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'Oh, go on.... just do The Hiss...'

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Phil Rickman Phil Rickman | 16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The only known vampire in Wales - arguably the oldest recorded in Britain - came from the border area around the end of the 12th century.

Little is known about this case, but it did appear to leave an entire community seriously anaemic before it ended with the full works, including the traditional exhumation and the removal of a head with a spade.

And then it all went quiet for nearly a millennium, until a whole colony of the Undead was reported around Rhuddlan Castle in North Wales by the award-winning fantasy writer Sam Stone.

Sam, who lives at Prestatyn, is one of two Wales-based writers of vampire novels on Sunday's Phil the Shelf, which asks: what, apart from a haemoglobin-rich diet, has kept the Undead alive and flourishing for so long?

I'd kind of imagined that Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and all the romantic chicklit vamps it spawned would put the final stake through the heart of the sanguinary genre. Not so, apparently. An internet list of the top 10 horror titles this week reveals that four of them are vampire stories.

They've come back to life... as ebooks.

And the top two are both Vampire Federation novels by Scott G Mariani, who lives in the countryside near Carmarthen, where he watches movies and does a bit of archery.

Scott Mariani, without the G, is the bestselling author of the Ben Hope series about an ex-SAS officer who gets involved in Dan Brown style mystical mysteries. The Vampire Federation, his less-serious sideline, creates a whole EC-style bureaucracy through which Euro-vamps survive alongside the human race.

Both Sam and Scott employ the device of having archaic monsters exposed to all the horrors of the 21st century, including texting and the net, although health and safety are played down. So... is it getting too silly? Hundreds of thousands of readers think not.

Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Putting this programme together reminded me of the time we talked to the greatest screen Dracula of them all, Christopher Lee, about his autobiography.

It soon became clear that Lee, while not ashamed of such Hammer classics as Taste The Blood Of Dracula, preferred to be remembered for his other screen roles, such as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man - a movie recalled by the first book in our new Shelfstarters spot.

Last week we talked to Sue Walton, a professional publisher's copy-editor from Penmaenmawr, who's set up a business to help would-be published writers make their manuscripts more presentable for submission to publishers and literary agents.

Sue's been working with Karl Drinkwater from Aberystwyth on Turner, a novel about a mysterious island off the Welsh coast, ruled by a certain Lord John - so lots of echoes of The Wicker Man.

In Sunday's programme we run a sample of the book past experienced fantasy publisher Jo Fletcher to see if the combination of Karl and Sue has produced a winner.

Jo will also be giving us her opinion on whether vampire fiction is finally coming to the end of the bloodline. A question we decided not to attempt to ask Christopher Lee, remembering what happened at the end of my last interview with the great man.

I'd been saving a particular question, thinking it would be a really memorable way to end the programme. It went something like:

Me: Er... you remember that sinister noise you used to make when you opened your mouth to reveal the fangs... that hiss?


Me: Do you think you could do one now?

Lee: No.

Me: Just one...?

But he refused. He refused to do the hiss!

Honestly, you'd've thought I was asking for blood.

Listen to Phil the Shelf on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 4 December from 5pm.



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