The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, by J. Gordon Melton. (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999). Trade paper, $19.95, 919pp. ISBN 1-57859-071-X.
This is one encyclopedia that deserves the name. J. Gordon Melton is Head of the Transylvania Society of Dracula’s American Chapter and a well-known authority on everything undead. This book, one of several he’s written on the subject, is almost ridiculously comprehensive, devoting entries to themes (“Communism and the Vampire”), countries (“Vampires in Mexico”), motifs (“Dust”), publishing imprints (“The Desert Island Dracula Library”), along with the more expected authors, actors, movies, comic books, graphic novels, porn, and god knows what else.
Only the most dedicated vampirologists will want to read the book from cover to cover, but any fan of popular culture will find it fun to dip into when the mood strikes or research demands. The level of detail is sometimes mind-boggling, and makes you wonder if Melton needs to get out of his casket more often. In the “Dust” entry, he says: “Dracula made his first and only attack in this form on Lucy Westenra … she passed out and upon regaining consciousness noticed that the air again was full of these dusty specks.”
Melton has made the book useful to both fans and scholars via a massive cross-referencing scheme, a vast bibliography, a list of sources at the end of many of the entries, and a list of resources at the end. With over 200 photos and illustrations, this “completely revamped” edition gets an unqualified recommendation for scope, format, and price.