I will read almost any fiction that involves Bram Stoker, on the off chance that it adds an interesting twist to the genesis of Dracula. As I have said many times, it just fascinates me how a dull, repressed Irishman managing a theater came up with such a masterpiece of horror. Because he tried over, and over, and over, and could not come anywhere close again.
Of course Stoker was actually an interesting tale himself, even though had he not written the book about the vampire, he would’ve been merely a minor member of the cast of a book about Sir Henry Irving, the actor whose theater he managed. Shadowplay focuses on Stoker’s relationship with Irving and actress Ellen Terry, and throughout the book we see bits and pieces that later ended up in Dracula. But the book is really about the relationship between the three, and is more of a word picture than a coherent novel, complete with plot.
I say word picture because close to the beginning, the chapter that began with Irving and Stoker in a train annoying each other without even having to speak was one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read. I actually bought the audiobook as soon as I finished the scene just so I could hear someone read it out loud – it was that good. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented me from being in the car enough to listen to the rest of the book, so ended up reading almost the whole thing.
It’s very close whether I would recommend the book as a piece of fiction as opposed to recommending it simply because the writing is so creative and beautifully done. Probably closer to the latter. But, again the scene in the train is just beyond my ability to describe it. It’s magnificent.