I first encountered David Skal in the documentary Universal Horror, one of my favorite videos of all time. It was during that when he first mentions his story of the various Dracula adaptions since Stoker’s own first attempts at bringing his book to the stage. I would not get the book for several years, but when I did I ended up giving it a couple reads back-to-back. I just finished another reading.
Although not his first book (he had written a few science fiction novels before) this is the book that really made Skal’s name as both an author and literary and cultural historian. It recounts the history of the novel Dracula from the days of Stoker writing it up until the (then) most modern adaptions.
In short, the book is brilliant. The author had the chance to meet with several of the actors and behind the scenes figures who have since passed and let their stories be told, and dusts the cobwebs off some of the most intricate details of motion picture and Hollywood history that otherwise would have been doomed to crumble away. Rich detail, snarky and captivating chapter titles and bylines and a style so sophisticated but at the same time sympathetic to the lay reader that you can’t help but respect it. Hollywood Gothic truly made David J. Skal the foremost name in Dracula studies, which paved the way for several more books, including a recent biography of Bram Stoker himself.
Now that I’ve read all about the history of Dracula and the various mediums the character and story have bitten the necks of, I decided to put aside my hatred of ebooks and continue reading the classic itself.
Will write more on that when the book is finished…