by Guy Adams
Published by Arrow Books, 2011.
Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, was a Hammer film from 1974 containing everything Hammer was good at, action, blood, tongue in cheek humour and Caroline Munro. Unfortunately for Hammer the likes of The Exorcist, The Wicker Man and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were all released around the same time and had all pushed the genre in new and interesting ways. It left Hammer looking old fashioned and outdated continuing a decline it never (at least not yet) recovered from. What was originally planned as a series of movies or TV shows starring Kronos, ended up as a relatively obscure movie remembered with affection by many, including me. That’s why this novelisation at the hands of Guy Adams and under the Hammer imprint (recently introduced by Arrow books) had me excited, but let’s see if it met my expectations.
Captain Kronos is a fairly obscure, blonde locked, foreign accented, ex-soldier who along with trusty sidekick Professor Grost, wander the countryside seeking out and dealing with vampires. It’s during one of these adventures that they meet the feisty Carla who joins them as they seek the cause of premature ageing in a small village. Cue, scheming villagers, rich and mysterious landowners and several hired mercenaries who are set to stop Kronos and his gang.
As a novelisation it sticks, as you would expect, pretty closely to the film storyline and that’s no bad thing. Brian Clemens, the original creator (and who contributes a foreword to this book) had invented an interesting take on the vampire mythos. Here were vampires who had different strains of the “disease” meaning some could venture out in daylight, others couldn’t be killed by staking, others didn’t mind garlic..you get the idea. That coupled with the mystery surrounding Kronos and Grost’s history and the strong female character of Carla, contributed to an interesting plot which has been retained in all it’s glory here. We do get some added backstory which illuminates several characters and fills in some of the many blanks from the film which were presumably to be filled in with the sequels.
My biggest problem with the book is the chapter structure used. Each chapter is narrated by that chapters lead character a clever device which, not only provides the reader with multiple viewpoints but also lets us get into the minds of many of the characters. The only problem is the character development is not strong enough to make these narrators particularly distinctive. This just led to me frequently trying to remind myself which character was speaking, this was particularly noticeable with the minor characters where a lack of distinct voice was an issue.
For those who haven’t seen the film and have an interest in sword wielding heroes taking on vampires, then this is recommended. For fans of the film it fills in some useful backstory, but I hope this is just a prelude to further adventures from Kronos and the gang, where hopefully a writer with Guy Adam’s talent could spread his wings a bit more and really explore the mythos. Finally, Hammer seem determined to adorn these books with frankly soppy images more suited to the paranormal romance shelves than the beating heart of gothic filmmaking, but ignore the boy band wanabbee on the cover and enjoy the book for the fun adventure it is.