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Dracula Cha Cha Cha

Kim Newman

Simon & Schuster

UK Trade Hardcover

ISBN 0-684-8518-30

304 pages; £14.99

Judgement of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959

Kim Newman

Carroll & Graf

Us Trade Hardcover

ISBN 0-7867-0558-2

291 pages; $22.95

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 1998



Horror, Science Fiction

04-18-02, 09-11-02, 10-08-02, 11-13-02, 12-13-02

Horror readers are beginning to get weary of vampire novels. Unfortunately, publishers looking to strike the next vein of best-selling gold are only too willing to issue any work that features blood-drinking creatures of the night. Were they to publish their own autobiographies, it would certainly fill the bill. Given that the climate of vampire fever is not going to go away anytime soon, we can only be all the more thankful for the true innovators in the field. Kim Newman, in his 'Anno Dracula' novels, uses an amazing amount of research to write an alternate history populated with vivid, visceral, vampires and carefully created characters based on personalities from both reality and fiction. They're as much alternate history and genre satire as they are vampire novels. In 'Judgement of Tears', Newman joins the everlasting party in 1959, as vampire journalist Kate Reed is sent to Rome to cover the upcoming marriage of Dracula to a Moldavian vampire princess. When she arrives in Rome, she finds herself a witness to the murder of three vampire elders. 'Judgement of Tears' is plays out as a murder mystery in Newman's inventive setting as Kate searches for the person -- or thing -- that could kill these powerful creatures.

Along the way we are treated the usual mix of fictional and real characters, all modified suitably to fit within the world as remade by Dracula. We even get Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula' published as an alternate history within Newman's invention. It's only an indication of the depths to which Newman plots his novel and weaves his fictional world.

Unlike some alternate histories, Newman always manages to make his mixture organic. The characters are fully rendered and never seem like cartoonish drop-ins, even when they serve as the victims of his often-savage satire. Especially welcome in this book are "Bond -- Hamish Bond" and the return of Genevieve Dieudonne, who has haunted Newman's fiction since his first vampire stories in David Pringle's anthology 'Red Thirst', a term that is often used in this novel.

The plot, the characters and the resolutions are all excellently handled. However, there is one thought that comes to mind when reading this novel. Here is a work -- like its predecessors -- that cries to be released on an interactive, hypertext-annotated CDROM. The only thing that could make these works more powerful would be instant, easy access to the research behind Newman's creation, to a complete list of all the references and all the name-dropping. Newman is reportedly headed in that direction with his upcoming novel now titled 'Life's Lottery'. But that could certainly change. This novel was reportedly titled 'Dracula Cha Cha Cha' before it was released as 'Judgement of Tears'. One can consider that a judgement of tears, imposed by the publisher, could very well have resulted in the present title. The dance version is infinitely preferable, and a theme that is repeated throughout the novel. It's certainly an opportunity lost, an event for an alternate history where writers have control over their work and publishers think in terms of quality and not quantity.