Kim Newman talks with The Horror Hothouse‘s Simon Ball about his latest book Johnny Alucard
Kim Newman is the go-to guy for anything related to horror and sci-fi movies. A well-known face on our TV screens, Kim is also an award-winning writer and an all-round good bloke. In 1992 his novel Anno Dracula was published, in which Bram Stoker’s undead blood sucker far from being staked by Van Helsing and his buddies, had come to London and become the consort of Queen Victoria. Kim’s Anno Dracula universe is populated by hundreds of characters drawn from popular fiction, comics, film and TV shows, along with people from history as well as those drawn from his own imagination.
Two further novels: The Bloody Red Baron (1995) and Dracula Cha Cha Cha (1998) followed moving along the Anno Dracula timeline to the First World war and the Italy of La Dolche Vita. Long out of print, all three novels have recently been revised and republished by Titan Books with new additional material. A new novel Johnny Alucard, the fourth in the series, is published by Titan Books on 6 September. I caught up with Kim to find out more…
Kim, welcome to The Horror Hothouse, can you tell us where Johnny Alucard fits into the series?
The subtitles of the other novels are Anno Dracula 1888, Anno Dracula 1918 and Anno Dracula 1959, and the novellas included with Titan’s reissues of the second and third books are Anno Dracula 1923 (Vampire Romance) and Anno Dracula 1968 (Aquarius). Johnny Alucard is Anno Dracula 1976-1991 … though it has a prologue set in 1944. If you read the series in order of internal chronology, you should read the prologue of Johnny Alucard between the second and third books. Though quite a bit of Johnny Alucard is set in Romania, for obvious reasons, it mostly concentrates on America – mostly New York and Los Angeles in the 1970s and 80s, with an interlude set in the Baltimore of Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. This time out I wanted to look at Dracula’s manifestations in pop culture, so I spend a lot of time imagining the sort of Dracula movies which would be made in a world where vampires were real … though this also lets me indulge my film buff interests by playing with the notions of Dracula as seen by Francis Coppola (not the tired hack of 1992 but the visionary genius of 1976), Andy Warhol, Orson Welles and others. Each book and story draws on a different set of fictions – gaslight adventure in Anno Dracula, air aces in The Bloody Red Baron and giallo in Dracula Cha Cha Cha – and Johnny Alucard allows me to do various types of American crime (Los Angeles private eye, New York vigilante, Baltimore forensics) and incorporate the mix tape sensibility of Quentin Tarantino (who appears as a character) and others. It’s the most epic of the books in scope, ranging over more territory and a longer time period.
I remember it was Johnny Alucard (played by Christopher Neame) who was responsible for resurrecting Dracula in Hammer’s Dracula AD 1972. Will he be making an appearance?
Not as such. I referred much more to Dracula AD 1972 – a key film for me, as is its follow-up The Satanic Rites of Dracula – in Aquarius, which featured several characters from that movie in a plot taking place in the kind of swinging London Hammer imagined. I’d love it if they hired Christopher Neame to do the talking book, though.
The first three books featured supporting characters as diverse as Lord Ruthven from Polidori’s the Vampyre to an undead Oliver Mellors from Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a certain little white dog with an aversion to the Red Baron, whom will we find within Johnny Alucard?
Well, I don’t want to do too many spoilers … but look out for a veteran LA private eye, a one-eyed and persistent homicide lieutenant, a California dude who drinks White Russians, a vampire-slaying cheerleader, the Village People dressed up as the Universal Monsters, a WWII vampire super-soldier, a bunch of 1990s vampire folk (my favourites are Kathleen Conklin from The Addiction and Ricia Cadigan from Sherri Gotlieb’s book Love Bites) and Adam Simon from The Player.
What inspired you to create a world populated by such a huge cast and how do you keep track of them all?
A tiny idea that grew. And I am in peril of losing track constantly. I can only focus on this by keeping a firm grip on my central, continuing characters … here, the three vampire women from Anno Dracula and the boy who starts as Ion Popescu and turns into Johnny Alucard. This is also the most diffuse of the books, so it strays.
What can we expect next in the Anno Dracula universe?
Another novel, though I’m not really sure what it’ll be. The real world keeps reminding me how far behind my sick imagination lags – did you see that news item about the UK’s blood supply being sold off to Mitt Romney’s controversial firm Bain Capital? I know that right now in the Anno Dracula universe, Lord Ruthven is Prime Minister in a coalition government with Nick Clegg.
And finally what’s next from Kim Newman author?
Something simpler – a book called An English Ghost Story. After that, I’m doing a 1920s girls’ school adventure and a Phantom of the Opera spin. Oh, and some comics … I could do with a rest, really.
Kim, thank you very much.
Johnny Alucard is published by Titan Books on 6 September.
You keep up to date with Kim Newman’s blog here and follow Kim on Twitter at @AnnoDracula
Check out Kim’s Video Dungeon in Empire Magazine
Also by Kim Newman:
Nightmare Movies: Without doubt one of the best in-depth critiques of horror movies from the 1960s to the present day.
Jago: A young couple come to a tiny English village for the summer. Their rural idyll sours as the village, swollen by an annual rock festival of cataclysmic proportions, prepares to reap a harvest of horror.
Interview by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here