My expectations were high with this one, but let’s just say that this book all but spat in my face.
After a bit of research, I discovered that The Lair of the White Worm was written just a year before Stoker’s death, during a period of illness. It’s not an excuse, but I really, really hope that some part of this novel’s conception was the result of the author’s physical decline, and not a reflection of his true views.
Otherwise, I’m sorry, but bang goes my admiration of Stoker, because this book is Jim Crow racist.
I feel almost as bad as I did when when I discovered that Marion Zimmer Bradley was guilty of child sex abuse and the rape of her own children. No matter how good the writing was, I could not bring myself to finish The Mists of Avalon, knowing what I did about the character of the author, and the same goes here.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of my favourite books, but after reading this, I find it hard to claim that Bram Stoker is still one of my favourite authors, because no matter how good someone’s writing is, there are no excuses for fostering prejudice through literature. There was never a time when racist views were nice, and such views are only ever taught. In part by books like this. Books by authors who have a lot to answer for.
‘The man a debased specimen of one of the most debased races of the earth, and of an ugliness which was simply devilish.’
And let’s just say this is far from the most detailed example.
Whilst it is always morally dubious to count books as ‘products of their time’, the level of specific and targeted racism present in White Worm makes reading it a real weight on the conscience, and I can’t pretend. I’m not going to lie and say that I can separate the art from the artist, because on this occasion the art is thoroughly poisonous.
I really don’t get it, to be honest. Dracula is maybe the best work of Gothic fiction ever, but nothing of Stoker’s talent is evident here.
Push the ethics aside, and it’s still awful. A badly written, poorly plotted and characterless mash of a novel, with simplistic themes and an overall lack of intelligence.
More than wishing I had never read this book, I wish it had never been written, because then I wouldn’t find myself in a state of such frustrated vexation.
Literary idol though he may be, Stoker loses his crown with this one.
The Lair of the White Worm is an entirely grim read, for all the wrong reasons.