First, I have to say that, in my own opinion, this is one Brad's finest books - and for several reasons, upon which I'll now explain and elaborate.
There can be very little doubt that even the merest mention of the word "Vampire" conjures up imagery of either (a) the classic vampires of yesteryear as portrayed on-screen by the likes of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee (you know the ones I mean: they rather resemble pale-faced waiters in cloaks!); or (b) the latter-day vampires with whom Hollywood is so enamored and who resemble the offspring of some dark alliance between Marilyn Manson and TV's hottest Goth: the delicious Abby from NCIS.
As Brad is very careful to make abundantly clear to his readers, however, the cinematic vampire with which all of us are acquainted is - largely, at least - a creation of enterprising, enthusiastic and skilled screenplay writers, authors and horror-devotees. Separating the fictional vampire from the factual one, is a key aspect of the book - and a very welcome and informative aspect, too.
The genuine vampire, we learn early on in the pages of the book, is a far darker and ominous entity than anything Hollywood could ever throw at us - it is a predatory beast that stalks us by night; one that feeds upon the human life-force and drains us of emotional energy; that dwells in some darkened, elusive dimension of undetermined origins; that oozes negativity; and that has been using, abusing and exploiting us for thousands of years.
And, it is in getting this particular point across that Brad's book scores major points. Digging deep into ancient texts, manuscripts and tales, Brad acquaints us with the likes of the diabolical Lilith; with demonic entities of a truly black nature; with belief systems pertaining to the shedding of blood; and the way in which the vampire can (both metaphorically and literally) get its teeth and claws into us.
Brad also addresses what he calls "A Gallery of Classic Vampires," in which you will find much on disturbing characters like the notorious Elizabeth Bathory; as well as other vampire-style souls, including Vincent Verzini; Albert Fish; and John Haigh.
Of course, some of these were merely deranged souls - not literal vampires, in the sense we understand the term. However, Brad demonstrates that sometimes, those who we see as merely mentally-ill individuals drawn to drink blood may actually be the victims of something far more significant and sinister.
As Brad explains: "Many researchers believe that the spirit parasite can seize the controlling mechanism of the host body and direct the enslaved human to perform horrible, atrocious deeds. The spirit parasite might implant murderous thoughts into a host's mind, such as the desire to taste human blood, to slash a victim's throat, even to eat some of the person's flesh. After the crime has been committed, the vampiric spirit parasite withdraws back into another dimension of time and space, thus leaving the confused human being alone, charged with murder, while the true assassin has escaped."
Of particular interest to me, is the section of the book where Brad delves into the connections between vampires and werewolves - definitely a heady combination! Equally as parasitic as classic vampires, these hairy beasts of the full-moon are shown time and again as being entities that we would be very wise to avoid - both mentally and physically.
Real Vampires is also packed with insightful data on the history of blood-based cults; the way in which widespread hysteria can have an effect on tales and legends of vampirism; those unfortunate souls afflicted by mental-illness and who believe themselves to be definitive blood-suckers of the night; ominous beings that feed on us - emotionally and spiritually - in our sleep; and the truly macabre Shadow People.
All in all, then, Brad Steiger's Real Vampires is a massively in-depth study of a phenomenon that is both ancient and very real; that is as dark and disturbing as it is misunderstood; and one that should not be dabbled in lightly.
They may not all resemble Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee - and, unfortunately, they may not all look like Abby either. But, as Brad demonstrates time and again, the vampire is a creature of genuine, deadly and shadowy proportions.
Definitive and required reading for anyone wanting to learn the truth about real-life parasitic entities from the outer edge...