#bookaday 14: An old favourite

Dracula by Bram Stoker was my favourite book throughout my teens and it remains a very special book for me to this day.

I have always loved horror, and at the age of around 13 I started to watch Hammer horror films late at night on the television in my bedroom: at the time, it was the height of summer and my leg was in plaster, so I was kept awake well into the night by the heat, the itching and the miserable ache in my ankle. BBC1 happened to be showing a double bill of Hammer and Amicus films last thing at night before the National Anthem (no 24-hour rolling news in those days) and I became completely hooked. I immediately found a copy of Dracula and read it - several times, in fact. I think I actually carried it around with me in my school-bag for about two years, and I certainly gave a talk on it for my A-level English coursework when I was 17. I also wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the character of Dracula as an enduring cultural icon, and by that point I was 22, so clearly the book stayed with me for a very long time.

It's a book with many faults, but it is, in my opinion, a cracking good read, and surprisingly modern for a novel that we think of as quintessentially Victorian Gothic. There are references to typewriters, to Kodak cameras, to Bradshaw's Railway Guide. Count Dracula is a remarkably conversational, practical, human sort of character, which makes the revelation that he is in fact a shape-shifting undead blood-drinking predator all the more startling. And there are certain scenes that really do stand up to today's standards of creepiness (for my money, the moment where Harker catches Dracula crawling up the castle wall like a lizard is up there with the best).

If you haven't read it, do - there will be things in that you recognise at once from popular culture references and film, and yet there will be the other things that completely wrong-foot you.* Despite a million vampire novels that have appeared since, it's still the best.

*One of my favourite things about other people reading Dracula for the first time is their inevitable shock when they read that the Count has white hair and a moustache.

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