A donor wishing to remain anonymous sends a letter to the
William Morrow publishing house, enclosing the Dracula Dossier, a
discovery he ran across defined as Item 128 at a Sotheby’s
auction. In the letter the donor states, “What you do with
the Dossier…is of no import to me. I want neither recompense
nor renown, and I will refuse recognition. Simply, as my days
decrease and death draws on, I mean to unburden myself of
Stoker’s secret. I cannot die with the truth untold, as none
alive know what I know.”
What follows is a stunning “miscellany,” a
collection of letters written by Bram Stoker to his intimates, plus
journal entries by said author, entries to the Metropolitan Police
files and clippings from the newspapers of the day. The Dossier
leads the reader to believe that Stoker met Jack the Ripper and
undertook to stop his murderous rampage. Or did he?
In truth, Stoker may well have been influenced in his writing by
the events of 1888, during which time The Ripper claimed five
confirmed kills and has another dozen or so attributed to him.
James Reese takes us back to that year when a brutal killer
terrorized the streets of London.
Stoker was then assisting Henry Irving, a famous stage actor,
and keeping very busy at it. He slept odd hours, and fitfully when
he slept at all. His dear friend, the novelist Sir Thomas Hall
Caine, requested of Stoker that he extend his personal courtesy to
an old acquaintance, an American by the name of Dr. Francis
Tumblety, whose habits soon began to seem suspect. Stoker came to
realize that the sweet scent of flowers was a sure sign that
Tumblety was near; in addition to the odor, he could hear him
calling his name: Sto-ker, Sto-ker. Or was Stoker perhaps losing
his mind? Hearing voices where no one else could and smelling a
man’s presence by an omen of flowers hardly sounds like the
actions of a sane man. Maybe a man done in by exhaustion or
insomnia, or an overactive imagination, for Stoker is known as the
author of DRACULA.
Stoker kept company with a host of familiar names, bringing the
pages alive with historical celebrities. In addition to Hall Caine
and Irving, he was acquainted with Oscar Wilde and more closely
with Oscar’s mother Lady Jane Wilde, William Butler Yeats,
Walt Whitman --- and quite possibly Jack the Ripper. Yet, while he
was working on a way to get the police to take notice of Tumblety,
the police had found their own suspect: Stoker himself.
Reese has done his homework well. While a highly entertaining
novel, THE DRACULA DOSSIER reads like nonfiction, a feeling that is
enhanced by the liberal use of footnotes. It has all the
authenticity of a thoroughly researched thesis, but infinitely more
fun, with a touch of the occult, synesthesia, loads of biographical
tidbits and little-known oddities, and a dark look at a sinister
period in London’s past.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 21, 2011