I'm not a big fan of fixup novels, where an author takes a string of shorter works and ties them together with some common element. It always feels less like a novel and more a series of short stories, no matter how much is put into relating one section to another. In the previous Titan editions of Newman's Anno Dracula series, the bonus novellas were added at the end as bonus content, not woven into the existing story. And it's hard to complain about Titan and Newman putting the remaining stories in one volume (if you get all four of the Titan editions, you'll have everything written for the series, save for the original short story), but dang it, I didn't really want to read a series of short stories.
For the record (it's not available anywhere I could find, nor is there a table of contents in the book to list all the individual stories), here are the stories collected in this volume:
Promises to Keep (1944)
Coppola's Dracula (1976-77)
Castle in the Desert (1977)
Andy Warhol's Dracula (1978-79)
Who Dares Wins (1980)
The Other Side of Midnight (1981)
You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings (1986)
You'll Never Drink Blood in This Town Again (1990)
Miss Baltimore Crabs (1990)
A Concert for Transylvania (1990)
Dr. Pretorius and Mr. Hyde (1991)
Charles' Angels (1991)
The first section of the book, "Coppola's Dracula," is an experiment, as it's a retelling of the behind-the-scenes story of making Apocalypse Now, complete with the actual actors' names, but making the movie a retelling of Dracula and set in Romania. Most of the infamous events surrounding the actual movie -- Martin Sheen's heart attack, using actual rebels as extras and having to deal with them having to leave to fight their real revolution, and Brando's lack of care about the entire production -- is there, so what's new to this retelling is fitting a remake of Dracula into the place of Apocalypse Now. It also introduces us to Ion, a teenaged vampire who then becomes the recurring character linking the remaining stories in the collection, but even his inclusion felt tacked on.
Beyond that, the stories sketch out a greater picture of Ion as he becomes Johnny Alucard, but everything feels a little disjointed. We go back and forth from Kate to Genevieve to Johnny, sometimes through the eyes of fictional characters, other times through the eyes of historical characters. The stories have a lot to do with movies, and you can see Newman's love of film shine through as he takes us through the world of making movies, but what I wanted was more story, more depth, and more coherence. To be fair, Newman takes us through these events with that one overarching plot in mind, but by the end of the book, nothing has been resolved. It's frustrating, especially when he paints the suggestions for Johnny's downfall along the way.
The connections between this story and the fictional and historical characters is still clever, but this time around it doesn't feel as natural. When Johnny makes it big in Hollywood and begins producing movies, it makes more sense, but his connections with Sid and Nancy and Quentin Tarantino feel more forced, as if he's trying to make himself look clever instead of just being clever. The other novels handle these commandeering of characters better, and given that those intertwined worlds of story make up such a large part of the series overall, it was disappointing to see it not work as well in this case.
There's still a lot here to like, but I think it's important to treat the book as a collection of short stories instead of a novel. I think knowing that going in will help more, especially when the blurb on the back of the book calls this "The brand-new novel." It's fairly misleading, enough so to possibly hinder the reader's experience.