Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Reviews: Dracula vs. Hitler

Dracula vs. Hitler
by Patrick Sheane Duncan
As filmmakers use the found footage trope to introduce movies, authors can use the found diary or found documents trope. In real life Duncan is an HBO producer, author and director of the documentary series Medal of Honor. Duncan writes that he found these strange documents when he was researching female spies and partisans in World War Two. These documents were so strange and important that Duncan felt that they deserved to be shared. Sometimes a book's title tells you the exact story. This is one such title. Romania originally joined the German side during World War Two.

Romania only switched sides after it had become clear the Nazis were going to lose. Like F. Paul Wilson's book The Keep, Dracula vs. Hitler asks the reader to imagine what would happen if the upstart Nazis ran across an older entity that views them as trespassers.

This book starts in 1896. Professor Abraham Van Helsing, with the help of Quincy Morris and Jonathan Harker, has defeated Prince, not Count, Dracula. But Stoker's story was wrong. Dracula is only immobilized, not destroyed. Van Helsing tells himself that it's because of scientific curiosity that he decided against destroying Dracula. By 1941 Van Helsing is an old man who has settled in Romania. He has a beautiful young adult daughter Lucille or Lucy upon whom he dotes. Lucy is no shrinking violet. She's a well traveled fiery feminist insistent upon proving she's just as good if not better than a man in every endeavor. Lucy's a skilled saboteur, spy, linguist and would be artist. Lucy and her father are leading Resistance members. Initially they run circles around the incompetent German and Romanian soldiers. They make such an impression upon the British that Great Britain, desperate to put mud in the German eye, sends over British special forces agents to deliver supplies, coordinate attacks and gather intelligence. 

The British leader is the grandson of the original Harker, also named Jonathan. Jonathan volunteered for this assignment. Having been unable to learn about Dracula from his grandfather, Jonathan is eager to meet Van Helsing and get the real story.

The SS and Gestapo have noticed the partisans' successes. But the SS and Gestapo don't deal kindly with "terrorists".  The Germans relieve the fatuous local commander of his duties. A new SS commander, Major Reikel, arrives and asks the local bigshots to pick a number between one and ten. Upon hearing the number seven he cheerfully orders the shooting of every seventh civilian. Reikel promises worse if there are further partisan actions. Reikel is more skilled in counterinsurgency than his predecessor. Reikel is soon capturing many Resistance members. Under Reikel's attention even the toughest men and women break. Reikel will soon work his way up to Van Helsing, Lucy and their top Romanian and English allies.

Van Helsing decides, against his better judgment, to resurrect Dracula and ally with him to drive out the Germans and Romanian puppet government. If nothing else, Dracula was always a patriot. He's also a man (vampire) of his word. Dracula promises not to harm Van Helsing or any allies. Dracula claims to be abashed by his previous bloodlust. He compares it to the excitement of a young man just entering puberty. Dracula says he's much better now. Van Helsing is not so sure. But Dracula's abilities in spying and combat are unparalleled. Van Helsing is worried about his daughter Lucy's attraction to Dracula. Even though Lucy spends all day every day railing against male condescension and dominance, she turns out to be very excited by a man who effortlessly embodies Alpha Male status. All the girls are crazy about a sharp dressed man. Jonathan, who had a one time fling with Lucy and fell hopelessly in love with her before she friend zoned him, doesn't like the Lucy: Dracula thang. But he can't let his romantic feelings or failings interfere with his duty to King and Country. Reikel is not stupid. When he has evidence of the impossible he passes it on to his superiors Heydrich and Himmler. And the man known as Herr Wolf (Hitler) takes a direct personal interest in obtaining this supernatural power for himself. This book was about 500 pages. 

There's a fair amount of humor, such as when a hapless subordinate writes to his superior officers telling them of his latest defeat by the partisans. The lower ranking officer takes pains to argue that none of the setbacks were his fault. In fact he says he should be promoted so that he can have more resources at his disposal. This fellow is so tone deaf that he even whines of how the partisans took his gun. He really liked his gun so he would appreciate it if his bosses could tell everyone to keep a lookout for the gun which the woman (Lucy) took from him. Being that his bosses are Heydrich and Himmler this doesn't go well for the officer.

Each person writes differing accounts and interpretations of events in their diary. The Dracula character is not quite a supernatural parasite nor is he the walking AntiChrist embodiment. I liked the book though I would have preferred a little more investigation/display of why Dracula was considered evil. The characters are too blase about working with a blood drinking dead man. Many local peasants refuse to work with the partisans once Dracula's presence becomes known. But the peasants are usually portrayed as ignorant and mule-headed. I guess compared to Hitler anyone looks good, which is certainly what Van Helsing tells himself. If you like tales of derring do, impossible last stands and perilous rescue missions this could be a good story for you. I really liked one of the Romanian characters, a feisty grandmother who works undercover as a cleaning lady at German bases. She looks old and harmless. But she's never without her pistol. And she will put two in your head just like that. 
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