I was sitting in the local tire store, having the winter tires put on my wife’s RAV4, and while waiting was thinking about a theme for a new mystery series. I had written three books in a series set in Victorian London and my agent was urging me to come up with a second series. When most people think of Victorian mysteries they immediately seem to lock onto Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle certainly produced the quintessential Victorian investigator when he created Holmes, so much so that quite a few modern writers have picked up the character and created new adventures for him. So many have done this, in fact, that I wanted to stay well clear of Mr. Holmes. And yet . . . there was much to be said – from a writer’s point of view – for working with a character already well established in the minds of readers.
So who else was available, I thought? Perhaps Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu? Or H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain? I ran various characters through my mind but couldn’t fully relate to any of them.
I briefly thought of Dracula but discarded the idea, not wanting to get into the whole vampire scene. True, vampires are very much “in” these days but . . . And then I thought of Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker. I knew that he had been an extremely interesting man in his own right. Perhaps I should forget about previously created characters and concentrate on those who had created those characters? And who better to work with than Bram Stoker?
I left the tire store on my new set of wheels, with my mind running over all that I knew of Mr. Stoker. I realized that he and I had a lot in common; so much, in fact, that he was the perfect character for me to work with. “The Bram Stoker Mysteries”, I thought! Yes, that had a nice ring to it.
Abraham Stoker was the third of seven children born to Abraham Stoker Sr. and his wife Matilda Charlotte Blake Thornley. Known generally as Bram, Stoker was born November 8, 1847, in Clontarf, Ireland (a suburb of Dublin). Like so many Irishmen, he had a healthy respect for the unseen world: for the little people, the second sight, the ghosts and phantasms of tradition. Throughout his life he studied and absorbed beliefs of religio-magic found in many different people. It was knowledge of Transylvanian Gypsies and their belief in vampires that eventually led to his penning “Dracula” in 1897. Prior to that he had written a number of short stories, several drawing on this occult knowledge.
When the great Shakespearean actor Henry Irving visited Ireland, Stoker – who freelanced as a theatre critic – wrote a glowing review of Irving’s “Hamlet”. This led to Irving inviting Stoker to relocate to London and become Theatre Manager at Irving’s Lyceum Theatre. Stoker took up that position in 1878 and held it till his death in 1912.
My own background was in writing non-fiction books on various aspects of the same occult, or metaphysical, world. I, too, had a background in theatre, from a first appearance on stage at the age of ten, in 1944, until my emigration to the United States in 1962. The world of the theatre and that of mystery seem to run a parallel course. I found myself thinking of “Phantom of the Opera”, for example. I could see that basing a mystery series around Bram Stoker would be something that I would not only be knowledgeable about but that I would very much enjoy. So The Bram Stoker Mysteries has become a reality, with Cursed in the Act the first of the series now available.