Those of you who know me, know that Dracula is my favourite book of all time—although I have only read it once (there are far too many books to read one multiple times!). What you may not be aware of is he is the first man I fell in love with, at the tender age of 9. In those days, my dad was a big horror fan, and he shared his passion with me, introducing me to Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price. I remember watching Dr Phibes over and over again. That is, until I saw Frank Langella play Dracula, and I fell head over heals in love. The Count stole my heart and is the only man to keep it, unequivocally.
I didn’t read the book until much later but was equally taken with the Count’s loneliness and his constant—and fruitless—search for a bride… until he met Mina. In her he saw someone he wanted to share in his eternity; all she had to do was die. And that’s where his plan fell apart, as Jonathan and the boys were having none of it. She was a married woman, for goodness’ sake!
For me, Dracula is the greatest love story ever told, but many people disagree. Coppola, however, clearly saw what I saw when he brought Stoker’s story to life, and I watched with tears in my eyes as Gary Oldman declared his love for Winona Ryder:
‘You will be cursed as I am to walk in the shadow of death for all eternity. I love you too much to condemn you.’
I remember sitting in the cinema and saying out loud, ‘How romantic’, much to the horror of my fellow filmgoers!
But what is more primal, more erotic, more sensuous than the sharing of each other’s blood? Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t partake is such acts (not in this day and age, anyway), but to have another person’s blood running in your veins, so to speak, is as close as you will ever get to that person.
Dracula—and vampires—has always been the epitome of love and eroticism for me. When he looks into your eyes and draws you in, his allure impossible to ignore, you fall under his spell and surrender your will to his without question. Isn’t this what people would have you believe true love does—that total surrender, regardless of the consequences?
It takes a very gifted actor to pull off the role of Dracula. It isn’t about being good looking; it’s about having the ability to draw your audience in, to have them nodding their assent before you’ve even uttered a word. I have mentioned two actors who have this in spades, but the other one who I feel deserves a mention is Rudolf Martin. For those Buffy fans amongst you, you will know who I am talking about. I remember vividly the night I watched this episode—how my heart raced, my breath caught, how I pushed forward out of my seat, unable to tear my gaze away from his as he beckoned to me (well, it was Buffy, but camera angles and all), and how I reached out towards him, willing to do whatever he asked. THAT is the power of allure, and THAT is what any actor needs to master if he is to do justice to Dracula.
It was this power that captured my imagination, and coupled with eternal life, drew me towards the darker side in my writings. Thus, when I saw that stone sarcophagus at the back of that village church in Shropshire, it was no surprise to me that its occupant, Antony Cardover, would be a vampire, a man cursed to be such because of the betrayal of the woman he loved.
I always said I could never write a love story, yet everyone tells me that is exactly what I have created with the Bonds series. This gave me the confidence to remove the paranormal element from my stories and write a more contemporary love story, complete with a wounded hero, just like Antony.
Dracula has the right mix of strength and vulnerability that is attractive in a man, the threat of danger adding to his appeal, and he is the benchmark to whom all my male leads must measure up.
Frank Langella was my first love, but Dracula will always be my one true love.
‘Til next time,