Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In Honour of McNally and Florescu

Historian Radu Florescu died this week. Along with his colleague Raymond McNally, who passed away in 2002, the two scholars were the first to bring the life and times of the historical Vlad Tepes to public consciousness. Their ground-breaking book, In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends (1972), forever changed the landscape of Dracula scholarship--and proved that the vampire myth could be a serious, and viable, area of study. Seeing as I wasn't blogging back when McNally died, I thought this would be a good opportunity to honour both men, who were often as entertaining as the topics they studied.
(Pictured here is my abused, and cherished, copy of their first book.)

Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, 2001 (Lee Pellegrini)
These two "Professors of Horror" were based out of the History Department at Boston College, and their final co-authored work, In Search of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was published in 2000. It traces the history of William Deacon Brodie, a successful and respected tradesman by day in Edinburgh, who was a completely different man by night. His urban legend became the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885).

In Search of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was preceded by Florescu's solo effort, In Search of Frankenstein (1975), which explores the history and science behind Mary Shelley's classic novel. (In 2005, Florescu published In Search of the Pied Piper, which investigates the origins of the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.)

Radu Florescu with Raymond T. McNally, 1972 (draculasbloodline.com)
After the publication of In Search of Dracula in 1972, McNally and Florescu became media sensations. Over the next three decades, they were the go-to guests for documentaries and talk shows that covered vampire myths and legends--and, of course, anything to do with Vlad Tepes. During some of their early interviews, they often had to field ridiculous questions--but they always kept a playful attitude about the subject, and won the audience over with humour. Occasionally, McNally would even wear a vampire cape, or conduct interviews from inside a coffin! The authors appeared together, and separately, in dozens of productions, including:

  • The David Frost Show (1972)
  • The Dick Cavett Show (1972)
  • The Horror Hall of Fame (1974)
  • 90 Minutes Live (1976)
  • Dracula: Live From Transylvania (1989)
  • Ancient Mysteries - "Origin of the Vampire" (1994)
  • The Unexplained: Witches, Werewolves & Vampires (1994)
  • Vampires: Thirst For the Truth (1996)
  • Dracula: The True Story (1997)
  • In Search of History -  "The Real Dracula" (1998)
  • The Unexplained - "The Vampire Myth" (1998)
  • Night Visitors (2000)
  • The Scariest Places on Earth (2001)
  • The Most Evil Men and Women in History (2002)
  • Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree (2003)
  • The Secret Lives of Vampires (2005)
  • Dracula: Fact and Fiction (2007)
  • The Real Vampire Files (2010)

Their next effort, Dracula: A Biography of Vlad the Impaler, 1431-1476 (1973), was a thorough look at the life and times of Vlad Tepes. This book was later combined with In Search of Dracula into one single volume, titled The Complete Dracula (1985). This was followed by Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times, in 1989.

They also combined their talents for The Essential Dracula: A Completely Illustrated & Annotated Edition of Bram Stoker's Classic Novel (1979). Featuring 120 illustrations and 2 maps, this edition includes a detailed analysis of Stoker's book, and features discussions of its contemporary appeal, and vampire folklore.

The first solo effort for McNally was A Clutch of Vampires: These Being Among the Best from History and Literature (1974), which is a collection of historical vampire accounts and short fiction. This was followed by Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania (1983), which explored the life and times of the infamous Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614).

Florescu's work took on a more personal nature, since his family is forever tied to Vlad Tepes, through a marriage centuries ago between his half-brother, Vlad the Monk, and their ancestor, Maria Florescu. In 2003, a documentary crew followed Radu Florescu as he travelled with his son John to Romania, as they explored their historical roots (Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree, A&E Networks). Florescu's last work, Dracula's Bloodline: A Florescu Family Saga, was published in 2013, and attempts to accurately narrate centuries of a unique family history in one, single book.

Even though some contemporary scholars dispute certain aspects of their research, there's no question that McNally and Florescu had a major impact on the study of vampire folklore, and it's likely we'd never have heard of Vlad Tepes if it wasn't for them.

To close, here's a selection of video clips featuring the two authors. Enjoy!


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