This book is a large collection of scholarly articles and commentary on numerous aspects of Stoker's life and work, probably all of which has been published elsewhere first (did we really need to have Dracula's Guest reproduced in its entirety?) but for the Stoker completist it provides some useful information on numerous topics. Ever want a complete analysis of the debate over what the cause of death notations on Stoker's death certificate mean? Both sides are here.
What particularly attracted me to it – other than the cheap price at HP Books in Dallas – was that it contained an essay I had not seen before providing detailed analysis of what Stoker wrote when, showing the gradual evolution of the book as he wrote and researched, which has always been a major part of the fascination of the book for me – how someone like Stoker researched wrote something like this, and what changes he made along the way.
Most important of all was that it nails down (maybe I should say "stakes") when the name of the protagonist changed from Count Wampyr to Count Dracula, and why. We have enough information now to know when this happened (very late in the process), and what reference Stoker consulted – a couple of sentences in a single reference about a Central European prince and his son, both of whom went by the name Dracula, but who generally fit Stoker's profile of the king vampire, and gave him an authentic historical name. But that was all the source contained, and all Stoker saw about the name.
What is significant about this is that, disappointingly, the name is all Stoker knew about. He did not know at the time of the writing anything about the younger Dracula's reputation for impaling people. If he had, that detail certainly would have made it into the book, because it would have fit well with the main character. This also makes clear that Stoker wasn't basing Dracula on the 15th century Wallachian prince. He was simply using a name to provide his lead character with a bit of historical verisimilitude. Countless books, articles and movies began in the 1960s to tie the two together, and it's not a bad fit dramatically – but it isn't anything Stoker intended or even knew about. He simply struck gold with the name.
An analogy would have been if a Polish writer of fiction about the American Revolution ran across the name "Revere" in the context of the history of 18th century craftsmen in New England and switched the name of his Boston-based main character from Williams to Revere. Based on the reference the writer consulted, the writer would have no clue that Revere had a significant connection to the Revolution – but a later literary critic or filmmaker would not know that, and would assume that the connection was known and intended, and act accordingly if the connection worked from a dramatic perspective.
Anyway, the book has a lot of padding, but is a useful reference for a lot of minor details that I was interested in.