Dracula’s Best Friend

HoundsOfHellMichael Drake lived a typical and uneventful suburban life. He had a job, a wife, two young kids, a couple of dogs and a sexy neighbor he liked to flirt with. On weekends, he enjoyed camping and fishing.

But Michael had a little secret that he kept from his wife and kids. His great-great-great grandfather was Igor Dracula, a blood-sucking monster that terrorized Europe during the 17th century. Michael wasn’t a vampire himself (he was just a psychologist), and he wasn’t proud of his notorious family history. He kept a daguerreotype of Grandpa Igor hidden in the garage, underneath a pile of old clothes, college mementos and wooden stakes.

Nobody escapes the past forever, however. When 12 ancient sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) are discovered buried near Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains, the Dracula curse is reborn. Igor’s faithful servant (a fractured lamia named Veidt Smit) and a giant Dobermann pinscher named Zoltan emerge from their subterranean tombs. And that means trouble for Michael Drake, the last of the Dracula line.

A fractured lamia, for those of you who skipped Strygology 101 at the Academy of Unseen Arts, is a vampire-like creature that can control its bloodlust and function in the daytime. According to Collin de Plancy, the author of Dictionnaire Infernal, lamias haunt cemeteries and disinter corpses. As such, they’ve been valuable wingmen to the Dracula family throughout the centuries. They’re especially handy when it comes to abducting victims for bloodletting.

Because of their subservient nature, a lamia cannot exist without a master. As soon as Smit awakens from his 300-year sepulchral slumber he starts sniffing around for Dracula progeny. “It was his unavoidable duty only to serve them unfailingly … and for eternity.” His preternatural spidey sense points him toward the New World. Destination: Tarzana, California.

Once in California, Smit and his vampire hound hop into a Hearst and travel up and down Highway 1 looking for Michael Drake. Don’t ask me how a guy from the 17th century acquires a vehicle and figures out how to drive. I don’t know. The author doesn’t seem interested in these trivial details and neither should the reader.

One thing leads to another and the Drakes find themselves being attacked by Zoltan and a pack of wild dogs. Their “blood-curdling, ear-splitting roar of fury” can’t be ignored, says the author. One way or another these hounds of Hell are going to turn Michael into a vampire and force him to accept his dark legacy.

Even with the rabid vampirism, Hounds of Dracula is pretty tame overall. Yes, Zoltan is a scary brute, but he’s an ineffectual tool. As a reward for being a lousy alpha dog, he’s dispatched in the most inglorious way possible. And things don’t go smoothly for the lamia either. His demise happens off the page; he doesn’t even get a memorable death scene. Oh well. All villains get the death they deserve. I guess poor Veidt Smit and Zoltan didn’t deserve much.

[Hounds of Dracula / By Ken Johnson / First Printing: October 1977 / ISBN: 9780451077394]