Years before either becomes a literary legend, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde must overcome their disdain for one another to battle the Black Bishop, a mysterious madman wielding supernatural forces to bend the British Empire to his will. With the help of a European vampire expert, a spirited actress and an American businessman, our heroes fight werewolves, vampires and the chains of Victorian morality. The fight will take them through dark forests in Ireland, the upper-class London theater world and Stonehenge, where Bram and Oscar must stop a vampire cult from opening the gates of Hell.

 

 

Extract

***

LETTER FROM OSCAR WILDE TO FLORENCE BALCOMBE, 1ST OF NOVEMBER 1876

Archivist’s note: Wilde, like most educated Victorians, was a skilled and prolific letter writer. Unlike the correspondence of today, his letters could run upwards of twenty pages, double-sided. Here he begins to relate the events of the Greystones Incident. While no doubt some of the dialogue has been fabricated, we know from other sources that the events depicted are more or less accurate.

My dearest Florrie, I am counting the days until we are together again, my golden flower.

I bitterly regret that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit you while I am home from Oxford, but the last few days have been the most traumatic and dramatic in all my twenty-two years. I can scarcely put these events to paper, as my mind still reels with the memory of what I have seen – what I have done. But I shall do my best in the following narrative. It is a tale of supernatural terror, illuminated only by the tarnished light of a full moon. A tale in which I am the hero, of course, since I am the narrator. But no matter how flattering a light I cast upon myself, I swear to you that every word is true.

This story is not for the faint of heart. I fear your delicate nature may, in fact, make you swoon from the words. So, my dear Florrie, please be seated. This is a story to be read in the light of day with company in your presence, not on some stormy night alone in your room.

Dare I continue?

I do!

It all started a few nights ago when Mother hosted an informal dinner party. Our special guest for the evening was none other than the remarkable Captain Richard Burton, the noted explorer and adventurer.

As he was a friend of my late father, Captain Burton makes a point to drop by whenever his travels bring him to Dublin. It had been several years since I’d seen him, so I should not have been surprised to notice how age had at last begun to diminish the great man, if only slightly. He is, perhaps, less formidable a figure, his bearing less commanding, his stride a bit slower. Nevertheless, he is still a vibrant personality, always ready with a fascinating tale or the occasional bawdy joke, and it’s easy to see how he earned the nickname Ruffian Dick. His dark eyes still make one feel that he knows all one’s secrets at a glance, and his thick, dark hair has not receded an inch, a virtue which I consider worthy of emulation.

Along with him was his lovely wife, Isabel, who is a bit of a flirt when she has had a glass or two of claret and is one of the few women I know who can (and will) quote the Kama Sutra! She has travelled widely with her husband and perhaps it is this experience that lends her the enviable ability to find something interesting in everyone she meets, a talent that would be put to the test that evening, for also joining us were my older brother, Willie, and one of his most tiresome friends, Bram Stoker.

Like Willie, and unlike Burton, Bram is not remarkable in any way. Oh, I suppose his appearance is striking. He is well past six foot, strong as an ox, with a red-bearded face that frightens small children but that, mysteriously, women find handsome.

He was educated at Trinity so he speaks proper English, though he hasn’t lost his Irish brogue as I have worked so hard to do. In fact, the angrier he gets the more Irish he becomes. When he becomes flustered, which is often if I can provoke it, I am only able to pull out the occasional swear word from his Celtic stream of obscenities.

Bram is a civil servant and can converse endlessly on any subject as long as it is dull and uninspiring. That night he regaled us with tales of railway timetables and an extraordinary new method for filing documents.

Willie met Bram at school, where Bram showed some small talent as a writer. (I suppose this puts him one up on Willie, who has never shown talent at anything.) At Trinity, I attended the reading of his paper, ‘The Supernatural as Introduced by the English Poets’, which I thought showed promise, despite his monotone drone. In more recent years, he has published several short stories, which make up in clumsy moralising what they lack in wit. However, any poetic inkling he may once have possessed has been crushed under the weight of bureaucratic manuals and file cabinets, as was evident that night as Mother tried to get him to shut up and let Captain Burton talk.

