Bloody Red Baron, The

Rating: 
4
The Bloody Red Baron
Review by Javelina, submitted on 28-Oct-2001

The Bloody Red Baron
By Kim Newman
ISBN 0-7867-0252-4
Publ. Carroll&Graf; New York; 1995

As you all know, Van Helsing lost. Oh, did it happen otherwise in your universe? Well, in this one Count Dracula not only destroyed his hunters, but eventually became Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, and de facto ruler of Britain. Kim Newman's earlier book, Anno Dracula, explains how that situation ended. Now, The Bloody Red Baron follows later events, involving some of the same characters.

After his flight from the British Isles, Dracula drifted from court to undead court in Europe. He found particular welcome in Germany, and remained there for some years. Then, in Sarajevo, a warm anarchist slew a vampire archduke. Now it is 1918. Silver, lethal to vampires, is in desperate demand for munitions. Kate Reed, journalist, is back, as is Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club. As before, a huge number of familiar people are involved, from both history and fiction. Most have turned: contemplate the prospect of Edgar Poe (he does not care for his middle name) recruited for a very special ghostwriting task on behalf of imperial Germany.

As with Anno Dracula, many little points can be better appreciated given familiarity with period fiction and with every remotely relevant vampire novel. The Bloody Red Baron is at once an adventure story that can stand on its own, and a novel-length in-joke. Albeit a bleak joke at times -- Newman's vampires are a trifle on the messy side. Saying almost anything about the plot would probably be unappreciated by those whose reading budgets don't extend to hardcovers. While waiting for the paperback, consider looking up some of the tomes listed at the end of this message, which Newman cites as sources in an extensive acknowledgement section. Otherwise, take this merely as a hint regarding who and what might turn up.

The Bloody Red Baron leaves me with a curious hope. I wouldn't necessarily say there needed to be a sequel, but if there were... as an intelligence operative, Beauregard really ought to meet up with young Dick Meinertzhagen. The name's deceptive: he was British, not German. T.E. Lawrence mentions him briefly (and not too flatteringly) in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It's remotely possible someone on this list might recall his appearance as a character in the movie The Light Horsemen some years ago (I don't recall who played him). Meinertzhagen might even know Kate Reed... a number of female members of his family were noted socialists. If even half what he says, and doesn't say, in his diaries, about his military career is true, the Diogenes Club wouldn't want to do without him. (Is *that* why he retired, in another universe, at the rank of Colonel?)

There's more here to enjoy than just the swift plot and the incessant tests of one's historical and fictional background. There is no slack space for minor characters to become more than their original authors made them, but the major figures on both sides of the conflict emerge as complex and interesting people.

Those with particular expectations of vampire fiction may be disappointed. This is not a Ricean universe. Expect less sex than in much of the fiction traversing this list. So far as violence goes, it's an adventure story: you'll find no more grue than in any factual account of the historical period (but then again, recall what the period *is*). Lumley enthusiasts will likely leave the table unfed.

The points above aren't shortcomings to this reader, but the book does have some. A fair number of typos have obviously slipped through the editing process: spell checkers don't yet catch everything the reader might. Perhaps I ought not list slips. Less vigilant sorts might appreciate the book more without an errata sheet. There are enough to justify wondering if perhaps a publisher's desire to get the book widely available before Halloween made the proofreading process too hasty. It's particularly annoying in a book like this, where tight plotting and significant references keep a reader's attention focused much too tightly for a slip to slither by unnoted. Also, I personally might quibble with the chapter titles, which are no accident; the references are fun, but a good plot twist can be sadly telegraphed to the sort of wretched reader who actually looks at prefaces, tables of contents, and similar rot. Of course some are purely and properly misleading... such as 'Biggles Flies West' (west means dead, for those who had forgotten).

I'd give this three fangs of five, with the note that it would have been a four without some of the more jarring slips. The hardcover purchase may be a close call, but the well-stocked vampiric bookshelf ought to include at least the paperback.

Fanged Films

UK, 2006

USA, 2006
Dark Fiction / Dark Fiction Show

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

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Dracula
Vol. 1 No. 4
Let It Bleed