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“Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” is as much a biography of Maila Nurmi, the original goth walking wet dream for horror fans, as it is portraiture and social commentary of horror-loving America contrasted to uptight, square America in the 1950s and beyond.
The author, W. Scott Poole is a historian and professor at the College of Charleston, SC, who teaches courses in American politics and popular culture.
“Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” deals with how Maila Nurmi wanted to change the culture of the U.S. with her bizarre, creative, and subversive ideas, and how she partially succeeded in the end, at least from the point of view of horror fans.
This book explains how she was the first horror television host, and the effect she had on society, first in Los Angeles and later at the national level. Poole takes special care of backing up all its statements and claims with heavily researched proof.
Instead of searching for documentaries, when I felt I wanted to know more about Maila I went to this book, and I must say I don’t regret it.
If you felt curiosity about Vampira, and you rather read a book than watch a documentary, this is the only book you need to learn practically everything that’s there to learn about Maila.
Don’t get me wrong, as a novice in knowledge about American horror hosts in general and Vampira specifically, I shouldn’t be allowed to assure you of what I assured you in the previous paragraph.
But it’s very obvious that W. Scott Poole did set out to write the ultimate book on Maila, because he tells you so, indirectly when he enumerates all of the instances of Maila’s life, and how he approached the problem of finding the information following all possible source trails.
Apparently, the author exhausted all avenues of knowledge about Nurmi, and he lets you know that; with a very detailed description of how he sourced his information; all the persons that helped him gather all the pieces of the Vampira puzzle.
What’s the Gloss of “Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” About?
The book begins by first giving you a background on Vampira and the America she grew up in. It gives a lot of information about the time Maila was growing up, and it uses a lot of social and cultural observations to situate the reader in those periods.
I think it does that to juxtapose the times with Maila’s personality and make the reader realize how revolutionary she was.
As I said, I haven’t read anything on Vampira when I read this book and it was great that Poole aimed at creating an exhaustive profile not just of Maila but also of her times, because, by the moment he begins to tell the story of the Maila character, you have a pretty picture of America at the time of her rising and where did Maila fit in it up to the moment of Vampira’s inception.
The meatiest and most focused packets of data on Nurmi’s groundbreaking character begin around the end of the book’s first third. Passages like this one:
”Dig Me Later, Vampira first aired on April 30, 1954. A list of the first 14 episodes, through July 1954, shows that Vampira introduced late-night audiences to eclectic fare, ranging from crime thrillers like The Charge Is Murder to B-movie horror like Revenge of the Zombies to more classic monster fare like Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie”
If I should make an imperfect comparison of what this book taught me is that the meaning of Vampira was that she was someone as big and important to know for horror fans as, say, P.T. Barnum would be for the fans of circus entertainment, notwithstanding how brief her popularity was.
Had the time of my life Reading it
This book has become one of my top-ten biographic books because it made me feel like no non-fiction book has ever made me feel. I would even risk saying now it’s one of my top three biographies.
That’s because the source, Maila/Vampira, was a seriously bad-ass, larger than life personality that changed the culture of America forever, even if Americans forgot her for many years.
I am a social distancer since the year 2003 when I spent time in overpopulated areas of the world, also I’m very challenged in the department of going out and mixing with others like she was, so I felt very identified with her personality.
To say that this book is fun is an understatement. This is a seriously thrilling and emotional time-capsule to the fifties for horror fans.
I admit that “Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” has parts through which the reader may feel disoriented, because at first they don’t seem to have a relation to Vampira’s story or the horror genre, but after a while, all the dots connect.
“Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” makes you understand Maila’s character and the sentiment of horror fans that lived in her times all the better due to how Poole situates them in the preparatory context he gives before coming to the deeply enjoyable parts that focus on horror and Maila Nurmi.
This book opens a lot of doors to horror fans. The approach is an erudite one, and because of that is heavily researched and referenced. This book has all the information to make the reader an erudite on Vampira too if she cares to follow the references and continue the research.
Other than the information on Nurmi and her character Vampira, the book has a lot of other tidbits of information that are very precious for horror fans.
Scott Poole, an Expert in Vampira
If you feel like visiting the horror cultural light that wrote this book, check W. Scott Poole’s Twitter.
© Bholenath Valsan 2021 — Review of Scott Poole’s Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, The Biography of Vampira