John Marks, a former 60 Minutes producer, apparently finds the broadcast industry less than toothsome. His new novela Dracula update mostly concerns the inhuman inner workings of weekly TV newsmagazine The Hour. Fangland refers not to the wilds of Romania, where assistant producer Evangeline Harker is dispatched to interview demonic crime lord Ion Torgu. Rather, as Evangeline explains, it's the nickname for her workplace. "People are not nice in Fangland, to say the least," she explains. "They are crazy. They are ambitious. They shout. They criticize and rebuke. They rise, at best, to a kind of low decency. But as far as I know, none of them are real bloodsuckers."
Torgu, on the other hand, is a real bloodsucker. He's also, somehow, the embodiment of every atrocity the world has known, "two million years of massacre in the form of a man." He mesmerizes his victims with a catalog of the sites of mass murder: "Thessalonika. Treblinka, Golgotha, Solferino, Lepanto." And, like so many of us, he wants desperately to be on televisionspecifically on The Hour.
Torgu does succeed in shipping himself to The Hour's office, but Marks never quite marries his Transylvanian vampire narrative and the slick New York newsroom storyline. To say nothing of Marks's other subjects: the events of September 11, the minutiae of television production, seemingly endless observations on the machinery of suffering and horror. Indeed, Marks stuffs so many ideas and concerns into the book, alternating among diary entries, email correspondences, therapy journals and good, old-fashioned third-person omniscience, that the considerable shivers it first arouses soon dissipate. The crepuscular yields to the merely miasmic. Ostensibly a meditation on the very nature of terror, Fangland increasingly forgets to terrify.
By John Marks
The Penguin Press, 385pp., $25.95
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