The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde and Frankenstein were the first classic horror stories I read, but shortly after I read Dracula and it became my favourite horror book. There are many reasons for this. Dracula is a pure, unambiguously evil badguy, unlike the monster who is a tragic figure and Mr. Hyde who is the evil alter ego of a faillible but otherwise good man. Yes, whatever some pretentious movie says, Dracula is all evil, cruel, murderous, amoral, predatorial. There is a good deal of gore and violence, but dosed with suspense and quieter moments. There is also the scope of the story: Dracula has ambitions of conquest, he wants to take over the British Empire, he is not merely a threat to a few teenagers or too curious academics. And there is the subtext, the (intentional?) Catholic mysticism (I envy Bruno Starrs as he pretty much defended in this article what I had found out years before), the middle class that is struggling against ancient powers, there is also all the Freudian things you can find in it. Even as a teenager ignorant of literary criticism, I could feel the book's evocative power and its rich subtext. And of course, there were genuine moments of terror in the novel.
I read the novel at least four times, three in French (including once for a literature course) and one in English. It shows how fascinated I got with the book. I still have dreams about it, they are scary but pleasantly so, too much anyway to be classified as nightmares.It might not be great literature and my tastes have evolved since I read it, but as as horror novels go, Dracula is still my favourite.
I took this picture last year at Madame Tussaud's. I have reluctantly put it on this post. Count Dracula was not Vlad Tepes (Elizabeth Miller demonstrated it) and his appearance in the novel is much more frightening than any historical model he was only loosely based on to begin with, or indeed any of his subsequent incarnations, even Max Shreck and Christopher Lee. But I thought I needed some kind of picture to illustrate the topic.