“How astonishing to learn there is so much more to filing than memorising the alphabet,” Mother said, interrupting Stoker’s treatise on folder-tab placement. She quickly turned to Burton and patted him on the hand. “I have just reread your book of Hindu tales, Vikram and the Vampire, Richard. It is so engrossing and has helped me immensely with my own work.” (Did you know, Florrie, that Mother is a noted expert on all things supernatural? She writes under the nom de plume ‘Speranza’, which is quite convenient when I do not wish people to know of her unusual interests. But you, my dear, I wish to know everything about me!)

Stoker’s face had reddened to match his ginger hair and beard. No doubt he realised he had been dominating the conversation at a table shared with one of the world’s greatest lecturers. I almost felt sorry for him.

“Thank you, Lady Jane,” Burton said. “That is a great compliment coming from one with your expertise.”

“Yes, quite a good read,” Willie chimed in. “I find Hindu vampires to be much more civilised than European vampires.”

“Yes,” Burton said. “But then they are purely whimsical folk tale inventions, and not real creatures, like Eastern European vampires.” He relished the last bite of his steak and kidney pie as Stoker’s eyes widened.

“Excuse me,” Stoker asked. “Are you saying that European vampires are real?”

“Oh, yes, quite frightfully real,” Burton said. “Horrible creatures. Drooling, rotting, mindless things you would not want to meet up with on a dark night. Killed three myself back in the Crimean War. The battlefields brought them out like rats. They prey on the dying, you see.”

Stoker seemed amused, and was about to respond, but a kick from Willie kept him from pressing the matter further. How I wished I was in kicking range myself!

“But vampires are old news, I’m afraid,” Isabel said, her eyes twinkling. “These days, my dear husband has turned his sword to fighting werewolves.” She raised her glass slightly, in a teasing but affectionate toast to her husband, then drained it.

“My dear wife mocks me, but it is true that I am currently investigating, at the request of Her Majesty the Queen, the recent killing down in Greystones.”

“And you believe it was a werewolf? What an interesting coincidence!” Mother exclaimed. “I happen to be writing a book on werewolf lore at this very moment!”

“What good fortune! I thought I might beg permission to look through your folklore collection for a way to track and kill the beast.”

Stoker could not contain himself any longer. “You cannot be serious,” he protested. “Surely that poor girl was killed by a pack of wild dogs.”

“If only it were so,” Burton said. “The killing occurred under the light of a full moon.” He lowered his voice as if the werewolf itself were listening. “An upstanding constable saw the creature running right down the main street. And, unbeknownst to the general public, a similar killing took place in Wexford the full moon before. A fisherman had his throat torn out, and strange, wolflike tracks were found nearby.”

Thank you, Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi  and Random Things Tours.

 

About the author

Steven Hopstaken was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan,
where he spent his formative years watching and reading
science fiction and horror. He has a degree in journalism
from Northern Michigan Universityand spends his free time
traveling; writing screenplays, short stories and novels;and
practicing photography.
Melissa Prusi was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
(often mistaken for Canada),and studied video and film production at
Northern Michigan Universityand the University of Michigan. She’s been a
video editor,asemi-professional film reviewer,athree-time champion on
the quiz show Jeopardy!,and a Guinness world record holder (1990 edition,
for directing the longest live television show).
They met in acollege screenwriting class and married three years later. They
spenta brief time in Los Angeles, where they both worked for Warner Bros.
television. They eventually ended up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they
love the arts scene but dread the winters. While they both currently make a
living as website content managers, they have sold two screenplays, which
have been lost to development hell.
They’ve indulged their fascination with Bram Stokerand Oscar Wilde
through trips to Dublin and London to research their lives and visit sites
mentioned in Stoker’s Wilde.
They live in St.Louis Park, Minnesota with their two cats. If they’re not writing,
you can usually find them ata movie, local theater production, improv show
or pub quiz.

 

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