A Night of Dracula – ‘Vlad – The Last Confession’ by C.C.Humphreys:
It was a dark Friday the 13th (rather fittingly) when I and many others were sat in the small space that is Dogma’s Cellar Bar, all holding our breath for the author of the latest historical fiction to arrive from the shadows.
When he did he was certainly the type of guy you would not expect to devout a good two years to the research and study of history surrounding the man who inspired the legend of Dracula the vampire. My original image of C.C.Humphreys was a small man, grey hair, grey goatee beard, glasses and a man you can see lingering down library corridors. What I saw in real life was a man who was young, tall, who had a strong interest in history, who loved “swashbuckling adventures” and a man who came up with the idea about writing a historic novel around the REAL Dracula one night when he got drunk with his Editor, he revealed.
“We’d gone through every great figure in history that an author had wrote a historic fictional account of and just as he [his editor] was going to the toilets he rushed back saying ‘Yes. I’ve got it. Let’s do it on Dracula!’ So that’s how it all began.”
Humphreys went on to narrate anecdotes about his travels when he was researching into the history of the true origins of Dracula. He had travelled to
“The people in that region still live like they did more or less five hundred years ago. The roads were that narrow, rocky and steep that my car actually died once I arrived in the village. I remember stepping out of the house I was staying at and looking down across the land, spotting my Landlady coming out of the back of her house with a chicken in one hand, an axe in the other and going WHACK upon a stump with it right before my eyes. That chicken turned out to be my tea. Cooked on a fire although the house did have one gas ring but that was about the only modern convenience in the entire village.”
Listening to Humphreys reveal so many interesting and quite horrific facts about the true Dracula otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, now present day southern Romania, was like having the best history lesson ever. I learnt that ‘Dracula’ was actually his surname, ‘Dracul’ meaning dragon and the ‘a’ meaning ‘son of’ as Vlad’s father was known as the dragon. So he became known as Vlad Dracul-a. And he certainly wasn’t known for biting any fair maidens and sleeping in a coffin, it was more his use of impaling people on spikes and other bloody torture methods that he perhaps picked up during his long stay in a Turkish prison when he was young. He ended up in
“Many historians would say that Vlad’s experience in that prison, of the torture used there, is perhaps what made him use such methods alike during his brief reign when he re-claimed the throne, kind of like the abused child abusing his own in later life theory. But I think it’s more likely that Vlad actually studied the torture methods in practise there and always intended to use them.”
Humphreys has written his fictional account of Vlad’s rise and fall from power in what he terms as a “framing device” in that he hasn’t just chosen to do it in third or first person narrative but rather a mixture as the points of view in this great and gory tale are from Vlad’s best friend, Ion who ultimately betrayed him in the end, his only true love, Ilona, whom he had to sacrifice and his final and only confessor. This is one the key things that makes Humphreys novel so unique in that he uses his position as an author not to inform what the reader should feel about his protagonist but gives them enough events and details to allow them to make their own minds on whether Vlad was a destroyer or a hero.
“I never wanted to be one of those writers that portrayed their character in a certain way so the reader would instinctively make a judgement on that character. I wanted the reader to judge him for themselves not because I made him out to be in a certain way. This is why I have written a message at the start of the book to the reader.”
Humphreys goes on to read a chapter from his book and it was truly captivating. It felt like watching your favourite horror movie, knowing that the good person is going to be killed or sliced apart any moment except this time you’re rooting for the murderer and you somehow reach an understanding of why they are going to do such an awful act.
Afterwards he was able to sign books provided by Borders from Birnstall where you could buy them for three pound off the recommended price and the books were limited hard back editions with blood red edged pages. As a young writer myself and one who is a keen fan of historical fiction although dominantly about the Viking Age, I never thought I would become at all interested in the true history, events and life of the man behind Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ but the fantastic use of viewpoints, description, the blend of fiction and fact make it a truly magnificent tale. A good read for any of those that like blood, gore and the understanding that a man can be as much a monster as a hero.