Friday, October 23, 2015

Varney the Vampyre: A New Take on an Old Classic

Varney the Vampyre, first published as a Penny Dreadful in 1845, lives in vampire folklore as the pivotal moment in the creation of the genre. Its writers, James Rymer and Thomas Prest wrote over 200 weekly chapters spanning over four years. In 1847, it was published as a novel, and has been read by millions of aficionados.

The influences of this work are enormous; Dracula would never have been written without it, and most of the vampire fiction that followed in its wake owes much to the Victorian original.

I first came across Varney in my research into other vampires, and was immediately captured. Although the language is dated from modern terms, it retains an aura of Victorian melodrama imitative of Dickens and Thackeray.

In my new novel series, The Penny Dreadful Adventures, I find documents in my grandfather's will that present a history to me of his own grandfather, Alexander Mair MacNeill, the nephew of James Rymer, the author of these Penny Dreadfuls in London in 1845. 

In my story, Varney was actually a creation of three men; Rymer, Prest and MacNeill. Rymer and Prest churned the chapters out, and MacNeill edited them into a readable fashion. They made a formidable team. But all was not well in the partnership. As the chapters are written, Alexander begins to question the storyline itself, wondering if the vampire legend has a basis in fact.

This Penny Dreadful series is far more than a re-hashing of an old genre, it is a new, energized vignette into the lives of the times... bold, exciting, yet full of darkness and intrigue.

I included pages from the original texts of Victorian writings such as Varney the Vampyre by James M. Rymer, The Mysteries of London, by George Reynolds, and Burke & Hare by Alexander M. Mair himself.

There are two novels currently available in eBooks;

We hope you enjoy.
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