BOOKS: GOTHIC WHOOPEE

DRACULA WAS A PUSSYCAT COMPARED WITH THIS WOMAN AND HER HORRIFIC BEAUTY SECRETS

Europe's benchmark bloodsucker is generally considered to be Vlad the Impaler, an inspiration for Dracula. Andrei Codrescu's novel The Blood Countess (Simon & Schuster; 347 pages; $23) offers an equally unattractive alternative: Elizabeth Bathory, a 16th century Hungarian tyrant alleged to have killed 650 girls in the belief that bathing in their blood would preserve her youth and beauty. Though never tried for mass murder, Bathory is said to have been confined to a room of her castle, where after five years she died in 1613 at the age of 47.

Why is such an outrageous character not better known? According...

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