Friday, October 16, 2015

Vampire’s Moon by Peter Saxon

Vampire’s Moon (1970) by Peter Saxon enjoyed popularity upon its publication in paperback. It was reprinted a few times and then disappeared. It would be entirely forgotten today if not for a modest renewal of interest in the horror paperback novels of Peter Saxon, a pseudonym created by W. Howard Baker who was an editor and writer for Amalgamated Press. The name Peter Saxon became a publishing house pseudonym for a variety of supernatural titles in addition to many detective Sexton Blake thrillers. Several other writers wrote under the Saxon nom de guerre, including Wilfred G. McNeilly and Martin Thomas. In addition to Vampire’s Moon, other popular titles included The Torturer (1966), The Darkest Night (1966), Satan’s Child (1968), The Curse of Rathlaw (1968), Black Honey (1968) and The Haunting of Alan Mais (1969). It is generally believed that Baker himself wrote Vampire’s Moon, an entertaining gothic tale in the tradition of Bram Stoker. Set in modern times, the story takes place in Transylvania and Saxon sets the tone early: “Transylvania was the home of the vampire and the werewolf. No mere shadows from horror films, they were still feared in the manner of centuries.” The vampire here is Count Zapolia, simply another version of the Dracula legend. Zapolia’s intent is to lure a woman under his influence to create a vampire bride. “Tonight would be a step forward in a plan conceived by the brain of the undead human. His brain, poised between natural life and eternal death, needed a mate, as a man does.” (p.27) Count Zapolia also possesses the power of transformation. He can become a werewolf or a bat, as he chooses. Zapolia’s transformation follows the established routine: “The jaw thrust forward and the lips curled away from the teeth in a dreadful rictus. His eyebrows became bushier and grew together, as his hair became coarse and tufts of it sprouted from his smooth forehead. The mouth, in its shocking gape, widened and deepened. The gums thrust forward and the teeth extended into points. The two canine incisors grew out and curved below the others, as he changed into a creature with the face half of a man and half of a wolf.” There seems little doubt that such transformation scenes in pulp fiction owe a debt of gratitude to Universal Studio’s The Wolf-Man (1941). I found Vampire’s Moon on paperback racks during a period when small budget horror films were turning a profit in the drive-in movie market. It’s one of my favorite “Peter Saxon” novels.

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