The secret blood-sucking world of Mr Darcy

Zombies, vampires and monsters are taking over Jane Austen's classic novels

Jonathan Brown
Thursday 13 August 2009 00:00 BST

With their smouldering heroes, beautiful heroines and exquisite observations of the social mores of the Regency era, all encapsulated in some of the finest dialogue ever created in the English language, Jane Austen's novels might appear to have everything. Everything that is except zombies, vampires and mutant sea monsters.

The new trend for adding a touch of blood and gore to the genteel world inhabited by the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and the Dashwood sisters is set to reach grisly new heights next month with the publication of a series of books which will indulge the public's apparently insatiable thirst for horror "mash-up" literature.

First out will be Mr Darcy, Vampyre, by Cheshire-based writer Amanda Grange, which explores the blood-sucking private world of the celebrated romantic hero. Two weeks later, the US-based creators of the best-selling publishing phenomenon Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are due to unleash their follow-up, which brings a bit of aquatic horror to Austen's debut with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Later in the autumn a third book, Jane Bites Back, places the author herself at the centre of the crucifix-dodging action.

"When I sat down to do the sequel I thought, I don't just want to do the same book again," said Quirk Books' editorial director Jason Rekulak, who pioneered the format with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after meeting dozens of Austen fans at a Californian sci-fi convention. It has since sold more than 700,000 copies and is due to be made into a film. A lifelong fan of the works of Jules Verne, Mr Rekulak thought it would be fun to enliven the follow-up with some rampaging giant squid and man-eating octopuses. To overcome the problem that little of the original action was based around water, he and author Ben Winters transferred the main characters to a secret island. "I just thought it was a funny idea. There were concerns from our sales department who thought Jane Austen fans wouldn't like the mayhem while zombie fans wouldn't get on with the original, but so far we have managed to get both audiences," he said. While there have been some objections from Austen fans, there is little they can do because her books are no longer under copyright and so are open to wholesale reinterpretation.

The idea to turn Mr Darcy into a bloodsucker occurred to Ms Grange whilst she was watching the cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With six Austen-related novels under her belt, she saw the opportunity to mix romance with a "brooding sense of horror" that already runs through the novels completed by the author in her lifetime. "When Austen was writing it was a boom time for the gothic. Underneath this rather nice Regency world you have the simmering horror of the Napoleonic war. Austen had brothers in the forces so she was aware of what was going on out there. England was living in fear of invasion. We have horror lurking just under the surface," she said.

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