Tuesday 11 January 2011

Midnight Tales by Bram Stoker

As some of you know, I love the novel Dracula and gothic fiction in general.  So I was excited when I came across this collection of short stories by Bram Stoker at the library.  It promised to be "chilling", "terrifying" and full of horror classics such as vampires, werewolves and mummies.

Unfortunately it wasn't really what it said on the tin.  The collection had twelve stories and at least three of them were definitely not horror.  For another one or two it would be debatable.  Now that wasn't always a bad thing - I really enjoyed The Red Stockade, an adventure story in which sailors battle pirates - but I do think that if you call a book Midnight Tales and advertise it as a horror collection, you should stick to it.

As with most short story collections, some of the tales were much more enjoyable than others.  The Squaw, about the Iron Maiden torture device, was very creepy.  One of the tales, The Dream in the Dead House, had originally been included in Dracula (Jonathan Harker on his way to Dracula's castle) but was cut at the publisher's insistence. The Spectre of Doom was originally written for children and had a lovely macabre fairy tale feel.

Unfortunately two of the stories contained my literary pet peeve - writing in another dialect.  I know Bram was Irish but I absolutely can not stand reading a story where the spelling has changed to reflect the accent.  These two stories were not bad, but all my enjoyment was sucked out of them by the writing technique.  Take this example from The Shorrox Man; "She had shkin like satin, wid a warrm flush in it, like the sun shinin' on a crock iv yestherday's crame".  If you enjoy that, I admire you, because it is beyond me.

Content aside, this collection was generally well editied.  There was a historical/biographical introduction at the beginning and a brief but interesting intro before each story outlining Bram's inspiration and how the story was originally published.  I just feel that if the editor had kept the collection strictly horror it would have felt more cohesive and functioned better as a whole book.

Score: 3 out of 5


  1. I've had a couple of disappointments like that recently too. I started reading 'The Help' and couldn't get more than 15 pages before that written southern dialect thing drove me nuts. It's all well and fine in a movie, but in print? on paper? makes me crazy.

  2. Is it awful of me to admit that I didn't even know Stoker published a work (or more?) other than Dracula?

    It does seem an odd title for the group though - I wonder if the title was chosen by him or an editor. Were the stories originally published as that collection or were they gathered from other sources and compiled later?

  3. I'm with Lisa--I didn't know Bram Stoker's work outside of Dracula until now :)

    I have an award for you. Congrats :) Here are the details.

  4. Well, I'm awful too because I didn't know of his other works either. That's is one of the good things about blogging though-- learning about authors and books you've never heard of before-- But it is kind've exciting and embarrassing at the same time.

    I'm completely opposite-- I love dialects in books-- especially when they are done well. That one is a bit out there though. Didn't like it at first but after several readings it is growing on me and I am starting to hear the voice. Took me a minute to realize crame must be cream. Interesting!

  5. There wasn't much of a scarier read than the original Dracula...loved it a few Octobers ago. I haven't read any of Stroker's short stories, though.

  6. Um...Stoker. That's who I meant.

  7. I've never read any of Stoker's shorter fiction and although it doesn't sound like it's all wonderful it definitely sounds worth a go :)