cover image A Sharpness on the Neck

A Sharpness on the Neck

Fred Saberhagen. Tor Books, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85799-8

A year before Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire, Saberhagen published The Dracula Tape (1975), in which he dreamed up a sympathetic vampire of his own, launching a horror subgenre. Now Saberhagen's Vlad Dracula returns for his ninth novel (after A Matter of Taste, etc.), still driven by a sense of honor and still explaining himself to humans; here, to two whose survival depends on their believing his supernatural origins and history. Thrills and chills are provided by Vlad's malevolent brother, Radu. The narrative flickers between two eras: Revolutionary France, where Vlad and his gypsy-vampire companion, Constantia, try to save Phillip Radcliffe, an illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, from Radu and the guillotine, and modern America, where they kidnap Radcliffe's identically named descendant and his wife in order to save them from the still-vengeful Radu. There's plenty of crisp historical detail, including appearances by Napoleon and the Marquis de Sade. The series' ironic contrast between Vlad's innocence and the bloodlust of humans continues, with Vlad's aristocratic narrative voice (which alternates with third-person passages) continuing to impress. To be sure, the pace is languorous at times, but when you're spending quality time with someone who has centuries on his undead hands, what's the hurry? (Oct.)