Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood [NOOK Book]


The acclaimed author of The Last Greatest Magician in the World sleuths out literature's iconic vampire, uncovering the source material—from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman—behind Bram Stoker's ...
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Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood

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The acclaimed author of The Last Greatest Magician in the World sleuths out literature's iconic vampire, uncovering the source material—from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman—behind Bram Stoker's lord of the undead.

Praise for Who Was Dracula?

“A fantastic, well-documented story.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] well-researched and entertaining take on Dracula’s origin story.” —Publishers Weekly
Who Was Dracula? chronicles the misadventures of Bram Stoker and his numerous friends and colleagues, both famous and obscure, hoping to unearth the recipe for a truly iconic character.” —San Francisco Book Review
Who Was Dracula? is a book you’ll want to sink your teeth into.” —“The Bookworm Sez”
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Who was the real Dracula? Steinmeyer's (The Glorious Deception) new title seeks the genesis of author Bram Stoker's enduringly popular character. The author argues that Stoker was heavily influenced by four people in creating the character of Dracula: Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, actor Henry Irving, and Jack the Ripper. Stoker knew at least three of these individuals, and Steinmeyer makes a good case for the fourth—and for a positive identification of the Ripper. The author's Dracula-creation hypothesis initially comes across as gimmicky, but Steinmeyer skillfully contextualizes his assertions to support his sensational claim. He weaves a fantastic, well-documented story in this lively read. Although other titles have explored the vampire's origins in history, e.g., Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally's In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires, or popular misconceptions about Stoker's novel, e.g., Elizabeth Miller's Dracula: Sense and Nonsense, this work focuses solely on Stoker's inspirations for his titular character. VERDICT These results deserve to find a wide popular readership, and will engage both critical, scholarly readers (who will find that Steinmeyer's notes direct them purposefully towards deeper study) and Twilight fans alike.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME
Publishers Weekly
To get to the bottom of novelist Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his infamous Count Dracula, Steinmeyer (The Last Greatest Magician in the World) investigates turn-of-the-century London through the lens of Stoker’s cohort of actors and writers. At the forefront is Henry Irving, the renowned English actor widely recognized as the vampire’s chief influence. Stoker himself admits Dracula to be “a composite of so many parts in which he has been liked.” The opening chapters cover Stoker’s life as “Acting Manager” at Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, a job that placed him in the midst of macabre classics such as Faust and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—surely influences on his tastes if not on his greatest novel. From this position, the novelist met with Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and (potentially) Jack the Ripper—or Dr. Francis Tumblety, Scotland Yard’s prime suspect in the gruesome murders. By detailing the relationship Stoker had to these diverse figures, Steinmeyer presents a composite inspiration for the mad vampire. His analysis of Whitman’s influence on Dracula’s voice proves most compelling. Though some of Steinmeyer’s arguments, especially regarding the role of Wilde, are less convincing, overall, this is a well-researched and entertaining take on Dracula’s origin story. Agent: James Fitzgerald. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“A fantastic, well-documented story.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] well-researched and entertaining take on Dracula’s origin story.”
—Publishers Weekly
Who Was Dracula? chronicles the misadventures of Bram Stoker and his numerous friends and colleagues, both famous and obscure, hoping to unearth the recipe for a truly iconic character.”
—San Francisco Book Review
Who Was Dracula? is a book you’ll want to sink your teeth into.”
—Terri Schlichenmeyer, Frontiers

"[A] fiendishly readable study...provocative."
—Elizabeth Lowery, Wall Street Journal

"The author does a solid job analyzing the birth and development of Dracula and illustrating the character traits Stoker cherry-picked from his wide circle of friends."
—Kirkus Review

"Steinmeyer's Who Was Dracula? ... may keep you up late reading all about the true origins of the character."
—Glenn Seber, A&E Books

