By Otto Fredrick (Pageant Press; 1960)
In the seminal “Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf” feature in THE TWILIGHT ZONE Magazine, R.S. Hadji places this dreadful novel at number 3 on his “Worst Stinkers of the Weird” list. I believe he was being overly generous, as I’d probably move it up to number one.
The idea of everybody’s favorite bloodsucker invading Canada has possibilities–I’d think at the very least you might reasonably expect a so-bad-it’s-good read. Unfortunately this ill-conceived, clumsy and amateurish slog doesn’t even provide that much.
The setting is the mid 19th Century. A family is making its way through the Canadian wilderness, where free land has been promised to veterans of the Mexican War of the 1840s. Told from the viewpoint of the naïve young Mary, the family settles near a lake harboring a mysterious, and seemingly deserted, island. Yet on that island resides none other than Count Dracula, who only Mary knows about–as one character confidently proclaims, “From Mary’s description of the Captain I am certain that he is Count Dracula”–and who for some unspecified reason has settled in Canada (left unexplained is how the Big D managed to come back after getting staked at the end of DRACULA).
But in truth Dracula’s exploits are only a tiny portion of the book. The horror business, in fact, is presented in such perfunctory fashion I’m guessing the author probably didn’t want to write a genre story at all. There isn’t even a climactic showdown between good and evil, as the story climaxes with Dracula identified and then, essentially, forgotten about.
The dearth of anything resembling horror might be easier to bear if only the rest of book were solid, but it most certainly isn’t. The author’s presentation of the Canadian wilderness is shockingly nonchalant, lacking any sense of presence or atmosphere, and the book’s main plot strand, involving Mary’s infatuation with a boy her elders find suspicious, plays out in much the same way as the Dracula business–meaning it’s resolved in thoroughly trite and unconvincing fashion (with Mary’s folks suddenly deciding it’s “just wonderful that you and he feel the way you do about one another”). Perhaps that explains why this 118 page book feels twice as long.