Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 9-Oct-1991
Adapted from the column "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #3 (Spring 1991).
Review by Cathy Krusberg
John Ruddy. The Bargain (New York: Knightsbridge, 1990).
Here, indeed, is proof of the axiom that one cannot tell a book by its cover, or at least by its title. The Bargain is executed as a series of slices of life (or whatever mode of existence) of certain individuals, mostly in eastern Europe, from 1904 to 1945. The eponymous agreement exists between Dracula and the village of Arefu, Romania. As surmised by folklorist-cum-eccentric Dr. Ferdinand Bibescu, the terms were that Dracula would not prey upon those people and they would not expose his presence. The Bargain's main thesis (insofar as it has one) is that, fond as Dracula is of war and bloodshed, he doesn't want it inflicted on his homeland by a bunch of Huns, so he looses a bevy of befanged prostitutes on the officers of the Wehrmacht: first those who protect the Ploiesti oil fields, then those who advance into Russia-- albeit not far, in part thanks to the activities of what one major describes as a "Filth Column."
Although Bibescu himself is too much of a coward to stake a sleeping vampire, he passes word of a strange ailment to a ranking Nazi who, believing him, assigns select individuals to very unusual duties: staking suspicious corpses; poisoning, then staking, personnel showing suspect symptoms; and killing the prostitutes who infected them. The contagion is traced to its source. Dracula's castle is dynamited--but alas, too late: the Master himself survives to direct a toothsome Eva Braun in engineering the Fuehrer's flight to the New World.The Bargain is not without its moments. Dracula commandeering the coffin of General Paul von Schmundt, for example; the escape of Major Hans Klatt and Leutnant Albert Ley from the military hospital at Ploiesti; the croquet game improvised among the tombstones at Brasov. And although the book is necessarily preoccupied with sex (the vampires' weapon), none of it is gratuitous or overdone--a rare and notable achievement. The Bargain's good points, however, can't quite compensate for Ruddy's excessive lifting of phrases and passages from Dracula, or for the rather predictable actions of Arefu's inhabitants. Read this once, savor the good bits, and go on to something else. (Collectors may be interested to note that two editions of The Bargain have been published: one with a bluish cast to the embossed front cover; the other with cover not embossed and bluish cast on the back cover.)