"Author Rating: 5. I loved it!  Who Was Dracula? is everything Dracula isn’t - lushly written, even toned, and thoroughly engaging. It is quite simply a delight!"
—Jessie Patken, Celebrity Cafe

"Who Was Dracula? is for anyone who is interested in the elements that create a character such as Dracula; anyone interested in the historical situations that surrounded Bram Stoker and influenced him; and those interested in the reasons why it is still so popular 100-plus years after its publication."
—Before It's News

Kirkus Reviews
Steinmeyer (The Last Greatest Magician in the World, 2011, etc.) reveals the variety of influences on Stoker's most (some would say only) memorable work of fiction. The author posits that the four greatest influences on Stoker were Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Jack the Ripper and the actor Henry Irving. Stoker was Irving's general factotum and "acting manager" over a period of 30 years, and his influence would be obvious. Whitman was a childhood hero, and Jack the Ripper's murders in London at that time piqued everyone's interest. The city in the 1890s was rife with characters like Wilde, who affected the tastes of that golden age, and most crossed paths with Stoker. Just as 1920s Paris housed a vast menagerie of writers, actors and other artists, so Stoker's life working for Irving at the Lyceum Theatre brought him into contact with all of the era's adventurers and storytellers. They met after productions in the Lyceum's Beefsteak room with their own tales of travel, discovery and absurdities; many of these tales found their way into Stoker's story of the Transylvanian vampire. Oddly, Stoker was obsessive about making sure his facts were correct, right down to the landscape of Yorkshire, tides and London train schedules, but he never visited the Carpathians, where the novel takes place. Further, his notes never mentioned Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure most identify as the inspiration for Dracula. Steinmeyer takes us inside the genesis of the novel, "a swirl of nightmarish images that had been borrowed from real heroes, villains, heightened dramas, and theatrical tragedies." The author does a solid job analyzing the birth and development of Dracula and illustrating the character traits Stoker cherry-picked from his wide circle of friends.
The Barnes & Noble Review

The lives of most authors — even, or perhaps especially, the great ones — are necessarily a catalogue of tedious inwardness and cloistered composition. Globe-trotting Hemingways and brawling Christopher Marlowes are the exception, not the rule. In many respects, a cursory overlook of the life of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, fits this milk-mild template, albeit in a slightly divergent and commercial fashion.

For nearly three decades Stoker was the subservient factotum to one Henry Irving, a self-satisfied and slightly bombastic Victorian actor of great fame. (Irving's production of Faust was adjudged "one of the great spectacles of the nineteenth-century theater.") Stoker, the "Stage Manager," kept accounts, managed actors, wrestled scenery, and in general did everything — in a genuinely loyal, worshipful and dutiful fashion — that he had to do in order to make Irving's career at the prestigious Lyceum Theatre in London possible. When it was all over, Stoker estimated he had written over half a million bland letters in the course of his job — and surely some of those words could have been turned to Stoker's own purposes.

But of course, Stoker did manage, despite this selfless dedication, to gain literary immortality (regardless of the forgettable dross he also churned out, viz., The Shoulder of Shasta) with one special book: Dracula. Always seen as something of an anomalous production of Stoker's career (he spent a full seven years on the book, more time than on any other project) and so "well known" as to have its actual lineaments obscured in a fog of familiarity, the genesis of Dracula is at the heart of Jim Steinmeyer's fascinating study. But he also manages to instill Stoker's quiet personal life with immense allure, due mainly to two aspects of the book. First is the large empathy and fondness Steinmeyer has for his subject, which is visible on every page. Then, second, is the era itself, and the wealth of grand personages moving in Stoker's orbit. From the glamorous, ill-fated actress Ellen Terry to the daring explorer Arminius Vambery (a name no novelist could better), from Oscar Wilde to several candidates for Jack the Ripper, including the gloriously eccentric Dr. Tumblety, Stoker's life path intersected enough colorful characters to stock a dozen of Henry Irving's favored melodramas.

