THE SECRET LIFE OF LASZLO, COUNT DRACULA
Author: Roderick Anscombe
Genre: Fiction; Horror/Thriller
First Published: 1994
Price: **thrifted** PHP 50.00/$1.17
At 409 pages long, Roderick Anscombe’s The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula manages to be superfluous and anemic at the same time.
Plot-wise, the book is actually pretty promising. Instead of giving us the traditional monster or the overused charming bloodsucker, Anscombe offers a bumbling and naïve character as his protagonist. The novel, which reads like the main character’s journal, lets the reader delve into the character’s innermost thoughts. We see our unlikely monster spiral into madness until he loses all humanity and becomes the bloodthirsty killer we all know and love.
The book starts with an entry from our antihero, Laszlo. This entry is dated May 18, 1866. Our green and eager-to-please medical student from Hungary has just come to Paris to train in the prestigious Salpêtrière Hospital. Of course, while Laszlo is intent on becoming a hardworking clinician, nobody goes to Paris just to study. Like most men his age, he’s also there to sample the city’s wares.
Unfortunately for our dear daredevil, his funds are near nonexistent—a problem that is instantly solved when he meets the rich, shady, and untrustworthy Lothar von Pick. Although everything about Lothar screams “dubious” and “greasy”, Laszlo develops a close relationship with Monsieur le Slimeball. In a matter of days, the innocent Hungarian student earns his degree in debauchery, depravity, and sin.
Despite being in love with his cousin, Nichole, Laszlo chooses to explore his fetishes and sexual identity with one of his patients—the deranged and dangerous Stacia. Stacia eventually reveals herself to be a cheating chit who just gave Laszlo a nasty bout of syphilis. In a fit of rage, Laszlo rids us of the offensive Stacia by stabbing her straight through the throat. Undeterred by her disease and the fact that he almost caught her in flagrante with Lothar, Laszlo puts his mouth against Stacia’s open wound—thus awakening his insatiable thirst for blood and violence.
Laszlo’s life then starts to unravel. But before he could get arrested for his crime passionel, he’s conveniently summoned back to Hungary. Apparently, his brother—the real Count Dracula—has died, leaving him what’s left of the family estate. He gets everything, including his brother’s secretly sex-starved but outwardly pious widow.
Somewhat repentant, our protagonist begins to live a quiet life. For about 20 years, he squashes his murderous tendencies. But one small gesture from a local maiden has our overly sentimental and emotional “vampire” going undone. From this point on, the story picks up. Laszlo goes on a murder spree that culminates in an incredibly violent ending to a bizarre and somewhat interesting tale.
You have semi-graphic sex and semi-graphic death scenes, failed incest, the plague, murder sprees, and a case of mistaken identity—all the ingredients needed for the perfect horror cocktail. The plot’s good, but the problem lies in the execution.
Tone-wise, it could’ve been tighter. Although 90 percent of the book was written in passable 19th century language, I’ve read enough classics to easily spot any “tone slip-ups” from Anscombe—“football tackle?” “What’s up with…?”
Also, I feel like Anscombe could’ve spent more time showing the reader Laszlo’s breakdown instead of simply talking about “going insane”. Read: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (scene: Esther Greenwood eating raw hamburger with a raw egg); Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary (scene: Misty Wilmot pricking her comatosed husband with pins); and Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted (scene: Susanna at the dentist’s chair demanding the time or insisting her hands had no bones).
All in all, The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula is a “good enough” read if you’re in the mood for a bit of gore, a touch of horror—and little else.
Favorite Quote: “…I am forced to admit that in spite of all my preventive measures and all my attention to emotional hygiene, I have infected her with the most troublesome and wounding of all bacilli: love.” p.149