Dracula Dossier

( 13 )


Stalled in his writing career and feeling overwhelmed by his charismatic, successful boss Sir Henry Irving, Bram Stoker returns to London in the summer of 1888 determined to turn his life around.

Late one night Stoker decides to take a stroll through the streets of Whitechapel, an impoverished district of London known for its many prostitutes as well as the citizenry crowding its shadowy alleys. Amid the shadows, he spies a seemingly familiar figure, a man resembling a quack ...

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Stalled in his writing career and feeling overwhelmed by his charismatic, successful boss Sir Henry Irving, Bram Stoker returns to London in the summer of 1888 determined to turn his life around.

Late one night Stoker decides to take a stroll through the streets of Whitechapel, an impoverished district of London known for its many prostitutes as well as the citizenry crowding its shadowy alleys. Amid the shadows, he spies a seemingly familiar figure, a man resembling a quack American "doctor" of his acquaintance. But before Stoker can be certain, the man disappears.

Little does he know that just a few steps away, the crime spree of the century has begun: a vicious killer has claimed his first victim, a local prostitute. And Stoker somehow becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, he enlists some of his illustrious friends, including Walt Whitman, Lady Jane Wilde (mother of Oscar), and the million-copy-selling Victorian novelist Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine. When they discover that the murder weapon is a Gurkha knife owned by Stoker and recently stolen from his home, there can be no doubt that the elusive American doctor—Francis Tumblety—is the very same man terrorizing and taunting London as Jack the Ripper.

Moving from Manhattan to London's West End and Whitechapel, from Dublin to a ritualistic denouement in Edinburgh, this sweeping, magnificent novel is a suspenseful trip into the heart of literature and history, as Stoker sets out on the "true" adventure that will later inspire him to write Dracula.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Reese's scrupulously imagined thriller, told largely through entries from a lost journal kept by the author of Dracula in 1888, Bram Stoker attends an indoctrination ceremony of the Order of the Golden Dawn, at the behest of Oscar Wilde's mum and a young William Butler Yeats. The ceremony goes horribly awry, resulting in one participant-Francis Tumblety, a patent medicine salesman newly arrived from America-becoming a vessel for the evil Egyptian god Set and applying his surgical skills to the slaughter of Whitechapel prostitutes in order to draw Stoker out for a supernatural showdown. Bestseller Reese (The Witchery) so perfectly pastiches the journal format that initially his story reads as dry and boringly as most private diaries. With Tumblety's malignant conversion, though, the novel turns into a rip-roaring penny dreadful that compels reading to the end. Dracula fans will appreciate the nods to well-known works that Stoker wrote supposedly following this confrontation. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

A package arrives at the desk of a young editor at a New York publishing house, purporting to be a collection of letters and journal entries belonging to Bram Stoker. The anonymous sender refers to it as the "Dracula Dossier." The papers disclose a series of events in Stoker's life that occurred when he worked for Irish theater-actor Henry Irving in 1888 and before he wrote his famous novel. The prolog promises a riveting tale of suspense, even horror, and there are moments of tension and fear, but for the most part the novel is dull and tedious. Readers familiar with the Dracula story will realize that Stoker is meeting people and having experiences that directly influenced his best-known work (Jack the Ripper plays a part). An interesting plot lurks somewhere within this story. Too bad Reese (The Witchery; The Book of Spirits; The Book of Shadows ) could not bring it to fruition. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/08.]-Patricia Altner, BiblioInfo.com, Columbia, MD

