The best books with vintage bite for vampire lovers

Who am I?

I started my professional writing career in 1987 having founded the small press writers’ magazine, Quartos, which ran for nine years until its merger with Acclaim in 1996 to become The New Writer, as well as authoring several creative writing how-to books – including Horror Upon Horror.  In addition to acting as judge for national writing competitions, I've also tutored at writers’ workshops including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle College (Lincolnshire), and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.  Having been a staunch supporter of the Gothic Society and a regular contributor to its quarterly magazine, Udolpho, I have also created the series of The Vampyre’s Tale novels.

I wrote...

Charnel House Blues: The Vampyre's Tale

By Suzanne Ruthven,

Book cover of Charnel House Blues: The Vampyre's Tale

What is my book about?

A view of vampire culture through the eyes of Lord Ruthven - the first vampire in the literary world taken from John Polidori's The Vampyre. Written as faction, Lord Ruthven rarely appears in vampiric anthologies and has never been filmed - neither has he ever been vanquished! Life - seen through his Lordship’s eyes, gives it that compelling intensity that is the signature trademark of all good vampiric fiction as well as having its own brand of gallows humour.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires

Suzanne Ruthven Why did I love this book?

I put this one at the top of my list because it is a serious, scholarly approach to the subject of vampires and dispensed with the need to include Bram Stoker’s book among the list of favourites.

After the appearance of Dracula in 1897, the Count took over as the stereotype of the aristocratic vampire. The McNally-Florescu investigation discovered authentic 15th-century manuscripts that confirmed there had been a “human being fully as horrifying as the vampire of fiction… who had been the subject of many horror stories even during his own lifetime; a ruler whose cruelties were committed on such a massive scale that his evil reputation reached beyond the grave…” As a result, the team pieced together a dual history of the real 15th-century Dracula who came from Transylvania and the vampires who existed in the legends of the same region.

By Radu Florescu, Raymond T. McNally,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In Search of Dracula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story behind the legend of Dracula - a biography of Prince Vlad of Transylvania, better known as Vlad the Impaler. This revised edition now includes entries from Bram Stoker's recently discovered diaries, the amazing tale of Nicolae Ceausescu's attempt to make Vlad a national hero, and an examination of recent adaptations in fiction, stage and screen.

Book cover of The Vampyre: A Tale

Suzanne Ruthven Why did I love this book?

As contemporary Gothic author and artist Franklin Bishop observe, John Polidori ‘was responsible for introducing into English fiction the enduring image of the vampyre in the guise of a suave, cynical, and murderous English Lord. With the presentation of Lord Ruthven [Byron] as a vampyre, Polidori created a personification of evil that countless authors have since imitated in attempting to satisfy the enormous public interest in this genre of literature. The literary-metamorphosed vampire that emerged from the Villa Diadoti ‘ghost story’ contest quickly developed a life force of its own – which was not surprising since it was the collective brainchild of Byron and his physician John Polidori – and created a minor literary scandal when it was published in 1818. The Vampyre was based on Lord Byron’s unfinished story "Fragment of a Novel," but it is arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.

I loved this novella because it was the first of its kind to create an anti-hero with more charisma than the ‘good guys’… Or maybe it was the Byronic connection that gave him the added sex appeal!

By John William Polidori,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vampyre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The progenitor of the romantic vampire genre.

Book cover of Carmilla

Suzanne Ruthven Why did I love this book?

If we were seeking a vampiress of unparallel virtue, we need look no further than an Irish author with the unlikely name of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, who was the next to fall under the spell. He wrote the novella Carmilla (1872) for In A Glass Darkly – said to be possibly one of the greatest vampire stories of all time – but this time creating the most famous female vampire in the genre. Le Fanu’s description of how a person becomes a vampire is based upon authentic folk beliefs from Eastern Europe, and in this novella, Bram Stoker found the basic ingredients to encourage him to delve seriously into vampire mythology for his own literary inspiration.

I salute Carmilla because she gives the ladies an edge when it comes to vampires!

By J. Sheridan Le Fanu,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Carmilla as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her ailing father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest - the beautiful Carmilla.

So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion. But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day...

Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.

Book cover of The Vampires of Alfama

Suzanne Ruthven Why did I love this book?

Another sultry beauty worthy of note is Barbara, Count Kotor’s vampire daughter in The Vampires of Alfama, and an even more alarming creature. A "magnificent gossamer blonde," she is highly intelligent, coldly calculating and we know that even when under attack by the Inquisition that she will survive. The most erotic scenes in the book belong to Barbara and we are left with no doubt that she uses her body and mind to ensnare her willing victims. Kast has created a vampire being with life in its veins, set against a backdrop of terror-inspired medievalism that would endure for centuries ."Her special gift, which she had received as her share, was the strength of magnetic and hypnotic suggestion, a subject of endless discussions with her father... On several occasions, Barbara used her power to suck the blood of boys and girls who were more victims than accomplices. When Kotor found out he went mad with rage. And Barbara’s behaviour, although he found it immoral above everything else, was also the source of a grave peril, linked with the source of the age-old terror inspired by the vampires."

I feel that this novel is the most realistic in creating the vampire’s world out of 18th century Europe and the Inquisition, whilst retaining the glamour and magic of the age. I empathized fully with the characters who are so finely drawn, that we can visualize them at every stage of the chilling narrative.

By Pierre Kast, Peter De Polnay (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vampires of Alfama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: English, French (translation)

Book cover of Doctors Wear Scarlet

Suzanne Ruthven Why did I love this book?

Simon Raven had a marked fascination for the supernatural that first manifested in an early novel Doctors Wear Scarlet, which was cited by Karl Edward Wagner (himself an award-winning American writer, poet, editor and publisher of horror and writer of numerous dark fantasy and horror stories), as one of the thirteen best supernatural novels. The story is set against Raven’s customary background of academia and University life and has a distinctly macabre and spine-chilling theme. It starts harmlessly enough with a young man’s infatuation for a beautiful Greek girl, but Chriseis is no ordinary holiday love affair; three friends track down their missing companion across the Aegean, where it becomes increasingly obvious that their relationship is strange to say the least. Despite dispatching Chriseis in the remote mountains of Crete and not without cost to themselves, the missing scholar is returned to his University – but the curse of the vampire is never far behind, and with it comes the inevitable conclusion.

I believe Simon Raven’s novel rounds off the literary choices in the vampire genre, while losing nothing in the modernization and cleverly avoiding the clichéd stereotypes of contemporary writing.

By Simon Raven,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Doctors Wear Scarlet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Fountain, a promising young Cambridge scholar, went to the island of Crete to study ancient rites and pagan rituals before suddenly and inexplicably breaking off all contact with the outside world. Disturbing rumors have filtered their way back to England, whisperings of blasphemous rituals and obscene orgies, hints of terrible crimes and wanton murder . . .

Three of Richard’s friends travel to Greece to find him and bring him back. Following a grim progression of ominous clues, they will arrive at last at an abandoned fortress high in the wild and desolate White Mountains, where they will discover…

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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia

Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.

Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…

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