Dead Travel Fast, The

Rating: 
4
Review by Matt Sedlar
September 12, 2007

There's a scene in the action/horror film Blade: Trinity in which a resurrected Dracula, played with a considerable lack of energy by Prison Break's Dominic Purcell, wanders into a store that sells vampire-themed novelty items. For a second -- just before Dracula kills everyone around and the movie switches back to another techno-saturated fight scene -- it's amusing. Where did vampire lore begin and how did it result in countless terrible movies, action figures and a breakfast cereal?

In his latest book, The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula, Eric Nuzum, a D.C.-based pop culture critic, heads off to Romania, London and Oregon (yes, Oregon) in search of the answer to that question. Along the way, he drinks his own blood, watches every episode of Buffy, hangs out at a Ruby Tuesday's in Fairfax with a "vampire," and attends a showing of the only all-vampire strip show in Vegas. If you think that sounds particularly amusing, you'll love The Dead Travel Fast.

Nuzum makes no assumptions about his readers. If you've never read Bram Stoker's Dracula (we haven't) and your only knowledge of the book was brought to you by Francis Ford Coppola, don't worry. Nuzum's book reads like Vampires 101. You'll learn all about the real Vlad Dracula, the Wallachian and Transylvanian prince who liked to impale people for just about every reason imaginable. You'll also learn that Stoker conducted little to no research on the real Dracula and essentially used his name because it sounded cool.

Nuzum does more than just present these facts, he folds them into humorous stories. He travels to Romania with Butch Patrick -- Eddie Munster of The Munsters -- to learn about Vlad Dracula and almost loses an appendage to infection. He takes part in two haunted houses and even seeks out the "real" vampire experience at a nightclub in New York. Practically every reference to vampires in pop culture is here, from Anne Rice's overly descriptive and painful-to-read novels to the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. Noticeably absent, however, is a mention of Elizabeth Kostova's novel The Historian, which in a fictional setting attempts to sort out the truth about Vlad Dracula from the fiction. Maybe Nuzum, like us, was too bored to make it through the entire book.

You don't have to love vampires to enjoy The Dead Travel Fast. When Nuzum lists all the terrible vampire movies he's watched, we had a hard time thinking of one we really liked. (However, ask us to list our favorite zombie movie and you'll get an entire list -- 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead being at the top, of course. Any plans on writing The Dead Travel Slowly, Mr. Nuzum?).

At 239 pages, The Dead Travel Fast is a quick, enjoyable read -- and just in time for the Halloween season. Most importantly, and many, many apologies for the pun, it doesn't suck.

Fanged Films

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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?