Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dracula, vampire detectives and musty bookshops of the mind

I love the blog The Groovy Age of Horror because it's like a stroll through a great used bookshop. Some stores are cropping up at strip shopping centers these days, filled with books that were at Borders or Barnes and Noble five minutes ago. Those are nice for a bargain, but they're not as prone to offer some creased and dog-eared gem you've never heard of.

I love finding used bookshops that have been around forever and boast obscure works, especially in the genre sections.
Groovy Age
reveals such lost treasures from obscure publishers like Lancer. You can almost smell that musty paperback smell. Actually I can smell that smell because my office is filled with old paperbacks.

Sometimes Groovy Age spotlights quirky greats that never had a marketing budget to push them into wide awareness. There's also complete crap, the so-bad-it's-good stuff.

The Dracula horror series

Groovy Age
has a whole section devoted to one of my favorite series of horror paperbacks, which I read back when I was living through the '70s. That's the Dracula horror series written by Robert Lory. We have lots of vampire detective series today, but back in the day the Lord of the Undead was a crimebuster. Unwillingly, but still…

The series was published by Pinnacle--later, under new ownership to become the publisher of much of my work--and it came out at a time when articles about the true Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, were first gaining popular attention. It must have seemed like the perfect time for new Dracula adventures.

Pinnacle was still devoted to genre series at that time, and they were a major outlet for book packager Lyle Kenyon Engle who did the preliminary outlines that a host of writers turned into novels and series. He re-launched the dime novel Nick Carter series in a '70s setting and had books in many other genres, even a deep-sea adventure series called The Aquanauts.

Robert Lory, a science fiction writer, actually penned the Drac novels.

Harmon vs. Harvey

The series revolves around Prof. Damien Harmon who resurrects the Count in the present day of 1974. As the books begin, Drac is still resting, that is to say dead dead vs undead, after the action of the Stoker novel. But Harmon - who was paralyzed in an attack as a young policeman--unstakes him. Not before he puts a sliver of the stake in a device in the Count's chest, however.

Harmon's psychic ability allows him to trigger the device at will and drive the stake back into Drac's dark heart if necessary i.e. when he isn’t cooperating and crimebusting. Thus Harmon’s able to bend Drac to his will.

The two are helped by Harmon’s assistant Cameron Sanchez and by the mystery woman Katara, whom the Count brings to the picture. In the back of some Pinnacle titles of the day, ads probably based on the original Engle outline touted the series featuring Prof. Charles Harvey and his assistant Eric Fromann.

No pulp please, we're waiting for disco

We didn't have pulp magazines when I was a kid, so things like the Drac series and other 95 cent paperbacks were the next best thing. They were a step up from comic books and a bridge to weightier novels.They were a great stimulant for my imagination. My favorite of the books at least back in the day was "The Hand of Dracula." You can read a synopsis and review of each title over at Groovy Age, and they're certainly some fun, light reads. You can probably find them online or in the musty corners of some used bookstores.



Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know there was a "Dracula Horror Series," although I've read a couple of things by Robert Lory. I know there was a vampirilla series. I've got a couple of those. And there was a pretty cool series by "peter?" Saxon that started with "The Curse of Rathlaw." I love this stuff so I'll have to check it out.

Sidney said...

I have an If magazine with a story by Lory from the mid-'60s. I inherited it from a cousin who had a cache of Galaxy issues and assorted others. Groovy Age devotes a lot of attention to "The Guardians" also, I believe that's the Saxon series. I haven't read that. I have read the Vampirella novelizations, which are good too - they're adapted from the early issues of the Warren black and white Vampirella comic magazines.

Mind Over Fate said...

I wasn't around during that time, but I've developed an appreciation all the same. Those little bookstores are a dying breed around these parts, which is a real shame. It's like a candyshop for the mind! :P

The Wager Witch said...

I totally Dig old bookshops!

I found a "NEW" looking first edition of Watership Down in one.

To be sure I was amazed at the 50 cent asking price.

Best find to date.

Wager Witch -
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Andy said...

I love chaotic old second-hand bookshops where you can just dig around, enjoy the smell of the yellowed pages and come out with a fair number of treasures for less than the price of a cup of coffee! x

Andy said...

'Wager Witch'? As a witch myself I thought I'd seen most every variety, and so many instances of people using the term as part of selling Tarot readings and other divinations by phone or in person... but 'Wager Witch'?

I must admit that's a new one on me! x

William I. Lengeman III said...

For used book goodness, with a liberal dose of paperback pulp, try the Bookman's stores scattered throughout Arizona.

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