Exclusive Interview With Scholar Leslie S. Klinger
By James Whittington, Sunday 11th January 2009

Leslie S. Klinger is a prize-winning Victorian scholar who wrote the critically acclaimed, best-selling book The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. He has recently turned his attention to one of the most famous novels ever written, Bram Stoker's Dracula so we decided to track him down and ask him how he came about to creating what will probably become regarded as the final word on the Count.

ZH: When did you first encounter Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

LSK: I read it as a freshman in college (in 1965), although not as an assignment. I remember finishing it in a darkened hallway at night, because my roommate was sleeping.

ZH: What were your initial thoughts on the piece of work?

LSK: I was thoroughly scared and quite surprised at my own reaction. After all, I said, this is a dusty old Victorian book—how could it be so scary? Fortunately, the Leonard Wolf Annotated Dracula hadn’t been published yet; otherwise, I might have gotten as hooked on Dracula as I did on the Annotated Sherlock Holmes a few years later (1968)!

ZH: How did the idea to write an annotated book come about?

LSK:When I was done with my New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, even though the study of Holmes had been a passion for almost 40 years, I realized that I also really enjoyed the process of annotating those stories, and I wanted to write another annotated work. My wife suggested Dracula, and as I thought about it, it was obvious that this was the right choice. I love the book, and it was contemporary with the Holmes adventures. Therefore, I already had some of the research material!

ZH: The research in your book is incredible; did it take longer than you first thought it would?

LSK: Yes, it did, and it involved much more travel than the Holmes books. For those, 99% of my research involved looking at materials in my own (very) extensive collection of books about Holmes and the Victorian age. For Dracula, I travelled to Philadelphia, to study Stoker’s notes (at the Rosenbach Museum), to London to track down historical information about the English parts of the book, to Seattle to spend a few days with the original manuscript (owned by billionaire Paul Allen), and to Transylvania to check out the geographical aspects of the narrative. I also acquired all of the books that Stoker himself had used in researching Dracula. Unfortunately the original papers of the Harkers are long-lost!

ZH: Yourbook is truly wonderful, a consistently interesting read but did you leave anything out so it didn’t have “too much” information in it?

LSK: The process of selecting what to annotate and what not to annotate is hard to define. It’s not about “too much” information—it’s more about whether the information I’m adding is interesting. There has to be a certain “that’s cool” factor for the notes, or else the reader starts to see them as a chore.

ZH: You highlight many subtexts; do you think you could be accused of “looking to hard” at the story, maybe reading into themes that aren’t there?

LSK: It’s not me who introduced the subtexts. In fact, I deliberately set out to avoid discussion of the sexual, psychological, religious, technological, cultural, etc. I relegated these analyses to an appendix about Dracula in academia, because I felt that they weren’t interesting (to me)! However, in defence of the academics, because the book is such a good mirror of its times, of course those subtexts are all there—they’re part of the richness of real life. Certainly the Victorians were experiencing a change in the role of women, were afraid of the invasion of Eastern Europeans (and the Irish), and were struggling to accommodate both science and religion. I don’t think Stoker set out to write a book about those themes, but in writing a realistic book, they were unavoidably dealt with.

ZH: One of the highlights of writing this book surely must have been the moment you held the original manuscript for Dracula; can you explain what that moment felt like?

LSK: It was amazing. We don’t know who actually typed the “manuscript,” although I incline to think that it was Stoker. He appears to have typed up portions of the notes, so I think he typed this as well. There are numerous handwritten changes, insertions, and deletions in Stoker’s hand; there are many in the editor’s hand; and there are marginal notes in some places in the hand of Stoker’s brother Thornley, a physician, whom Stoker had read the manuscript for medical vetting. However, the most interesting and surprising parts were the “paste-ups”—sections where Stoker literally pasted new typed material over old. By holding the manuscript pages up to the light, I could read the material that had been “pasted over” and hidden from view. No facsimile of the manuscript will ever be able to reproduce this. And, as you can see from my extensive notes on the manuscript, there were some surprises hidden away there!

ZH: Dracula is filled with atmosphere; do you have a favourite scene or situation?

LSK: My favourite scene is the seduction of Mina and the confrontation between Van Helsing and Seward on the one hand and Dracula on the other. What did Mina actually suck? And her “unclean, unclean” speech is the most powerful moment in the entire narrative.

ZH: Do you have a favourite actor who has portrayed this infamous character?

LSK: I’m partial to Jack Palance in the Dan Curtis/Richard Matheson television film “Count Dracula” (1973) for the combination of horror and rugged good looks. The script is interesting. My favourite script is the BBC production with Louis Jordan (1977), but Jordan is too good-looking for the part, in my opinion.

ZH: If Bram Stoker were alive today, what question(s) would you like to ask him?

LSK: How did you really meet Jonathan Harker? Was it (as I guessed) while you were both studying for the Bar? And am I correct that it was Dracula himself who made you change the true story?

ZH: Would you like to dissect any other classic novels?

LSK: My wishlist is very long, but unfortunately commercial considerations make most impractical: The Moonstone, The Woman in White, Kim, War of the Worlds, Treasure Island, Jekyll and Hyde, King Solomon’s Mines, and the Martin Hewitt stories are just a few.

ZH: What projects are you busy working on at the moment?

It’s down to two projects, both very exciting annotated works, and I expect to make a decision just before I come to England—ask me again then! I can’t take on more than one major project at a time, because I still practice law full-time! I’ll continue to do smaller projects simultaneously. I enjoy writing the occasional book or film review, I’m lecturing at a symposium on Arthur Conan Doyle in May (and wrote a major paper for publication), and I hope to teach a course on Dracula this year. I’m also serving for one more year as the Chapter President for the Southern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, so I have a full plate!

ZH: Leslie S. Klinger, thank you very much.

The New Annotated Dracula edited by Leslie Klinger, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, is published this month by WW Norton (£28)

Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020

Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.

It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?

JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.

When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...

Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...

You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?

AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...

Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.

His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.

HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?

SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...

Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.

HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...

Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019

The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.

HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?

SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...

Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019
On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.

HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?

TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.

HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...

Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019

Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.

HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?

JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...

Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019

Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.

HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?

GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...

Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019

FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?

CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...

Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019

Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.

HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?

CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...

Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.

HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?

LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.

HC: W...

Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
The Green Inferno
Saturday 29th February
10.55 PM
Tuesday 25th February
9.00 PM
Quarantine 2: Terminal
Sunday 1st March
10.55 PM