Kirkus Reviews
Reese (The Book of Shadows, 2002, etc.) sends Jack the Ripper after Bram Stoker in yet another fog-laden tale of mutilation. Giving the man who invented Dracula a horror story of his own, the author re-creates Stoker's real-life world and friends: theater impresario Henry Irving, novelist Thomas Henry Hall Caine, Lady Jane Wilde (Oscar's mom) and assorted others. Their fictional adventures are chronicled in Stoker's journals, correspondence and press clippings, contained in a dossier that turns up when an anonymous correspondent forwards them to a present-day editor at William Morrow. Reese relegates whatever insights these documents offer into the writer's creativity to an annoying plethora of footnotes. He's after bloodier stuff, and he delivers it when Stoker, at Lady Wilde's behest, visits a session of the Order of the Golden Dawn. There he espies Dr. Francis Tumblety, an American quack physician, at the center of a phantasmagoric ritual replete with scorpions, bleeding wounds and writhing serpents. From then on, Tumblety, possessed by an evil spirit, stalks Stoker, intoning his name in the London streets and leaving a dead cat and mouse and bags of blood at the author's home. Stoker learns from Caine that Tumblety's wardrobe holds jars containing preserved "female organs of generation," which the demented doctor obtained from physicians and body snatchers. The American also holds a stash of letters detailing an intimate affair he shared with Caine, thus preventing Stoker's friend from turning to police for fear of arrest for indecent behavior. When someone begins carving up London prostitutes, the killer's handiwork is described explicitly and gratuitously in news accounts and policereports. Convinced that Tumblety is the serial murderer, Stoker dubs him Jack the Ripper as he, Caine and Lady Wilde plot none too cleverly to bring down the bloodthirsty villain. Gore and gothic trappings mask a thin, wobbly plot.
Kelley Armstrong
“A spellbinding tale with a truly enchanting heroine.”
Caleb Carr
“A novelist of immense talent and promise, and a story that seeps into the mind like a potion.”
Diana Gabaldon
“Expertly researched, lavishly detailed and lushly written...an atmosphere so vivid you can smell it, and remarkably striking characters.”
Eric Van Lustbader
“James Reese’s startling second novel is filled with magic and heartbreak…It is a sumptuous feast for the senses.”
Anne Rice
“It’s marvelous to have one so eloquent exploring and transcending the gothic genre.”
Michael Connelly
“THE DRACULA DOSSIER is as powerful in its imagination as it is in its dedication to historical detail and social reflection. But what’s more is that it’s a damn good thriller...With Bram Stoker and Jack the Ripper along for the ride, you can’t go wrong with this book.”
Matthew Pearl
“Not only does THE DRACULA DOSSIER grip us with its fast paced hunt for history’s most notorious killer, it also enchants us with sophisticated and lyrical recreations of its unique period and strong characters. A daring achievement.”
St. Petersburg Times
“The Dracula Dossier is ...an homage in style and structure to its namesake novel, an engrossing look into the lives of eminent Victorians, and a smashing, scary read.”
“[I]nvolving, richly detailed... will surely delight fans…as well as convert new readers”
Tampa Tribune
“Darkly erotic...lavishly told...Prepare to put your life on hold for 468 pages and immerse yourself.”
Pittsburgh Tribune
“Those who enjoy gothic novels set in Victorian times…will revel in James Reese’s story…Seamlessly blurring the line between fact and fiction, the book is both characters study and speculative fiction folded into a well-told tale.”
Miami Herald
“...a mesmerizing blend of fact and fiction, with plenty of Gothic chill.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“[L]ush and engaging.”
Washington Post Book World
“Vivid characters...painstaking research...delectable.”
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger
“A sweeping narrative of period and peril [that] transports the reader into an undiscovered realm of erotica...”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061233548
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/7/2008
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James Reese is the author of The Witchery, The Book of Spirits, and The Book of Shadows. He lives in South Florida and Paris, France.

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Read an Excerpt

The Dracula Dossier

A Novel of Suspense

By James Reese
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

James Reese
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061233548

Chapter One

Bram Stoker's Journal

Monday, 12 March 1888.—Out on the streets, it seemed wise to hide the bloodied knife.

I'd preserved that much sense; but just why I'd brought the knife with me, I cannot say. Better to have left it back in the hotel, or to have hidden it in the theatre where last we'd used it. But no, here it was in hand, and reddened, and yes, rather hard to hide: the convex blade bends eight steely inches to its tip, and the hilt is carved in the Nepalese style. Once seen, this knife is not to be forgotten.

The hilt protruded from my pocket. I tried to hide it in the hollow of my ruined hand. The blade-tip itself pushed through the pocket's bottom, like a spring shoot eager for the end of this Manhattan winter, the worst in living memory. And so it must have seemed, as I stumbled down Fifth Avenue in the snow, that I would draw the knife, put its blade to purpose on some passerby; but no, no indeed.

