Brian Lumley is one of the most prolific horror writers working in the field today. He has successfully updated the vampire myth into a terrifying series of books featuring the horrific and memorable Wamphryi.
Brian started writing while he was stationed in Cyprus with the Royal Military Police: 'I was doing a lot of swimming and I liked to make notes about the different things I saw: octopus, the various types of shells and so on. I sold a couple of articles to Diver magazine and I liked the idea of putting words on paper for money. We then moved to Berlin where we were stationed in the Olympic Stadium, the one where Jesse Owen almost gave Hitler a heart attack by winning all the events. In that place, back in 1967, at 2 o'clock in the morning, when the last drunk had been locked up and the last would©be refugee had been ripped to pieces on the wire or shot coming over the Wall, there was nothing to do. So I was reading all these books which I got at the local YMCA. 70 percent of them were terrible, 20 per cent were moderate and 10 per cent were good, and a lot of the good stuff was horror that appeared in books edited by August Derleth, published by Arkham House out of Wisconsin, America. I wrote some stories - I thought I could do at least as well as the bad stuff - and sent them to Derleth. He bought two of them straight away and suggested a revision for a third. Within a year he was suggesting that I put together a collection in hardback, and a year after that he was asking for a novel. So I was on my way.
'The first novel, if I'm right, because I was writing two at the same time, was Beneath the Moors, which was an Arkham House hardback, very Lovecraftian, and also The Burrowers Beneath, which was released in paperback. That was about 1973, 1974.'
Brian didn't start writing full time until he left the army at the end of 1980 after twenty-two years service.
'All of a sudden, the Lovecraft-influenced material had to fly out of the window because if I was going to make a living out of writing, it was going to have to be commercial. Not that Lovecraft isn't commercial but you can't make a big success out of a Cthulhu mythos story, it's all been done. So it had to be something new, different and hard-hitting. Modern horror is hard-hitting stuff, but I didn't want to lose the influence of the people I call the Masters: Ray Bradbury, August Derleth, H P Lovecraft, Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson. On the other hand, I did want to do it differently. Lovecraft, of course, was my main man because Arkham House was his publisher and that's what attracted me in the first place. Lovecraft did not write about the usual vampires, werewolves, zombies and monsters, his horror stories were different, the themes were different. So when I sat down to write the Necroscope books, I didn't want to have vampires that were the same as had been done before. I wanted vampires that did more than just suck.'
Brian's vampires, the Wamphyri, are a powerful and ancient race of creatures, which, unlike the popular film©inspired image of the vampire reproduce through a detailed and intricate process.
'A human infected with vampirism can produce an egg and pass it on to another prospective vampire, to his egg 'son'; he can also pass on his vampirism through his blood or his semen, he can have sons which are vampires and given time they will become Wamphyri and produce eggs of their own, but that's a long process and each of the Wamphyri only produces one egg. But if you kill and bury one of these vampire 'Lords' and he rots down, he's liable to put up toadstools which will release spores. If you breathe one of them in, bingo! It will develop into a vampire egg which will produce a Wamphyr leech and you become a vampire.
'This idea was hinted at through the early Necroscope books. The reader always suspected there was more to it than met the eye but I didn't let out the full explanation until Deadspeak'
The eponymous Necroscope of the books is one Harry Keogh, a human with several extraordinary abilities.
'Harry's power of speaking to the dead comes from the time that my father died. I remember standing by his coffin before he was buried, looking down at him and thinking: well I've spent two thirds of my life in the army and I've very rarely been at home and I never really got the chance to sit down and talk to you. It seemed such a shame. I wished that I could stand there and that he could hear me and we could cover one or two points we never got round to. I knew as I looked at him that he'd just love to have a pint right now. Later, in a pub, I sat and enjoyed a pint and I tried to will the taste to him. I thought that if I'd been home all those years we could have enjoyed a few drinks together and maybe spun a few yarns between us, because my old man was very much like me.
'This thought developed and I realised that it would be something to have a person who could actually talk to dead people because there's a hell of a lot of knowledge gone from the world and buried in the earth. If the minds of the dead did go on living then how would they communicate to us, or with each other, and that is where the necroscope comes in. Harry Keogh is able to speak with the dead and, using their amassed knowledge together with his natural affinity for numbers, unravel the secrets of space and time.'
There are five weighty books in the Necroscope series, Necroscope, Wamphyr, The Source, Deadspeak and Deadspawn. Harry is the common thread and as he progresses through the books, he finds more and more out about his own talents, leading to an apocalyptic finale. The series is selling well at the moment, but this was not always the case.
'The first jacket on the first edition of Necroscope didn't sell. No one understood why, as the publishers knew the book was good. So they pulled it in, got George Underwood to do a new cover, and they started selling ... and selling. Second printing, third, fourth, fifth, sixth ... they're still flying off the bookshelves. It just goes to show that a good jacket may not sell a bad book but it damn well helps to sell a good one. I was recently told that in the last six months, all five of the Necroscope books have sold more copies than in their first six months!'
When Brian reached the end of the final Necroscope book, Deadspawn, he took the fairly radical step of killing off his hero. This was met with howls of protest from the fans, but while Harry Keogh may be dead, his sons live on in a new trilogy collectively titled Vampire World.
'In The Source I introduced the reader to the world of the Wamphyri, where they come from, called Sunside/Starside. There is a range of barrier mountains. On one side, in the forests, woods and valleys, live human beings while on the other side, in the dark - because the sun only rises on Sunside - live the Wamphyri in huge cavernous eyries of weather-carved stone jutting from the barren plains. The Wamphyri inhabit these stacks and when the sun goes down on Sunside they fly across the mountains to take their prey. There is also a dimensional gate between their world and ours. The gate in our world opens in Romania which is why our vampire legends originate from there.
'It dawned on me that I'd created a world but I hadn't explored it, and I wanted to. Before Harry Keogh died he fathered two sons on Sunside. One of them's a straight guy, he just wants to be a gypsy like his daddy (as far as he knows his father was a gypsy). His brother, on the other hand, longs for the power which comes from being Wamphyri. The story develops from there.
'The first Vampire World, Blood Brothers, has just been published and I've just finished the second which is called The Last Eyrie and the third, which is next on my agenda, will be called Blood Wars. That makes eight books on a similar theme but there's an eight year period between the end of The Source and the start of Deadspeak during which Harry Keogh is searching for his lost wife and son. I intend to fill that gap with two more books called Necroscope: The Lost Years Volumes I and II, which makes ten books in the series and that, I think, will satisfy me for the moment.'
Necroscope has also been picked up by Malibu Comics in America as a five©part graphic novel. The first issue should be available in June 1992, and Malibu have the rights to the first three Necroscope books. There is also a series of resin figures planned from Classic Plastics in America, depicting scenes and characters from the Necroscope series. With the aforementioned three books already planned, Brian is not looking much further ahead, although he does not rule out a return to Lovecraft's Dreamlands with Hero and Eldin at some point in the future. With over thirty books to his name already, Brian Lumley is still going strong.