cover image The Bloody Red Baron

The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0252-7

In this stunning follow-up to his inventive alternate-world fantasy, Anno Dracula (1992), Newman ponders the course that history might have taken had Count Dracula fought for the Kaiser in WWI. It's some 30 years since the vampire eluded the fate ordained for him in Bram Stoker's novel and initiated the Terror, a vampirization of humanity that has left half the world undead and living in uneasy coexistence with ``warm'' mortals. Although Dracula remains off-page for most of the novel, he is represented by flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, alias the Red Baron, and other blood descendants capable of shapeshifting into airplane-sized bats that engage in aerial combat with their Anglo-vampire counterparts. Though Newman focuses events through the experience of Lt. Edwin Winthrop, a mortal who eventually embraces vampirism and leads the English squadron's final assault on the Red Baron's well-armed fortress, he regularly imagines meetings between vampirized figures of fact and fiction: for example, a subplot brings together Edgar Allan Poe and German apologist Hans Heinz Ewers as vampire collaborators on a popular biography of the Red Baron, assigned to them by German propaganda minister Dr. Mabuse. Such postmodern hijinks are made possible by the author's scrupulous historical and literary research. In the image of the immortal vampire, Newman has found the perfect metaphor for history's larger-than-life personalities and the impact their appetites have upon civilization. Although chock-full of pulpy entertainment, the novel's vivid scenes of war and its senseless brutality bear out the third-person narrator's contention that it is ``Dracula, proud of blood kinship with Attila, who most epitomised 20th century barbarism.'' (Nov.)