Friday, December 9, 2011

A History of Vampires in New England--Thomas D'Agostino

photo: Book cover from Goodreads.

I'm only the third person to rate this book on all of Goodreads...Just sayin'.  For more of my book reviews, my book list, and other nerdy book-related things, please visit my Goodreads site here.

The previous two reviewers gave this book an average of two stars.  I don't see how, as it never pertains to be something it isn't.  It's a book that reviews, summarizes and, frankly, rehashes information that's already out there, but puts it all in one place, and does so with a website's writing feel to it.  (If anything, the real complaint is the $17 tag Borders had put on it.)

Of particular interest to me were the stories of the vampires I'm incorporating into my novel--or trilogy, or whatever--tentatively titled THE GRAVEDIGGERS.  These, mostly, are the stories of Sarah Tillinghast, Nellie Vaughn and Mercy Brown, all woven into one.  (Nellie Vaughn being more or less a mistaken Mercy Brown, but with the now infamous epitaph on her gravestone; and I focus more on Stukeley Tillinghast, Sarah's father.)  And there's a lot to say about them, specifically because the author comes from my neck of the woods, and so is able to write about his visits to some of the places in his narratives.  I've been to some of these places myself, so it was interesting to see pictures of places I have already been to, and to compare our impressions and thoughts.  Essentially, this book was useful to me as a sort of place to gather all my notes--notes I didn't even have to write.  Not that I don't have a whole three-subject notebook of them anyway, as well as many journals and emails to myself.

A criticism would be that this book mostly cites just two others, one of which--Michael Bell's FOOD FOR THE DEAD--is vastly superior.  This one gives just the facts, ma'am, while Bell's gives that, and extensive first-person investigation, more thorough research, and even some slightly comical interviews.  Unless you're writing a novel--or trilogy, or whatever--about this sort of thing, and you only want one book, get Bell's.  But if you have the coin, spring for this one, too.  It's thinner and different and not as well-written or extensive as Bell's, but I think it useful, anyway.  Particularly good were the Introduction, the history of TB, and the description of "Life, Death and Superstition in Early New England," especially for my work.

Check out The Keep near Mercy Brown's grave, but do so at dusk, on a cold February day, like I did--and heed all due respect at this and other such places.  The crypt (or The Keep, as it's called) is really, really, creepy, even more so than the stories, or graves, or anything else.  D'Agostino's book has pics of inside of it, which are invaluable for my work because you can't get inside The Keep anymore--it's bolted shut.

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