Ever wonder what happened to Professor Abraham Van Helsing after he and his colleagues killed Dracula? Wonder no longer because Edward M. Erdelac (what a terrific name for a horror author!) has the answer. Before reading, I was a little skeptical of TEROVOLAS – after all, DRACULA is a classic work of literature as well as one of my favorite horror novels – but after reading TEROVOLAS, I was reassured. If the idea of Van Helsing traveling to the Wild West and tangling with a werewolf instead of a vampire doesn’t inspire you to pick up the book, then it just isn’t for you.
Mild plot spoilers follow.
As you’ll recall from DRACULA – and if you haven’t yet read it, you’re missing out on a classic – the valiant Texan Quincey P. Morris fell in the battles between Dracula and the vampire hunters. The conceit of TERVOLAS is that Van Helsing, a man of his word, promised to return Quincey’s ashes to his family in Texas. On the long train voyage, Van Helsing meets a beautiful Greek woman who is a kind of mail-order bride for a wealthy Norwegian who has purchased a ranch near the Morris family homestead. Van Helsing soon discovers that all is not well in Texas: the rich Norwegian and his ranch hands have been causing any number of problems; a mountain lion (or something else) has been killing and mutilating livestock; and Quincey’s brother Coleman is a sour fellow who doesn’t even seem to want his brother’s remains.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the nature of the supernatural threats that Van Helsing faces in TEROVOLAS, as there are several twists and turns and the eventual reveal is part of the fun. While interesting in their own right, the villains depicted here don’t quite live up to the stature of the iconic Dracula – how could they, after all – the villains of the piece are nevertheless well done. I will just say that while TEROVOLAS doesn’t contain even a single vampire, it enlarges the supernatural elements of Van Helsing’s world in a satisfying way that manages to do no damage to Stoker’s DRACULA.
On reading TEROVOLAS, I was pleasantly reminded of the central conceit of George MacDonald Fraser’s FLASHMAN series: a contemporary author (Erdelac in this case) has “discovered” the personal papers of a fictional character and then presents these “false documents” piecemeal as memoir volumes. Here, instead of Flashman, we have the continuing adventures of Abraham Van Helsing. For example, in passing, Erdelac includes some brief references to Van Helsing’s involvement in the dark affairs in Natal as well as the tragic mental deterioration of his wife (due to unmentioned causes) and her subsequent confinement to an asylum. There also was a brief reference to “Hamish and the Great Detective,” so it’s clear that Erdelac has some Holmesian connections in mind as well. I should make clear that, just like DRACULA, TEROVOLAS is also an epistolary novel told through diary entries, letters, newspaper stories, and even a few telegrams. It’s a winning formula, and I hope that Erdelac continues detailing the remainder of Van Helsing’s life.
Strongly recommended for fans of DRACULA and others who just didn’t get enough of Abraham Van Helsing the first time around. TEROVOLAS shares many of the strengths and weakness of DRACULA. It tends to have a mix of slow build and intense action, just as DRACULA itself did. The only weakness of TERVOLAS (and DRACULA) is that the epistolary format of the novel puts a certain amount of distance between the reader and the events depicted in the letters and diaries presented. Placing action and combat sequences at one more level of remove from the reader has a tendency to weaken their immediacy and power. But, having said that, I found TEROVOLAS to be an excellent follow-on to DRACULA, and I hope to see further adventures of Van Helsing.
Review copyright © 2013 J. Andrew Byers