Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood

Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood

by Jim Steinmeyer


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An acclaimed historian sleuths out literature’s most famous vampire, uncovering the source material – from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman – behind Bram Stoker’s bloody creation.

In more than a century of vampires in pop culture, only one lord of the night truly stands out: Dracula. Though the name may conjure up images of Bela Lugosi lurking about in a cape and white pancake makeup in the iconic 1931 film, the character of Dracula—a powerful, evil Transylvanian aristocrat who slaughters repressed Victorians on a trip to London—was created in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name, a work so popular it has spawned limitless reinventions in books and film.

But where did literature’s undead icon come from? What sources inspired Stoker to craft a monster who would continue to haunt our dreams (and desires) for generations? Historian Jim Steinmeyer, who revealed the men behind the myths in The Last Greatest Magician in the World, explores a question that has long fascinated literary scholars and the reading public alike: Was there a real-life inspiration for Stoker’s Count Dracula?

Hunting through archives and letters, literary and theatrical history, and the relationships and events that gave shape to Stoker’s life, Steinmeyer reveals the people and stories behind the Transylvanian legend. In so doing, he shows how Stoker drew on material from the careers of literary contemporaries Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde; reviled personas such as Jack the Ripper and the infamous fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes, as well as little-known but significant figures, including Stoker’s onetime boss, British stage star Henry Irving, and Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle, Robert Roosevelt (thought to be a model for Van Helsing).

Along the way, Steinmeyer depicts Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, his development as a writer, involvement with London’s vibrant theater scene, and creation of one of horror’s greatest masterpieces. Combining historical detective work with literary research, Steinmeyer’s eagle eye provides an enthralling tour through Victorian culture and the extraordinary literary monster it produced.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399168772
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/2014
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 844,958
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

What People are Saying About This

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

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Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
LITERALADDICTION_MLO More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zoos are awesome. Right?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
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.