And Steinmeyer conjures them up beautifully. Here's his description of Oscar Wilde's mother:

Lady Jane Wilde, called Speranza by her friends, seemed to tie every conversation together by swanning from room to room, effortlessly offering clever introductions, witty and vaguely insulting bon mots, and an assortment of tea cakes and sandwiches. She was a tall, ungainly figure swathed in a Gypsy- inspired skirt and festooned with long sashes and dangling brooches.
Whether Steinmeyer is describing the fabled Beefsteak Room, with its glittering attendees, or the atmospheric coast town of Whitby, from which Stoker drew much inspiration, the scene is always clear and vivid, as are the actors that populate it. Unforeseen historical wonders abound. Stoker meeting his unlikely idol, Walt Whitman, in America? Bela Lugosi stepping unannounced onto a London stage in 1939 to surprise the audience watching the play version of Dracula? You've got it!

And of course Steinmeyer is equally adept at dissecting the novel itself, Chapter Five is a long, highly readable précis of the book that shows how much of the important action is commonly forgotten or disregarded. And in piecing together Stoker's influences, sources, and inspirations, Steinmeyer exhibits a detective's cunning and craft. The touches derived from Carmilla and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dorian Gray are properly signified. He is also careful to honor previous critical guideposts, such as the landmark In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally.

Steinmeyer finds Dracula to be an interstitial, transitional work, precisely poised between the gothic tradition and modernity, full of sexual tension and uneasy morality. This quality endows Stoker's work with longevity and ensures that Steinmeyer's own fine and valuable study will remain of interest as long as the Transylvanian Count continues to spread his batwings.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101602775
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/4/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 861,176
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

JIM STEINMEYER is one of today’s most renowned historians of stage magic. He is the acclaimed author of The Glorious Deception and Hiding the Elephant, a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is also a leading designer of magic illusion who has done work for television, Broadway, and many of the best-known names in modern magic, such as Doug Henning, Siegfried & Roy, and David Copperfield. Steinmeyer has also developed attractions and live shows for the Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, and Dreamworks, and has twice received fellowships from the Academy of Magical Arts. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 31, 2013

    Our Review, but LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Michelle L. Ols

    Our Review, but LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Michelle L. Olson:
    *ARC provided by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

    Jim Steinmeyer's Who Was Dracula is a delightful pastiche of research & knowledge intertwined with captivating literary allocution.

    The fact behind the fiction reveals the complicated social web among the Victorian elite at the time of the novel - both famous and
    infamous - and shows that the brilliance behind the novel is the fact that there was no brilliance behind the novel.

    I loved the factual story woven by Steinmeyer, & truly felt that both my book addict/paranormal junkie side, as well as my inner nerd were
    properly titillated. 

    Reading the book immediately made me go back & skim the Classic again, do a ton of Google searches to get more caught up with
    the primary players mentioned throughout the book, and rewatch the 1931 Bela Lugosi production of the film, all of which reminded me
    why the delicate simplicity of the horror from that time is still king.

    Steinmeyer's tale can be summed up best by the brilliant last line of the book - "A truly great nightmare is once experienced, never
    forgotten. It is summoned again when we simply close our eyes. It needs nothing but imagination.it is never very far away."

    LITERAL ADDICTION gives Who Was Dracula 5 Skulls. I was thrilled!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2015

    Most complete background on Stoker

    Bram Stoker has been sadly neglected, despite his creation of most of what we think are ancient vampire schticks. Jim sets us straight and gives us a roaring good read while he does it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2014

    Dont read this.

    Zoos are awesome. Right?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    Horrible term paper!

