the silver screen at some point.
So, recommended for those who like big books, but don’t have time to dedicate themselves to a single story. A veritable pot pourri of nosferatu nibblings.