1971. A middle-aged man, wracked with grief, walks along the beach at Whitstable in Kent.
A boy walks approaches him and, taking him for the famous vampire-hunter Doctor Van Helsing from the Hammer movies, asks for his help. Because he believes his stepfather really is a vampire…
So begins the moving and evocative new novella by Stephen Volk, published by the British Fantasy Award-nominated Spectral Press in May 2013 to coincide with the centenary of the most celebrated and beloved of Hammer’s stars, Peter Cushing.
In Whitstable—which deftly mixes fact with fiction—the actor, devastated after the recent death of his wife and soul mate Helen, is an inconsolable recluse. In that vulnerable state he is forced to face an evil far more real and terrifying than any of the make-believe monsters he tackled on the big screen. And here he is not a crusader or expert with crucifixes to hand—merely a man. A man who in some ways craves death himself, but cannot ignore the pleas of an innocent child…
This novella, written by Stephen Volk is undoubtedly one of the most touching and heartfelt books I have ever read.
As its title suggests it is based in Whitstable, Kent. A quaint and gentle little place that is clearly reflected in the wording of this novel, Volk’s ability to create such a clear and warming picture of this town, even if you have never been, is just wonderful.
The story is both tragic and heroic; very much a parallel of Peter Cushing’s characters he portrays on the big screen. On the one hand we are shown a grieving man, with such wonderfully written passages that bring tears to your eyes and on the other hand we feel proud and excited about his actions towards this “vampire” that he has been asked to fight.
The characters are great; the dialogue I must say is fantastic and is definitely noteworthy in this review. There are a lot of books that paint great characters but always manage to let the dialogue fall by the wayside, I do understand it can be difficult to write but Volk really nails it and Cushing’s dialogue plays in my head exactly how he spoke…it has to be said that it is rather spooky!
I don’t want to give too much away because the book is more of an experience than a read, that probably makes no sense to you but I hope it does when you read it. I am sure that we all take something from what we read and I certainly have from this novella and it will certainly sit proud as one of my favourite books!