IN the late 1890s, Bram Stoker began working on his sixth novel. According to legend, he dove into the history of Vlad the Impaler, studied horror tales like Carmilla, and drew from his own nightmares to produce what became the horror classic Dracula. But while vampires had appeared in fiction before, Stoker’s Transylvanian count was the preeminent model for the sensual, blood-sucking monsters we know today.
Since then, countless writers have played in the sandbox Stoker created, fueling an ongoing copyright battle. To regain control of the Dracula mythos, the author’s great-grandnephew penned the 2009 sequel to the classic, Dracula the Un-Dead, with the help of screenwriter Ian Holt. Having explored the years following the Count’s defeat, Dacre Stoker has now taken on a new project: Dracul, which reconstructs the events that inspired Bram Stoker to write the book in the first place.
Alongside bestselling author J.D. Barker, Dacre combed through his ancestor’s personal writings to establish the origin story of literature’s most famous vampire tale. Their book unfolds through two different timelines, both of which are grounded in Bram Stoker’s perspective: In one, we see a terrified 21-year-old Bram try to ward off a violent evil. Believing he’ll soon be killed, he relays how he came to be in such a dangerous position. His recollections take readers back to 1854, where Bram is just a sickly, isolated child. At seven years old, his life has been marked by chronic illness and the devastation of the Irish potato famine.
But Ellen Crone, who arrived at the Stokers’ door just weeks before Bram’s birth, has helped ease the family’s struggle. The now 22-year-old nanny is enigmatic and “flawless as a fresh coat of snow” -- though there is also something deeply unsettling about her. And when a series of deaths strike the neighborhood, Bram and his sister, Matilda, can’t help but wonder if their beloved caretaker is somehow responsible. Their suspicions follow them beyond their childhoods, leading both siblings on a terrifying journey that lays the groundwork for Dracula.
Dacre and J.D. Barker have managed to capture the tone and spirit of the original classic, weaving an eerie Gothic tale that’ll slake any horror fan’s thirst. Read on for an excerpt of Dracul, in which a disturbing discovery and an unsettling encounter increase the Stoker kids’ conviction that Nanna Ellen is not who she seems...