There was a historical Dracula. The cognomen of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad III of Wallachia, Dracula’s association with vampirism surprisingly dates back only to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And much of what I read about Vlad III as a child has been reevaluated, with much of it being reassigned to exaggeration. (I often wonder if this isn’t part of the reason so many of my generation have become conservative—it can be unsettling to have the certainties with which you were raised topple like so many dominoes.) In any case, I started reading about vampires when I discovered our high school library had historical books on them, and so I recently picked up Raymond Rudorff’s The Dracula Archives at a book sale, despite its lurid cover. The reason? The back cover classification is “nonfiction.”
Clearly that was a marketing ploy, and although the book cost me merely pennies on the dollar for a mass-market paperback from that era (1973), I was a little disappointed to find it was a novel. I figured it out within a page. (You have to understand—at a book sale the normal rational faculties don’t always apply. Anyone who’s been to a library book sale in Scotland knows that little old ladies throw elbows to get at a book they want, and you have to think fast if you’re on the fence.) So The Dracula Archives is intended to be the prequel to Dracula. Mirroring the latter, Rudorff’s work is comprised of diary entries and letters, slowly building up a fictional identity for Stoker’s titular character. It isn’t as fast paced as the cover blurbs indicate, but it does manage to sound historical although it’s clearly not.
Reading such a book during a crisis of truth makes me question the marketing wisdom of the back cover label. Yeah, it’s kinda cute, I admit. And Trump didn’t seem like a national threat in the seventies. But still, the mixing of the fundamental category of book (fiction or non) doesn’t seem quite fair. Of course, caveat emptor applies to small purchases as well as large. I go into book sales with a list, and I try to limit myself to it. But then, I’ve not heard of every book—not by a long shot—and finding an unknown treasure is part of the draw. Raymond Rudorff wrote several books but hasn’t merited a Wikipedia page yet. This one is by far his most famous novel. It’s a fun read and a reasonable prequel, but it won’t likely scare anyone as much as Republican politics do these days.