After Victorian England and World War I, the third volume of Newman’s Anno Dracula series moves to Rome in 1959 and (for the appended novella) London in 1968. As usual, this installement is crammed full with open and hidden references to all kinds of pop culture, sometimes just barely managing to not bury the story under the avalanche of allusions. It always manages to claw its way out from underneath them however, and both novel and novella remain great fun to read.
They are, however, quite different in tone, which I think is due not just to the varying length and different time periods, but also because they both follow quite different templates. The general atmosphere and elements of the basic plot both appear to be based on movies – for Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha that are the over-the-top, extremely artifial horror movies of the Italian Giallo genre of the 70s, in particular those directed by Dario Argento, and for Aquarius another italian film by an Italian director, namely Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. Some readers seem not to have liked the novella as much as they did the novel, but for my part I am very impressed at how different they are from each other and how Newman manages to adapt to the divergent period styles without being too obtrusive about it – he is actually treading a very fine line here, on the one hand to match his style to the time the stories take place in, and on the other hand to keep the voice of shared protagonist Katie Reed recognisably the same in both texts. It is a testimony to Kim Newman’s quality as a writer that he pulls off this balancing act and appears to do so effortlessly.
Overall, this is nothing too deep, but a great yarn that I found very enjoyable to read – not just for the story but also for the way Kim Newman presents and handles it; there is a lot to admire there. I really need to read more by his guy, and branch out to his non-Anno Dracula novels, too.