Review: ‘A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture’ Violet Fenn

Our enduring love of vampires – the bad boys (and girls) of paranormal fantasy – has persisted for centuries. Despite being bloodthirsty, heartless killers, vampire stories commonly carry erotic overtones that are missing from other paranormal or horror stories. Even when monstrous teeth are sinking into pale, helpless throats – especially then – vampires are sexy. But why? In A History Of The Vampire In Popular Culture, author Violet Fenn takes the reader through the history of vampires in ‘fact’ and fiction, their origins in mythology and literature and their enduring appeal on tv and film. We’ll delve into the sexuality – and sexism – of vampire lore, as well as how modern audiences still hunger for a pair of sharp fangs in the middle of the night.

It’s no secret that I love a vampire bad boy, particularly if said vampire bad boy is the leading man in a sexy paranormal romance. Consequently, when I saw Violet Fenn’s A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture, I knew that I had to read it. Despite not having been a student for a few years, I still operate in what I call student mode, which means that I rarely buy books in hardback because of the price. However, I was so desperate to read this book that I made a rare exception.

Looking through A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture‘s Goodreads reviews, it’s apparent that it’s the bookish equivalent of Marmite. People either seem to love it, or they hate it. I’m very much in the former camp and I actually think a lot of the criticism that has been levelled at this book is unfair. The criticism largely boils down to the fact that Violet Fenn didn’t mention this book or that movie. Violet openly admits in the book’s introduction that the pop culture vampires that she discusses are her personal favourites. For people to be peeved because she hasn’t mentioned their personal favourites seems a bit petty, to be honest.

I’ve heard many a vampire story over the years – from the tragic case of Mercy Brown and her family to Glasgow’s Gorbals vampire – but I still learned a hell of a lot from this book. For example, like many, I assumed that the iron cages placed over graves in days of old was to keep those pesky corpses in the ground. Thanks to A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture, I learned that it was actually to protect them from would-be grave robbers.

What I really liked about this book is the fact that it’s in no way a chore to read. I don’t often read non-fiction and it’s mostly down to the fact that I find a lot of non-fiction books are dry and slow-paced and rarely hold my interest for more than a chapter or two. This isn’t the case with A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture, though. It’s an easy-going, engaging read and one that I found difficult to put down, something which doesn’t happen all too often.

My only issue with the book is the fact that there are some errors in it. The Lost Boys‘ Star is referred to as Sky, and although Violet talks about the Gorbals vampire incident at Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis, the photos used are of the city’s other Necropolis (I live in Glasgow and have visited both).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to all my fellow vampire lovers!

Want to read A History of the Vampire in Popular Culture? Head on over to Hive or Bookshop to order your copy, or order it through your local bookstore.

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