“The New Annotated Dracula,” by Bram Stoker, edited with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger; Norton; $39.95

Vampire fans should clear a spot – a large spot, preferably artfully draped by cobwebs -on their bookshelves for Leslie S. Klinger’s exhaustively detailed and utterly spectacular “The New Annotated Dracula.”

Any devotee of the Transylvanian count will adore this 613-page compendium, which features the complete text of “Dracula” plus more than 1,500 footnotes and 200 color and black-and-white illustrations, including historic and contemporary photos, movie stills and posters, and stage bills. It also includes a bibliography and guide to “Dracula” societies where one might find friends in fangdom.

Klinger, who also edited “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,” brings a good deal of intelligent wit to this project, starting with taking author Bram Stoker “at his word” that the letters, journals and newspaper articles that comprise “Dracula” are historically accurate. Klinger, tongue embedded in cheek, surmises that Jonathan, Mina, Dr. Van Helsing and Mr. Fangs-for-the-Memories were all real individuals whose true identities were intentionally concealed.

To prove this, he points out the manuscript’s many inconsistencies and errors – Stoker’s way, Klinger says, of diversion from the truth. For instance, he notes that in a scene where Dracula forces Mina to drink his blood, Dr. Seward’s journal says of Dracula, “his face was turned from us,” but that “we all recognized the Count – in every way, even to the scar on his forehead.”

In his footnote, Klinger writes, “This (contradiction) suggests that the scene is a constructed one, a fictionalized version of the true events, which, in fact, may have been sexual.” You think?

He doesn’t shy from taking characters to task or gently making fun; in several notes, he remarks on Dr. Van Helsing’s unfettered ego and medical quackery, for instance his ability to take Mina’s pulse in a few seconds while kissing her hand.

Klinger went to the source for his work; he studied Stoker’s original manuscript, which is owned by a private collector who has allowed access to only two researchers in recent years. In his preface, he writes, “In examining ‘Dracula,’ I must admit that I have found more questions than answers. … In the words of Bernard Davies, a lifelong student of ‘Dracula,’ in his provocative ‘Unearthing Dracula – Burying Stoker,’ ‘We shall fit in all the pieces of the puzzle as neatly as we can, then throw the odd one or two left back in the box. With ‘Dracula’ you’ve always got some pieces left.”‘

Klinger pays particular attention to “Dracula’s” wicked pull on readers, even those who might otherwise avoid tales so visceral and shocking. A review in the August 1897 issue of London’s “The Bookman” read:

“A summary of the book would shock and disgust; but we must own that, though here and there in the course of the tale we hurried over things with repulsion, we read nearly the whole thing with rapt attention.”

How ghastly! Tell me more! The same can be said of “The New Annotated Dracula.” Set aside a few days for this one – you’ll want to savor every juicy, bloody bit.

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