So, I was talking to my pal Martin Powell – a prolific and talented writer of long acquaintance – last week, and our meandering, long distance conversation was passing the first hour mark when we wandered into the realm of 70's paperback pulp fiction.
It was then that Martin brought up a series that I had been vaguely aware of – mostly through intriguing Captain Company ads in the back of Warren's Eerie and Creepy magazines – the "Dracula Horror Series" by Robert Lory.
Published by Pinnacle Books, legendary home of such 70's paperback pulp "aggressors" as Don Pendelton's The Executioner, Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir's The Destroyer, and a well-armed militia of lesser heroes (The Butcher, The Death Merchant, Nazi Hunter, The Penetrator), the Dracula Horror Series hearkened back to the more bizarre pulp fiction of the Thirties – but with a decidedly Seventies' flavor.
The premise was insane.
A wheelchair-bound scientist and his Puerto Rican ex-New York cop assistant travel to Transylvania, where they revive Count Dracula with the intention of using the Lord of Vampires as their agent in a war against evil. They figure to control the Count by surgically placing a mechanical implant into Dracula's chest that, should the fiend defy them, will drive a sliver of wood into his heart. The scientist has an implant of his own – if his heart should stop beating, it will send a signal to activate Dracula's.
They succeed, and over the course of the series Dracula is pitted against giant vampire bats, voodoo masters, satanic cults, Elizabeth Bathory(!) and other forces of evil, while constantly scheming to free himself and take his revenge upon the crazy crime fighters.
Well, before Martin had even finished expressing his enthusiasm for the series, I'd already ordered copies of the first two volumes from online used book dealers.
I received the first book, Dracula Returns!, yesterday and finished it this evening. It's utterly ludicrous, but incredibly entertaining. "Robert Lory" (or whatever his real name was) is a solid wordsmith, who manages to keep the pace brisk, the characters interesting, and the wild, left-field story elements coming one after another. His handling of Dracula is interesting – thousands of years old (not just a few hundred), physically imposing, and despite his predicament, imperious, arrogant and commanding.
It's cool stuff, and although reminiscent of some of the odder hero pulps of the 30's, very much a product of the early 1970's, with the overriding theme that it takes evil to battle evil, and the danger of that evil turning against the ones controlling it.
The books aren't easy to find, and kind of pricey (especially with shipping costs added on), but I think I'll probably try to collect all nine books in the series. It's not often that I find pulp fiction as bugnuts fun as this.