Elizabeth Miller's latest book is a welcome relief for people like myself who are continually annoyed by the unsubstantiated theories and just plain incorrect facts that have (and continue to be) passed off and have become generally accepted as "facts" over the years. In Dracula: Sense And Nonsense, Miller (to use her own words) "...challenges dozens of errors and misconceptions about Bram Stoker and his famous novel..."
The book is divided into five main chapters which cover: the sources for the novel, Stoker's writing of his classic, the novel itself, the geography covered in the book and Vlad the Impaler. A sixth chapter covers the strengths and weaknesses of other (non-fiction) books that deal with the novel Dracula in some form (bios of Stoker, studies of the novel, etc.) Each chapter is also extensively annotated.
In each of the first five chapters, Miller quotes an error or misconception surrounding the chapter subject, gives the source for the quote and then presents her evidence as to why the quote is "poppycock" (one of my favorite expressions used in the book).
Ms. Miller sprinkles some welcome humor into the book with her initial reaction(s) against given quotes. Also, you can tell that every explanation was carefully and thoroughly researched. One comes away with an immense respect for the time, effort and thought that she put into presenting her case. Her writing is succinct and scholarly, although never written above the heads of her readers.
To truly appreciate the importance of this book, a little explanation is in order. Bram Stoker kept an incredibly comprehensive record concerning the origins and sources for the writing of Dracula, many times known as his "working notes and papers". These notes were discovered in the Seventies. Thus, to establish any true facts concerning the novel, one need only look at the novel itself and Stoker's notes. Any information or "facts" that do/did not make use of these notes (since their discovery), can truly only be considered theories or assumptions.
In debunking the myths and errors related in her book, Miller uses Stoker's notes as her evidence. If the proof for one of the quoted "facts" cannot be found within said notes, Miller (correctly) identifies it hearsay, improbable, misinformed, or just plain incorrect.
Of the many inaccuracies Miller corrects, perhaps no other will cause more controversy than her severing the ties between the fictional Count and the real-life Vlad Tepes. According to the author, Stoker merely borrowed the name Dracula and any statement of fact that Stoker based his vampire Count (or even had much knowledge) on the bloodthirsty Vlad is irresponsible. Many more deep-seated, but less shocking assumptions and beliefs will likely be shattered by this book.
This won't be an easy book for many devoted fans of the novel. Old established beliefs can be hard to shake and many may simply dig in their feet and refuse to accept Miller's rebuttals. But serious fans of the novel owe it to themselves to give this book a reading. Miller only presents the best possible evidence: what Stoker himself wrote concerning the origins of his book. If it isn't in the notes, where's the proof?