Most vampires aren't handsome, romantic or protective. They kill. When they rip out your throat, you die smelling corpse breath and terrified.
If you need proof, read "Dracula's Guest," a superb collection of vampire fiction — and non-fiction — from writers dealing with the undead.
Michael Sims has culled stories from the Victorian era to make a collection guaranteed to delight anyone who enjoyed Bram Stoker's "Dracula."
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901, but Sims stretched his selections to the beginning of World War I in 1914. He includes several non-fiction pieces reaching back to the 1700s.
In "Dracula's Guest," the vampires run from those who slowly drain the spirit — "Good Lady Ducayne" — from their victims to those who are frightening enough to give nightmares.
There is nothing seductive about the vampires in Aleksei Tolstoy's "The Family of the Vourdalak," set in Serbia, where family sentiment overrules the final warning words of grandfather Gorcha, and all the family dies only to come back and hunt an unwary suitor.
"I turned away from (the daughter) Sdenka to hide the horror which was written on my face. It is then that I looked out the window and saw the satanic figure of Gorcha, leaning on a bloody stake and staring at me with the eyes of a hyena. Pressed against the other window were the waxen features of Georges, who at that moment looked as terrifying as his father." Exit suitor chased by fiends.
Eastern Europe is just the best known source for vampire tales. "Luella Miller" is placed in a New England village. Sweden is the setting for "Count Magnus." A chilling story, "A Mystery of the Campagna," is based in Italy.
What makes these Victorian stories different from contemporary ones? In general, the afflicted that run afoul of vampires die. There are very few happy endings here.
You have the lurid pulp fiction of James Malcolm Rymer's "Varney the Vampire," written in installments for the periodical market. "With a sudden rush that could be foreseen — with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair and twining them round his bony hands he held her to bed. Then she screamed — Heaven granted her then power to scream."
Sims' introduction covers the reality of death and how the legends of vampires might have come into existence. There are several non-fiction pieces and an excellent bibliography provides more sources and websites.
Bram Stoker gets the last word. The final story is an early draft of the first chapter of his classic novel. The unnamed narrator ventures out on Walpurgisnacht, the last day of April, to run afoul of wolves and the dead. He's rescued by troopers on the orders of his host — Dracula.
"Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories" edited by Michael Sims; Walker & Company (480 pages, $17)