Books: SHELF LIFE

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The Independent Culture
2 The Vampire Omnibus ed Peter Haining, Orion pounds 15.99. Quite why Peter Haining is at such pains to "set the record straight" regarding Dracula's literary antecedents is unclear. Surely no-one now believes that Count Dracula simply sprang fully-fanged from the cranium of Bram Stoker? Vampires stalked English fiction from the early 19th-century onwards, and Haining has fished up some fine examples. Part one, The Prototypes, begins with 1828 serial The Skeleton Count by Elizabeth Grey, featuring the following splendid sentence: "Nor did the torch of Hymen burn less brightly because no priest blessed their nuptial couch." They certainly don't write 'em like that any more! At least, Richard Laymon doesn't. "Probably some babe sprung a leak," suggests a character in his 1989 story The Bleeder, which concerns a young man following a mysterious trail of blood. There are surprisingly few women writers represented here; apart from Grey, there's Mary Cholmondeley's scary "Let Loose", a brief extract from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire and a story by someone called "Marilyn Ross". That turns out to be the pseudonym of Michael Avallone Jr. Here are such oddities as a Woody Allen spoof, an extract from Val (ne Vladimir) Lewton's novel Cat People, made into the celebrated 1942 film, and Jack Sharkey's "Dracula - the Real Story", which turns on a joke so old that Fielding cracked it in Shamela. Most bizarre of all is Ray Russell, former executive editor of Playboy, whose "Sanguinarius", a tale of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, is "in an evocative style that might just have been translated from her native Hungarian into English by an Elizabethan writer such as Jonson, Marlowe, or even Shakespeare", as Haining's notes explain. Oh, fie!

2 "Before you criticise, accuse or abuse, walk a mile in my shoes," says Jerry Lee "Jerly" Lewis. Who'd want to? Here's the tally, as entertainingly laid out in Killer! by Jerry Lee Lewis and Charles White (Century pounds 16.99). Six wives, of whom one drowned in a swimming pool after introducing her husband to hard drugs, and another, aged 26, died of an overdose in bed next to Jerry Lee. The infamously underage Myra was wife number three. His second marriage was bigamous. "I must be the onliest man in the world that married his 13-year-old cousin and she wasn't a virgin, can you believe that?" says the ever-gentlemanly Killer, though his sister Linda Gail adds: "She had been raped by a neighbour before she met Jerry." Jerry Lee Lewis Jr died in a car accident, and young Steve Allen Lewis (their names, like buses, tend to come in threes) toddled into a garden pond and drowned. Still, Jerry Lee is a god-fearing man, having once been a preacher (he played boogie- woogie in church): "I don't think God will judge me harshly. I've brought comfort to a lot of folks. Christians and atheists, they all love Whole Lotta Shaking." (Another cousin is Jimmy Lee Swaggart, the disgraced prostitute-consortin' televangelist.) "Love women, never seen a woman yet that I didn't love." Not Janis Joplin: he got so fed up with her cussing and drinking (Jerry Lee was one of the few men who could drink her under the table) that he snapped: "If you're gonna act like a man, I'm gonna treat you like one," slapped her and threw her out of his dressing room. John Lennon kissed the sole of his shoe; Tom Jones leapt out of a car shouting "I'm your fan club!"; Elvis was a pal. Not bad for a skinny Tennessee kid with a weak chin.

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