On the day I was born, the headline in The Daily Mail was "WEREWOLF KILLER CAUGHT."
This is just one of many things I have learnt from Robert Dunbar's new book, Vortex.(UK | US)
Vortex is a non-fiction book, and it is Dunbar's personal exploration of the roots of many of contemporary horror's best known beasts, plus a few lesser known ones as well. From the Jersey Devil to vampires, from sirens and mermaids to were-creatures of all kinds, Dunbar examines the roots behind these legends - how the stories have changed over time, and how they have remained the same. There are also some chapters on film, the most interesting being the one about the theme of 'the other' in horror movies - which groups society marks out as its 'monsters'.
Regular readers will know that Dunbar is one of the favourite horror authors I've discovered in recent years, so I wasn't surprised to discover how well written Vortex is. However, the tone is very different to his dense, thoughtful fiction, being a witty and frequently self-mocking read. It's certainly no dry-as-dust academic piece; in fact given that half the time he's talking about real life cannibals or witch-burnings or mass-murders, it's a very gleeful book. My favourite section was that about The Jersey Devil, a monster Dunbar has made very much his own in an early novel, in a deliberate attempt to move away from the over-used, over-European monsters that still rear their heads in such a great deal of horror fiction. Being a boring old European myself, this was all new to me. Like many other parts of this book, I learnt a lot, and had a blast doing so.
So, a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable ride through some of the most horrific myths and real-life events imaginable. Very much recommended for anyone with an interest in Dunbar's work, or in horror fiction in general. There were some sections I wish were longer and went into more detail, but maybe I'm just wishing for a sequel.
Here's a little trailer to watch, for those who wish to do so: