The uninspired, overlong lies of this book title does such a disservice to this well-researched tome that the author deserves any fate that may befall him from the monster he’s so fixated with.
Australian Gothic is not about Australian Gothic. What it is however, is a stunningly detailed history of the overall presence of Dracula in Australia’s arts scene, including some general Australian history, a history of Australian theatre, and a deliciously detailed biography of those involved in various professional Dracula productions.
While the crux of the book may be about the 1929-’31 Australian tour of a stage play of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Adelaide author Daniel Best has gone to extraordinary lengths to extract information from newspapers, playbills, libraries and other sources to tell a comprehensive biography of the play, the tour, and the lives of many of those involved. He covers the book, films and other stage productions. He provides a history of the main players and how their lives or careers progressed afterwards. He delves into audience reactions and marketing tricks during the title stage tour. And on top of all that, he provides photos, articles and other evidence to support what he says.
If Australian Gothic has one fault, other than its disappointing and unattractive title, it’s that the introduction doesn’t advise up front that the first Appendix provides a transcript of the illegible images that appear on so many pages. Much of the reading experience is spent in a combined state of awe at the detail, and in frustration at not being able to read the text in many of the graphics. If it was announced in the beginning that transcripts could be found in the Appendix, it would have been a much smoother and enjoyable reading experience. Yes, it’s listed in the Table of Contents but, seriously, who reads or remembers that?
Australian Gothic: The Untold Story of the 1929-’31 Dracula Stage Tour “Down Under” is compulsive reading for Bram Stoker fans and anyone generally interested in the Arts or Australian history. Despite the presumably limited focus, Daniel Best’s book goes beyond its title’s purview. The text is interesting, well-presented and fascinating far beyond expectation. He tells human stories rather than a dry symphony of facts, and he expands the base premise to include Bela Lagosi’s interpretation of Dracula and several other side stories.
This was a book I expected to speed-read but ended up savouring every chapter. It’s a fascinating history that I never expected to be so fascinating, and one that has inspired me to seek out the author’s other books. That in itself, is praise enough.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: CreateSpace
Released date: July 2017
RRP: $20.95 paperback