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1.0 out of 5 stars Dunno about the blood, but it certainly sucked ..., 29 Oct 2008
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This review is from: The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula (Paperback)
I don't mind `bad' as in lurid, disgusting and vile. Wicked has its appeal. In my teenage years I read dozens of books where hapless wenches unwittingly unleashed dark forces that ravished them in a most graphic manner, until said forces were banished back from whence they came by some wholesome hunk who then ravished the wench in a wholesome, hunky manner, and where people had their heads ripped off and used as lavatories by eldritch things. I'm not overly squeamish, is what I am trying to say.

Books like that might be trash but if they had no merit other than of their lack of pretension, well, there is something to be said for that. The Secret Life Of Lazlo, Count Dracula, by Roderick Anscombe is bad because it thinks it is something good.

"Re-invention" is a dirty word to my mind. It usually entails someone who isn't as clever as they think making a grab for someone else's laurels and trying to make off with them. This is a re-invention of the Dracula story. Dracula is perfect as it was. You could talk for days about the imagery and subtext, the fear of contamination, the allure of the other, Dracula as a supreme Oedipal figure who can only be killed by driving a phallus, sorry, stake through his heart. What we don't need is a psychiatrist turned writer to do it for us.

In a nutshell: Drac isn't a vampire, he's an ordinary aristocrat with a fondness for rough sex, so rough that his amours don't always survive. He dabbles in the infant science of psychiatry which allows him to ponder on his condition in a tedious manner.

I'm not one to rush to judge too quickly. It wasn't until page 178 that I decided I was definately infuriated, when the good Count asks a friend `and that's where we come in' - an odd phrase for a 19th century Hungarian aristocrat to utter.

Of course, once I decided I was not `bored' but `infuriated' by the book, I showed it no mercy. I started folding pages over to mark things that annoyed me particularly - and I count a further 19 folded up corners. 20 blunders might not sound a lot, but remember this is from halfway through the book, and they are only the outstandingly bad examples. Add on top of that a poor quality of writing, staging (the characters seem to spend most of their time at breakfast) and plotting (not content with the violation and murder of four women, Anscombe throws in a plague, a treasonous conspiracy and a murder investigation).

The book is full of sloppy writing. We are told that one woman wants to `show that she wears the pants.' A few pages later, this woman and Mrs Drac have `hit it off.' Again, this is 20th century colloquialism and out of place.

More. Talking to the dogged Inspector Krause, probably the only convincing character in the book, Drac declares `if you look here and here you will see the small flaws which are the mark of manufacture - which however, superior, can never match the careful application of the craftsman to his art.' Try saying it - people just don't talk like that, particularly people who use phrases like `And that's where we come in.'

I'm not going to list all of the top 19 bad things. I will, however, ask if you, knowing that your husband had killed two young women, would invite a third to stay at your home and watch indulgently while she flirts with the monster? Mrs Drac does just that.

And now, because I can't resist it, the topper. This is a book that has been written badly. Worse, it seems never to have been re-read either by the writer or by anyone else. If it had been read by an editor, and that editor had not been rendered unconscious by the overwhelming monotony of the prose, surely the phrase `Grief does not come naturally to her nature' would have been struck out? 'Naturally to her nature'?

There is so much of this sort of thing. Vampires are so on-the-money, with spooky castles, dark capes, wolves, bats, oodles of sex, how is it possible for it to go so horribly wrong?
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