Mad? Maybe I was. But the only knives I have known heretofore are of that spring-loaded species common to the stage. The kind that give upon contact with actorly flesh, the bashful blade retracting to conceal itself in the hilt. But this knife, my knife, is another type entirely; for Henry will not hear of props upon the stage. Reality is all,says he; and his Shylock, when nightly he begs his rightful pound of flesh from Antonio, lays a real blade, lays this blade upon his bared chest. Yes: Reality is all.

That: a pound of flesh, as scripted by the bard. This: a gallon of my own gore.

Had the knife sought the All of Me, sought to set the All of Me to running red? Had I sought it myself? No knife knows a will of its own; . . . but can a hand act of its own accord? I ask because, if not . . . Alas, I dare not write the word begged by so rash an act. I shall leave its sinful S steaming, unspoken, upon my tongue. I shall not trade ink for blood and name the act here. No. But the blood, yes, all the eager blood, drip drip dripping through the mean tourniquet I'd tied, dripping down to the knife's tip to drip drip drip onto the new-fallen snow of Fifth Avenue: a red trail to betray my wandering way, to betray me as my own hand had a half-hour earlier.

No more scratch now. Let this suffice. My left and penless hand throbs in sympathy with this, my ruined right; and so I close. The blade I have scrubbed of its blood, but the body knows no such ready repair. Nor does the soul. And so what can I do but embrace this pain as my penance?

Whatever did I mean to do? And what will become of me now?

Letter, Bram Stoker to Hall Caine

19 March 1888

My Dearest Hommy-Beg,

I've much to apprise you of, old friend, as Life's pendulum has swung of late to the bad; for damned I am if the Black Hounds are not hot upon my heels.

I write whilst training to West Point with all the Company,and whilst profiting from the peace afforded me by the Guv'nor's shunning me at present.As the Lyceum herd follows his lead, I am spared having to see to their manifold needs as well. Though of course it fell to yours truly to arrange this 8 a.m. special from Madison Square on which we—players, scenery, costumery, &c.—chug toward the military academy. And no mean feat that, may I say, as still New York, as still all the eastern seaboard sits snowbound. Indeed, so desperate is the citizenry to locomote that some stand at the side of these very rails on which we ride, hailing our train as if it were a hansom cab.

Of course, from the aforementioned herd I exempt dearest Ellen.It is she alone with whom I share this car, hence the rare peace I reference; for E.T. sits staring out over the snowscape, lost to the present save when she slips a treat into the mouth of her Drummie, the treasured terrier upon her lap. A sidelong glance at her impossibly fine profile tells me she "rehearses" at present: no doubt it is Portia she plays within, as it is The Merchant of Venice we will play tonight for the assembled cadets.

Alas, though I need not describe to you, Caine, those dank cellars to which the mind and soul do sometimes descend—you've suffered so long your own mullygrubs and glooms—I shall address a few particulars of my own descent. Catharsis, may I call it? Confession? Regardless, I must begin by begging your pardon for the fearful state of this letter. On tour I have even less time to myself than in London, and if I set this letter aside till such time as I can make a fair copy, well, it would be many more days till you heard from your old friend Stoker. So I shall post this in time, saying now do not mind the stains.Yes, they are bloodstains. And yes, it is my blood, accidentally shed. So I hope. And so I'd pray, if prayer availed me still.

Surely I must beg pardon, too, of my penmanship. The train knocks this nib about, yes, but this scribble is more attributable to the mummified state of my left hand. It is bandaged and cross-bound from forearm to fingertip. The thumb is splinted so as to help its nearly-severed tendon heal. My four fingers stick out from the white swaddling like spring shoots from snow. And my right hand, my writing hand, seems to suffer in sympathy; hence this horrid scrawl.

