The term ‘Crew Of Light’ is not mentioned in Dracula by Bram Stoker. The phrase was used by critic Christopher Craft in his study, Kiss Me With Those Red Lips. Because it fits the self-righteous group that helps Van Helsing defeat Dracula, academics and critics have erred and attributed the title to Stoker. In Hammer movies, Van Helsing is alone and defiant but only because it suited the personality of Peter Cushing an actor who always looked haunted. Take on vampires alone and you will become a vampire. The same happens with zombies. Want to know why friends are important? Watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Even before the vampires arrive the neighbourhood sucks. Afterwards, everyone either becomes sensitive and heroic or a vampire. Americans do not sacrifice individualism easily, so the hero has remote moments and needs personal resolve. But the group is important. Buffy has friends and worries if they can stay loyal to someone with superior powers. In the ‘Crew Of Light’ relationships are simpler. The aristocrats are simply fine chaps. Stoker insists that group approval and integration will make men of them all including his new woman, Mina. When their antagonist, Dracula, is killed, the members of the group return to society and their families. Mina abandons being a new woman and breeds.
Perhaps fighting vampires and zombies is what good men and women do when there are no wars to occupy the energetic. Enemies and comrades, it is either one or the other. The First World War arrived after the publication of Dracula. The success of the book was already fading. Vampires became a cultural force after movies arrived, and after the War had ended. Parade’s End is the best British First World War novel. The author, Ford Madox Ford, understood well the destructive capability of the group. We blame individual villains like Stalin and Hitler but war and genocide are invariably decided by a committee. Ford argued that the group provides identity and helps us distinguish comrades from enemies, which was why it was essential to fight a war. But he also identified a tragedy other than carnage. If the group provides identity, it dissipates authenticity and, worse again, it allows those in the group, because of their superior identity, to castigate the authentic and decent.
Christopher Tietjens is the authentic hero of Parade’s End. Unable to identify with the group he has nothing but the principles that are his aristocratic inheritance. He is a gentleman and something that all the hearty comrades of battle are not. There may be wisdom in the crowd, although the recent record of neoconservatism suggests not, but groups are dangerous. They are required to prevail against vampires and zombies but the damage to the decent is high. Neither do those who need the group escape free of harm. In Dracula, Jonathan Harker insists that his wife Mina is deliriously happy in her new role as mother and subservient wife. But few readers are convinced. Most battles eventually end, and the group perishes. Decent men like Tietjens will be forgotten by people who should honour him. Zombies have to be slaughtered but we should be wary.
As Howard Jackson is touring Argentina at the moment, this blog from the past is remembered.
Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism. If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.