416 pages, Touchstone, ISBN-13: 978-0743243544
The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula by Tim Lucas is an unofficial prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Like the original novel, The Book of Renfield is an epistolary novel written as a series of written documents that focuses mainly on R. M. Renfield – remembered primarily in Dracula as a lunatic that ate flies, rodents and other animals – and Dr. John Seward, the administrator of an insane asylum who is trying to understand Renfield’s psychosis. The novel works mainly as a companion piece to Stoker’s original book; in some cases, excerpts from the original book are used, but modified and expanded under the pretense that Dracula is a work of nonfiction and that Seward’s entries were “edited, and in some instances, rewritten by John L. Seward before he provided them for the use of Mr. Bram Stoker, at the request of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Harker”. As such, whenever the text from Dracula is used, it is in bold type to better differentiate the changes. In Lucas’ book we learn about Renfield’s tragic childhood, and Lucas constructs these scenes in a way that is sad without crossing over into the maudlin. Throughout The Book of Renfield, Lucas expertly supplements Stoker’s novel without resorting to a simple retelling of the story; indeed, if you’re looking for Dracula’s vampire antics, then look elsewhere, as the Count is, at best, a peripheral character in this novel. A satisfying read that seeks to understand a minor but fascinating character without ever trying to excuse him, this is a worthy addition to the corpus of Dracula works.