The blood, yes; quite a flow came. And I am quite lucky to—


Excerpted from The Dracula Dossier by James Reese Copyright © 2008 by James Reese. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2008

    an excellent late nineteenth century thriller

    In 1888 Oscar Wilde's mother and William Butler Yeats invites Bram Stoker to attend the Order of the Golden Dawn indoctrination ritual. Initially fascinated by the ceremony, Bram and other attendees are stunned when something goes wrong.--------------- Visiting American patent medicine salesman Francis Tumblety, who also attended, has become possessed by the evil Egyptian god Set. Tumblety-Set is methodically killing Whitechapel prostitutes using his surgeon¿s skills on these misfortunate women. Scotland Yard is stymied as there appears no motive for the homicdes, but Stoker is seen in the area and his knife used as the murder weopon. He becomes the prime suspect. However, Stoker believes he knows the reasons behind the slaughters he plans to confront Francis-Set whom he believes he has seen stalk the shadows of Whitechapel before someone else dies.------------------- The story line starts off purposely boring to bring a journal methodolgy as the underpinning to the tale once established, the plot accelerates and never look back. Tumblety as an evilly possessed Ripper makes for a perfect opponent to the Dracula author with both characters fully developed. References to the period, the Ripper serial killings and the literary works of Stoker round out an excellent late nineteenth century thriller.------------------ Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2008

    What if Stroker based Dracula on Jack the Ripper?

    'The Dracula Dossier' is a new twist on the identity of the serial killer Jack the Ripper. The book is primarily a collection of journal entries and newspaper clippings by Bram Stroker, the author of 'Dracula'. Stroker is known to have once crossed paths with Dr. Francis J. Tumblety, the main suspect in the Ripper murders. James Reese takes the idea to a whole new level and expands on the view of Jack the Ripper as inhuman. Tumblety's character is very dark and horrific, Stroker and his allies are engaging characters, as are their attempts to stop 'Jack the Ripper'. The book does include a large number of footnotes on most pages, but in my experience they never distracted from the story, in fact, they could be helpful in giving more detail about the events or culture of the time. Also, there were thankfully only a few detailed descriptions of the Ripper victims, and they just add to the dark nature of the book. 'The Dracula Dossier' is separated into three main parts, the Day, the Night, and the Night Within the Night. This is fitting because the book gives a feeling of never ending darkness at times.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    a horribly boring book.

    this book was so boring, i couldn't get pasr the second page. i'm mad that i wasted money on this book.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I was so disappointed....

    Being fascinated with Jack the Ripper and reading all the speculation of who, what, where, and when I was expecting an absolutely thriller of a book. Did not happen and I am so disappointed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Sadly underwhelming

    The Dracula Dossier has an exciting premise: Bram Stoker, who would years later pen one of the most famous horror novels of all time, was somehow influenced in his later work by his experience with the famous Whitechapel murders that were attributed to Jack the Ripper. Add to the plot the interaction with Lady Jane Wilde and her rather famous son Oscar, along with other famous literary figures, and the story has the promise of something special.

    Sadly, in my opinion, it fails to deliver on this promise. The story is told largely in a narrative style that is based on writings (letters and journal entries) by Mr. Stoker that cover a variety of topics from his unsatisfying career to his unfulfilling marriage to his somewhat eccentric acquaintences and friends. The problem with this style of writing is that it takes a lot time to "deliver the goods" and, as such, the payoff had better be worth the time and effort to get there. The action in the book never really picks up any steam and the languid pace makes the story hard to read for any significant lenght of time, which made it hard for me to devote much time to finishing it. Because the characters and action didn't hold my attention, I actually read parts of this book between other novels, something I rarely do. I could add specific examples of the more disappointing passages in the book, but I don't want to spoil it for others who might really enjoy the story.

    I've read numerous novels with historic figures in finctional settings, and as a whole I like the genre. The ultimate decision regarding my appreciation for any given novel is still based on the plot, characters, and action, however, and the pacing of this book simply overwhelmed everything else. Of course, I'm not a big fan of Jane Austin books for the same reason, so it may simply be that I'm not cultured enough to really understand and appreciate this type of story. Still, I think that it could have been better with a slightly different approach to the storytelling, but that's just my opinion.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    Boring, turgid and stuck in an outdated literary tradition

    I am surprised at how bad a book this is. The plot doesn't really start till page 115, and, unless you crave the dull minutiae of Bram Stokers life, you'll be bored as I was. When the plot machinery finally starts to grind, it signals where it's going from the beginning. The prose is turgid, mock dramatic and over the top. This is Victorian melodrama without any salvation from a modern twist or sensibility that enables the book to transcend its dated form. Don't bother!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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