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In Ireland, Dracula is front and center

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is this year's book of choice for a project that promotes works by Irish authors.

Nineteen years after he married, Stoker wrote the story of the blood-thirsty Count Dracula who had three vampire brides and came from his castle in Transylvania to prey on beautiful young women in England. The count became an icon of evil, the personification of fears about the consequences of forbidden sexual acts — his seductive skin-penetrating kiss leading to rebirth as the undead.

Stoker’s creation has featured in 170 movies as a main or lesser character, with the role of double-fanged count played notably by Bela Lugosi (the first film Dracula in 1931), Christopher Lee, David Niven and Jack Palance. Entertainment Weekly on April 3 ranked Dracula 9th in its list of famous villains, between Voldemort, Harry Potter’s nemesis, and Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.”

“The object of the “One City, One Book” event is to keep the city’s great literary tradition alive and well,” said Dublin Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne when launching the commemoration. “We’ve seen the film, now let’s read the book.”

Enough Dubliners took this advice to land “Dracula” on the best-seller list in Dublin’s noted bookshop, Hodges Figgis.

Irish readers are familiar with their more celebrated literary ancestors — like Jonathan Swift, who was last year’s choice for the event, and James Joyce, who is celebrated every June 16 on Bloomsday. But until now, Stoker had been somewhat overlooked.

He was born into a Protestant family in north Dublin, and went to Trinity College where he excelled in math and rugby. His first book was a dry-as-dust official tome called “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland.”

He later moved to England, where he wrote some 18 books — most of them of a sensational nature — to supplement his income as business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London. Through his friend, the actor Henry Irving, he was introduced to London society and traveled the world — though never to the Carpathian Mountains where Count Dracula had his castle.

Stoker visited the United States with Irving, and met presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He died in London in April 1912, at the age of 64.

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