Whether they’re brooding and misunderstood or just a fanged monster waiting to tear your throat out, everyone loves a good vampire story. Here are ten of the best bloodsucker tales to sink your teeth into.
Marks’ nifty update of Stoker’s Dracula finds investigative journalist Evangeline Harker heading to Eastern Europe to interview elusive war criminal Ion Torgu. The tapes which Evangeline sends back to her head office (based on Marks’ experiences working on 60 Minutes) are infected with Torgu’s vampirism, and his influence starts to spread. It sticks closely to Stoker’s structure and stirs in newsroom details and post-9/11 paranoia to create an intriguing spin on the classic tale.
9. THE HISTORIAN BY ELIZABETH KOSTOVA
Like Fangland, The Historian plays with the structure and the details of Stoker’s Dracula, but Kostova uses them to create a rollicking adventure story. Helen, our heroine, discovers that her father attempted to trace the real life roots of Dracula during the 1970s. She quickly becomes embroiled in the hunt herself as she realises the forces of darkness are alive and well. It’s a hugely entertaining ride with wit and intelligence, and it’s thoroughly recommended.
8. ANNO DRACULA BY KIM NEWMAN
Fans of vampire literature should certainly pick up a copy of Kim Newman’s alternative history novel, in which Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing failed to stop Dracula. The Count has married Queen Victoria and humans and vampires now live side by side…until Jack the Ripper starts eviscerating bloodsuckers with his silver knife. It’s filled to bursting with characters from film and literature (John Merrick, Lestat de Lioncourt and Count Orlock appear) and it’s an utter treat for fans of the genre.
7. CARMILLA BY SHERIDAN LE FANU
Carmilla beats out competition from James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire and Polidori’s The Vampyre for a spot on this list because it combines the thrills of the former with the art of the latter. Le Fanu’s tale of a young woman who falls prey to the attentions of the titular vampire is daring both in terms of its structure and its subject matter, addressing the erotic potential of vampirism nearly 20 years before Stoker’s Dracula.
6. LOST SOULS BY POPPY Z. BRITE
Brite’s brief but important time as a horror writer produced three stylish and provocative novels. The first, this vampire novel, told the story of a young runaway who falls in, and falls in love, with a pack of gluttonous, highly sexualised vampires, one of whom happens to be his father. Published in the early 90s, it’s very much of its time (and packed with pop culture references) but it’s very powerful, often disturbing, and utterly unforgettable. A lurid but tender gay love story, it would make a hell of a movie with the right director.
5. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE BY ANNE RICE
Anne Rice’s vampire novels are arguably the most influential post-Stoker interpretation of vampires. Her elegant, disaffected, beautiful, tragic creations staring longingly at each others’ throats paved the way for the waves of imitators that followed. While her later novels would focus on Lestat, it’s the “happy family” of Claudia, Louis and Lestat at the centre of this first novel that makes it so memorable. The character of Claudia, trapped in a child’s body forever, is more interesting than the impulsive, rebellious Lestat, but possibly less fun.
4. I AM LEGEND BY RICHARD MATHESON
Forget the Will Smith film, Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel is one of the greatest vampire stories ever written. Robert Neville is the sole survivor of a vampire plague, living in a boarded up house which he only leaves during the daytime to hunt. At night, the monsters return the favour, needling at him through the boarded up windows. The powerful sense of isolation is second only to the powerful moral twist of the book’s finale, when Robert is forced to recognise his position in the new world. This is a must-read.
3. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN BY JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST
The subsequent film may have received more widespread adulation, but Lindqvist’s novel is a beautifully rendered story of childhood isolation and the need for companionship. Oskar is routinely bullied at school and his mother doesn’t have time to pay attention to him. When he befriends his new neighbour Eli, he discovers the rewards and the dangers of counting on somebody else. The novel is much more explicit in its depiction of horror than the film, but it’s a gruesome fairytale that superbly depicts the pain of lonely adolescence. Much praised, and deservedly so.
2. DRACULA BY BRAM STOKER
After so many references to Stoker, it’s only right that we should discuss his genre-defining work. The story has been told so many times in film and television that it’s easy to forget how bold and how powerful the original novel is. The opening segment of Harker’s voyage to Transylvania is particularly terrifying, and Stoker expertly portrays the English fear of a foreign, highly sexualised invading entity corrupting their homes. Although it’s a little bloated around the midsection, this masterpiece has often been imitated but very rarely bettered.
1. SALEM’S LOT BY STEPHEN KING
Many would point to The Shining as Stephen King’s masterwork, but his sophomore novel is just as entertaining, emotional, and terrifying. Writer Ben Mears returns to his home town to write about the Marsten House, where he witnessed something terrible as a child. But his arrival coincides with the arrival of the house’s new resident, and darkness quickly spreads. Salem’s Lot is steeped in Gothic tradition but uses King’s natural gift and love for writing small towns being torn apart. The evil that seeps out of the Marsten House turns neighbours and family members against one another, resulting in a fantastically chilling novel that remains quite possibly the greatest vampire book ever written.