    This book reminded me of the term papers we were forced to write in high school. It was boring and all over the place. It should have been titled who was Irving, Whitman, Shaw and Wilde.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    We all know the stories of the significance of Vlad Tepes to Dra

    We all know the stories of the significance of Vlad Tepes to Dracula was.  But what do Henry Irving, Jack the Ripper, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Jekyll and Hyde, and The Picture of Dorian Gray have to with Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

    To be perfectly honest, I thought Who Was Dracula?:  Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood was going to be more about Dracula himself.  And I guess, in a sense it is, but it read more like a biography of Bram Stoker’s life and how he came about starting to write Dracula.  I, myself, am not a huge biography/autobiography reader, and so when I started to read this book, I was getting more and more disappointed as the book went on.  With a humorous line in the first few pages of the book where people depiction of Dracula was that of a “Latin lover in a long cape” which did elicit a chuckle from me, I was hoping for more.

    The events start where Bram Stoker is a stage manager at Lyceum Theatre in London, England where he has not yet even written the book, to the days after he has passed away and his wife, Florence Stoker, looks after further the requests for other productions of Dracula.

    The details in the book do touch base with the different individuals that Bram Stoker encounters in his life.  And how little details of either the person, their works, or their scandals somehow filter into how he creates Dracula, and who he sees him to be.  And that, my friends, is what I was hoping for when reading this book.  But just when it would start to go into detail on who and why a certain individual was speculated to be chosen to be immortalized in the character of Dracula, it would veer away from it all to soon, and go off onto another biographical read.

    I did, however, find some parts of the book extremely intriguing.  For example the documentation of the Jack the Ripper events which included some grissley descriptions of the murders as well as a brief telling of who the suspect was in the killings and what came of him.  As well, it talked about how an individual who was an acquaintance of Bram Stoker was being suspected for the murders due to his current performance at the theatre.

    I also have a great fascination in the story of Vlad Tepes and his correlation to the Dracula stories and myths.  And it was really interesting to read the accounts of how he came about, and how the measure he took to instill fear into the hearts of his enemies.  Although this is not new news to me, I can’ help but want to recount the details of this individual.

    Another fascinating point in the book was that in order for an author to claim his work as his own and prevent other adaptations of the work from other individuals, the legality of it was to have the work performed on a stage.   It did not have to be extravagant, nor did there have to be a full house.  And it was interesting to read that Bram just threw a bunch of parts of his book to try and make something that would resemble a play, and that it was the only performance during Bram Stoker’s lifetime where he would see his own Dracula performed on the stage.

    I also really enjoyed being able to see one of the first few reviews done for Bram Stoker’s Dracula when it was introduced to the word.  And I really liked that we were shown the positive and the negative reviews.

    I would recommend this book to those interested more in the history and background of the Bram Stoker.  There are tidbits of information that you will find very interesting, and may illicit a drawn out “ohhhhhhh”.  If you’re looking for a read that focuses more on Dracula himself, this may be a bit of a disappointment for you.  There are parts in the book you may find interesting and may have you thinking back and perhaps see the similarities of the individuals suspected to have played a small part in the creation of Dracula.

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    ET tu, Nosferatu?

    Who was Dracula? Well apparently he was much more than just his creator, Bram Stoker. At best, Stoker was for the most part, a mediocre writer, gaining very little acknowledgement from critics in his time. He was, however, an excellent manager for one of the Victorian era's major stage actors, Henry Irving. Stoker dedicated his life to helping Irving, who has almost vanished into history, achieve fame on the English stage. In turn, Stoker borrowed freely from Irving's character to help characterize Dracula. Bram also drew from other personalities of the time, with whom he was well acquainted, notably Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and perhaps even Jack the Ripper. The book notes in detail Stoker's interactions with these personalities. It attempts to detail what characteristics Bram borrowed either consciously or unconsciously, to invest in his character, Dracula. It would take Stoker seven years to meld his thoughts with some of the characteristics of these persons, thus giving birth to Dracula. Although Dracula appears in only 60 or so pages of his 400 page opus, Stoker created a character that would take on a life of it's own. This book much like it's subject, Dracula, is at times lusty and full of life, while at other times it can descend into the dryness and dust of history.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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