Fantastic History #55: It’s Alive! by Catherine Schaff-Stump

In April, I am debuting a very different series than my usual dark Gothic fare. Abigail Rath Versus Bloodsucking Fiends, the intrepid monster hunting adventures of Abby Rath and her best friend Vince Cooper, is the start of a series set in contemporary(ish) Los Angeles. It wouldn’t seem like I needed to do historical research for this kind of book, but I had to learn a lot about Hollywood B-movies, horror actor culture, and the realm of a certain kind of horror film.

Where to start? I was inspired to write about Abby and her adventures largely because I live with a horror fan. My husband Bryon has entire shelves in his den devoted to historical horror books and films. Make no mistake–he’s not a slasher fan. He has no time for Michael Myers. Not that there’s anything wrong with Michael Myers (okay, there is a lot wrong with Michael Myers), but what Bryon likes is horror that’s a bit noir, or a bit creepy, or even a bit campy (okay, a lot campy, if you take into account some of the Hammer Studios and Roger Corman Poe films he watches). There was something about those films and the spirit with which they were made that has not been recaptured in current horror cinema, although I think Sam Raimi recaptured some of it in his Deadite films.

In my book, Abby Rath’s father is Reginald Rath, vampire killer, a direct parallel to Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. Peter Cushing was super tough as Van Helsing. In The Brides of Dracula (1960) he actually burns a vampire bite out of his neck with a red hot poker. One of the great joys of writing Abby is that she actually uses real movie titles mixed with ones that I’ve made up. In the climatic scene of the book, Abby and Vince use inspiration once again from The Brides of Dracula, but at the same time, Abby spouts off about totally fictional movies whose titles are in the spirit of these old films, such as Lucifer’s Gladiators or Wolfman! Wolfman!, the werewolf musical.

Being a monster movie buff convincingly is what part of the book is about. The other part is Abby’s mistaken belief that her father’s films are a real life guide for how to kill monsters. In Abby’s world, her parents fight the good fight against the forces of darkness every day, and to be like them is her goal, but she only knows what knowledge she has gleaned from her dad’s films. This part of the book draws not only from Hollywood, but also from the folklore of various monsters and mythos. And, it goes without saying Abby has to learn a lot about how to deal with monsters and how to coexist.

Abigail Rath Versus Bloodsucking Fiends will be available April 20th, and the second in the series, Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science is well under the revision scalpel. Just like the first book plays with Universal and B-movie monster tropes, Mad Science flirts with Frankenstein, freeze rays, and giant robots. It’s a great deal of fun playing fast and lose with pop culture.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.