The Vampire Omnibus
Edited by Peter Haining
Published 1995 496 pages
The Vampire Omnibus is a collection of short stories and excerpts from longer works edited by Peter Haining. The collection spans from some of the earliest examples of vampire fiction, through stories that are tied to films or television and finally some of the more diverse modern stories that have introduced new ideas into the genre. The Vampire Omnibus includes stories by Stephen King, Anne Rice, Peter Tremayne, Woody Allen, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan and Richard Laymon to name but a few of the great authors who have contributed to this collection.
I liked this book a lot for three main reasons. Firstly because it has some first rate vampire short stories in it. Secondly because Peter Haining has placed all the stories in a chronological order and written an introduction to each one that helps the reader to place the story in the evolution of vampire literature. Thirdly because he resisted selecting the most obvious stories and has chosen more unusual or rarer tales.
The book is split into three sections The Prototypes, The Films and The Archetypes. In The Prototypes he avoided The Vampyre, Dracula and Carmilla and instead has chosen ‘The Skeleton Count’, published in 1828 in a ‘penny dreadful.’ It is written in the gothic style (castle, pact with the devil etc) but is more notable for being the first vampire story written by a woman.
He follows that with ‘The Vampyre’s Story’, a tale about Varney the Vampyre which was written by James Malcolm Ryder in 1847, again published in the ‘penny dreadful’ of the day. This story is worthy of note because Varney the Vampyre was hugely popular in its day but now lies mainly forgotten.
In The Films section, we find Stephen King’s ‘Return to ‘Salem’s Lot.’ This is a great short story that takes the reader back to Salem’s Lot; unwary travelers are stranded in a blizzard whilst driving through the deserted Maine town of Salem’s Lot. I think you can guess what happens next….
In the Archetypes, I particularly liked ‘First Anniversary’ by Richard Matheson. This is not a traditional vampire story; in fact it is more like an unusual zombie story. Richard Matheson is also the author of the fantastic vampire novel ‘I Am Legend’ (which is recommended reading) his short story is just a good.
I really enjoyed the humor of ‘Getting Dead’ by William F. Nolan. It is the tale of a 10,000 year old vampire who enjoyed being a vampire for the first 4,000 years found the next 6,000 years depressing and hasn’t been able to remember his own surname for the last 700 years!
I also thought that ‘Dayblood’ by Roger Zelazny was intriguing. It is a story about a vampire’s vampire which seemed unusual and thought provoking to me.
To sum up The Vampire Omnibus I would say it is a book that any fan of vampire fiction would enjoy. Anyone interested in the origins of vampire literature will find the examples of vampire fiction in The Prototypes section, and Peter Haining’s comments, fascinating.
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