May 1st, 2010 21:43 EST
In The Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey & Travel Guide
(The following review of Steven P. Unger`s book In The Footsteps of Dracula (World Audience Publishers, 2010) appeared in Horror Writers UK (http://www.horrorwriters.net/In The Footsteps of Dracula.htm). It is presented here with the permission of the author and concerned website.)
If you love Bram Stoker`s classic horror character Dracula, are intrigued by the real-life story of his historical counterpart Prince Vlad the Impaler, and have a keen interest in Transylvania and Dracula country in general, then I guarantee that you will devour this brilliant book by Stephen P. Unger as keenly as you probably devoured the original Dracula novel itself.
The author of this book certainly knows his Dracula stuff, a fact that is much reflected in the many detailed descriptions of the areas and exploits associated with both the factual and fictional story of the infamous Count. Bram Stoker`s novel Dracula was based on the life and notorious deeds of Prince Vlad the Impaler, and Unger has done a great job here in returning to the real places where Prince Vlad actually lived. In addition, Unger vividly relates the real-life crimes of Prince Vlad, before presenting a comprehensive tourist guide for anyone who wants to learn more about this colourful character who cultivated a rather infamous reputation for heinously impaling thousands of his enemies on large wooden stakes - often even dining as he coldly watched them slowly writhe and die in agony
Steven starts off his narrative with his visit to the Romanian town of Bistrita in the Borgo Pass, a place never really associated with Vlad Tepes, but only with Stoker`s fictional Count. But that certainly hasn`t prevented the Bistrita locals from capitalizing on the connection.
In Chapter Four, the author gives an account of his time spent in Whitby, England, where Stoker wrote the literary classic and his immortal vampiric creation came ashore after the shipwreck of the "Demeter", the vessel carrying the bloodsucker in his wooden box.
He then devotes all of Part II (Chapters 5, 6, and 7) examining the life and atrocities of the real-life Vlad Dracula.
Part III has Steven hitting the high points of The Impaler`s life at Sighisoara, his birthplace, Targoviste, the site of a palace, Poenari, Vlad Dracula`s "real" mountaintop fortress (as opposed to the fraudulent, "theme-park" version at Bran), and finally to the island monastery of Snagov, which ostensibly houses the ruler`s tomb (though historical evidence suggests not).
In Part IV, the author briefly explores Bucharest and London, the latter city being where author Stoker did much of his research on Transylvania in the Reading Room of the British Museum.
Whereas most of the travel books I have read in the past have, disappointingly, included no photographs at all, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DRACULA is a welcome change. It contains, in total, 185 images pertaining to the book`s topic - and very good they are too - including one of the author riding a horse at the beach. I was very pleased by this presentation. And Unger doesn`t just stick the pictures on the page without explanation; he uses them to enhance his textual narrative to an excellent degree. This is how ALL travel and guide books should be presented.
At the end of the book, Steven provides fans of the intermingled Count Dracula/Vlad Dracula stories an invaluable handbook should they wish to retrace Dracula`s footsteps on their own. Part V, entitled "Nuts and Bolts: A Practical Guide to the Dracula Trail", shares valuable advice on getting to and about England and Romania, based on his own experiences.
I have read a lot of Dracula books in my time, both fictional and factual. However, I have to say that Steve Unger`s book has to be the most enjoyable and highly informative book on the whole Dracula story that I have ever read. I cannot fault this book at all, and I am sure that if, like me, you can`t get enough of reading everything you can about Stoker`s immortal creation, then you will enjoy reading every single page of this fantastic work.