The Vampire Book

book review by Gary Johnson

In the original edition of The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, author J. Gordon Melton plumbed the depths of history for vampire lore, myths, and legends. He led his readers to such real places as Borgo Pass and the city of Bistritz (both made famous by their mention in Bram Stoker's Dracula) and introduced his readers to a host of vampire historians (such as Montague Summers and Raymond T. McNally) and real-life vampires (such as Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory). In addition, Melton included entries on the great fictional vampires and the most influential vampire literature, movies, television shows, and comic books.

Now the book is available in a fully revised and expanded edition that features more than 200 photos (including over 30 in full color). Taking a cue from reader feedback, Melton has added more than 100 entries, including topics such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, Dracula historian David Skal, The X-Files, author Poppy Z. Brite, and many others. In addition, Melton now covers the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade in much greater detail, including entries on all the major vampire clans.

The Vampire Book dispels many common misconceptions about vampire lore. For example, according to Melton, bats did not become associated with vampires until the 1700s, when reports of vampire bats filtered back from the New World. In addition, Melton chronicles how literature and film helped shape our perception of vampire lore. For example, Bram Stoker created a set of vampire traits for his novel Dracula, including the concept of a vampire needing to lie in a coffin on a bed of its native soil.

One of the most useful aspects of this book is its country-by-country descriptions of vampires and vampire-like creatures from around the world. While the longest country entries predictably belong to European countries (such as Romania, Hungary, Greece, and Italy), Melton also covers vampires from Malaysia, India, China, Mexico, and many others.

The Vampire Book is arguably the most comprehensive vampire book ever created. However, if you want even more about vampires, Melton has penned two companion volumes: The Vampire Gallery and VideoHound's Vampires on Video. While The Vampire Book contains entries on only the most influential fictional vampires, The Vampire Gallery contains entries on virtually every vampire to appear in a movie, book, television show, or comic book. And while The Vampire Book contains entries on only the most influential vampire movies, Vampires on Video contains capsule reviews on almost every vampire movie ever made.

I have just one recommendation for the next edition of The Vampire Book -- include maps of the key vampire countries and locales. In particular, this would help readers to better visualize Eastern Europe, where country names and borders have frequently changed.


The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton is now available from Visible Ink Press. 922 pages. Suggested retail price: $19.95. Paperback.


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