Trade Paper, 177 pages, $8.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
“Rule one. Don’t look for trouble. Let it come to you.” Sardonic humor is a trait that Cream likes to milk. He is a pivotal character in Dracula Lives! Written by Joshua Reynolds (no, not the 18th century painter), the novel is a flight of fantasy; festooned with fops, fangs, and femmes fatales. Names of pop culture figures from film and fiction enliven the book. Monikers like Harrison (read “Harry”) Lime, Harker, Irma Vep, Holmwood, Smiley, and Irena Dubrova have resonance for those in the know. Reynolds loves to wink at the reader, and have fun. His writing is engaging enough that it is easy to disengage from the “I get that reference” game, and enjoy the story.
And it is quite a story: Part adventure/spy yarn, part occult conspiracy tale. Tongue in cheek mingles with incisors in neck, as Cream rises to the task he is given. He is commissioned by shady folk to bid on an item at an auction. It must be obtained; price is no object. There are several factions interested in securing the piece, and as in the case of espionage, it’s hard to filter out the good guys from the bad. Cream recognizes that “He’d never had a very firm grasp on what constituted reality. His work had precluded such things. When literally anyone you had a relationship with could turn out to be working for the enemy – whoever that was on a given week – you learned that reality was almost entirely subjective.”
Reality’s subjectivity is jauntily jousted with by the author. When describing the appearance of Harrison Lime, for example, Reynolds goes straight to the source: The movie The Third Man. Lime is depicted as “Orson Welles before he got heavy, with a too-easy smile, and too-white teeth behind it. Curly hair, going gray, under a battered trilby.” The notion of what’s real gains definition from that which is reel. Cleverness doesn’t cave in to cuteness; the dialogue is waspish and wryly warped.
In terms of dark fiction, the book has ample blood letting and many sinister shadowy presences to maintain interest. The action scenes are very detailed; there’s an intense physicality to the violence. Blood flows freely, from the acts of both humans and vampires. There’s also a nifty unexpected twist that occurs late in the plot, which will warm the hearts of horror mavens.
Joshua Reynolds paints a vibrant literary canvas. His characters are colorful, and his use of light and shadow is well executed. A sequel to this novel awaits. It will be intriguing to discover how the author follows Dracula Lives!