Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Reading

Last week I got to reading a book that I’ve successfully put off for most of the year. And this week, I’m reading another book that I’ve put off for most of the year. Both books are about vampires, and there’s just something very cool about reading vampire books right around Halloween, as opposed to, say, Valentine’s Day, when I bought them.

So, on my shelf (read: floor) they’ve sat, just waiting for this time of year. Of course, as with most things in my life, I had completely forgotten I’d ever bought the two books, and had I not snapped a photo of them for the blog a few weeks ago, well...

They would have been good reading for next Halloween, I suppose.

In any case, what with today being Halloween and all, I figured it'd be a good time to give a couple of recommendations for some seasonal reading.

The Dead Travel Fast coverI’ll start with the first one I read, written by Eric Nuzum called The Dead Travel Fast. It’s basically an exploration of vampire lore and how said lore has managed to stick around for such an incredible amount of time.

There are some really great and funny stories about the author’s own search for the undead, which takes him to Romania and the site of Vlad Tepes’ (the “historical” Dracula’s) actual castle in Wallachia, to a local chain restaurant where he hangs out with self-proclaimed vampires (who like fried food and talk really loudly), and to Forrest Ackerman’s California home and science fiction/horror museum.

Oh, and he watches over 200 vampire movies, too.

In between anecdotes, Nuzum relates vampire lore and legends, discusses where the term may have actually originated from, and provides insight into both Bram Stoker and the stories surrounding the creation of the book and, later, the copyright issues that plagued the early plays and films.

Nuzum sets out to explore why vampire themes have been around for as long as they have, and maybe--just maybe--to find a real, "live" vampire.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop right there. If you're into vampires, and big on pop culture, then this is the book for you. Also, if you're interested in the (pretty mysterious) biography of the man who wrote Dracula, Nuzum offers some great insight into the life and times of Bram Stoker.

For me, the bits on Stoker were the highlights of the book, and I learned a few things that I'd never known before. For example, Stoker and American writer Walt Whitman were friends through a series of letter-writing that the two partook of throughout their lives. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, for a quick, funny, interesting read on Dracula and vampire legends, check out The Dead Travel Fast.

Right after finishing Nuzum's vampire book, I dove into Sundays With Vlad, written by Paul Bibeau. I'm only about 80 pages in, and I really can't comment at length, but I will say that so far, I'm digging it.

The book opens with a funny (and kinda scary) story about the author's honeymoon, and how said honeymoon takes a detour to the hills of Romania in search of Dracula's castle.

There's also tons of fascinating information about Romanian political history, and I think I've come to the conclusion that the Romanian people were likely better off under ol' Vlad the Impaler than many of their more recent political leaders.

Bibeau relates the story of how, in 2000, in an attempt to beef up Romania's tourism and to capitalize on the country's most famous son, political leaders come up with a plan--a Dracula-inspired theme park.

Like Disney World,

And that's where I am now, so I'll stop here. I'm really enjoying this book so far, and once I'm done with it, I'll post an addendum.

Oh! And I just remembered my all-time favorite Halloween book, called October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, which is a collection of short stories and anecdotes from horror writers about their favorite holiday.

Included in the collection of short stories are tales by Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Poppy Z. Brite, F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, and Peter Straub. While the short stories are great, my favorite parts of the book are the "My Favorite Halloween Memory" anecdotes, which are related by all contributors. There's also a concise history of the holiday and a detailed list of the top Halloween films of all time.

Every year on October 1, I take this book off my shelf, dust if off, and read a few stories each day. My favorite is a Halloween Memory that involves Catholic school and Alice Cooper. This book is definitely a must-read if you're a fan or horror!

Well, that's about it for my reviews, so all that's left to say is:


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