Anscombe, Roderick 1947–
Anscombe, Roderick 1947–
PERSONAL: Born December 28, 1947, in Manchester, England; son of Anthony (a surgeon) and Maureen (a physician) Anscombe; married Jean Houston (a nurse), 1983. Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1970, B.M., B.Ch., 1974.
CAREER: Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA, resident in psychiatry, became chief resident, 1976–80, associate in psychiatry, 1990–; Bridgewater State Hospital, Bridgewater, MA, staff psychiatrist, 1989–91; Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, assistant clinical professor, 1992–; Tewksbury Hospital, Tewksbury, MA, staff psychiatrist, 1993–; writer.
MEMBER: American Psychiatric Association.
The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula (novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
Shank (novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.
The Interview Room (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of articles to psychiatric journals; author of papers on schizophrenia, psychotherapy, and the unconscious.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to Shank were sold to Kevin Costner's TIG Productions.
SIDELIGHTS: Roderick Anscombe's first novel, The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, is a psychological horror story informed by its author's professional encounters with criminally disturbed people. A practicing forensic psychiatrist, Anscombe numbers among his patients the type of savagely violent individuals who make lurid newspaper headlines. In portraying Laszlo, a Hungarian nobleman with a thirst for blood (but who is a mortal man, not a vampire), Anscombe employs character traits he has observed among his various cases. "I've had a couple of patients who have had the same relish for blood," the author commented to Robert Dahlin in Publishers Weekly. "When I say relish, I mean eating it, drinking it."
The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula tells of young Laszlo's arrival in Paris in 1866. Studying to be a doctor, he interns at Salpetriere Hospital, where the psychiatrist Jean-Martin Charcot is conducting experiments on hysteria. Laszlo is then swept into the decadent night life of the French capital and carries on a torrid relationship with Stacia, a prostitute. After treat-ing Stacia for severe slashes on her wrists, he secretly becomes stimulated by her blood. Their relationship ends abruptly when Laszlo discovers Stacia is entertaining other men; stabbing her to death, he then imbibes on her blood. The day after the murder Laszlo returns to Hungary, having received word of his brother's death and his inheritance of the family title.
Twenty uneventful years pass in Transylvania before Laszlo begins to kill again, disturbingly aroused after reading portions of the diary he kept in Paris. Under circumstances similar to his assault on Stacia, Laszlo slays his mistress after learning of her infidelity. "It is a powerful sexual attraction aggravated by jealousy that will be the stimulus to murder," explained Patrick McGrath in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. A killing spree then ensues, as Laszlo realizes he cannot stop his longing for blood. Anscombe told Dahlin in Publishers Weekly that he labored to portray the tormented Laszlo as a human being, rather than the supernatural stereotype of Count Dracula. "I find limitations in the supernatural. Real human beings have mixed emotions that allow for plot twists as characters develop. Supernatural figures aren't like that," Anscombe remarked.
The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula received positive endorsements from critics. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly stated that the novel is "well written," moves at a quick pace, and incorporates intricate themes. The reviewer deemed the novel to be "an engrossing read all the way through to its macabre climax." In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, McGrath observed that "there are some gloriously macabre touches when we glimpse the weirder reaches of Roderick Anscombe's vivid imagination and the impressive descriptive power of his writing." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews similarly delineated The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula as "lush" and "entertaining," commenting that "Anscombe's characters are richly drawn, and his pseudo-Victorian prose is a pleasure to read." In the New York Times Book Review, Nina Auerbach wrote that "scene by scene, The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula is evilly yummy."
With his 1996 novel, Shank, Anscombe deals with another love obsession. Dan Cody, a former teacher, is serving a life sentence in maximum security for killing his wife. He maintains that he is innocent and that he killed his wife at her request because she was HIV positive. In prison he falls in love with a nurse named Carol. He begins to smuggle drugs for Nando and Diego, the prison's major drug dealers. When Carol busts him out, he thinks it is for love. Carol, however, has money on her mind, hoping that Cody will take her to the drug dealers' cache of drugs. Anscombe's second novel also received a positive critical reception. Booklist contributor Emily Melton praised the "psychological twists and fiendishly clever plot" of this "unnerving thriller." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "what begins as a memoir of powerful love ends up as a meditation on masochism" in this "strange and gripping" novel.
Anscombe's third novel, The Interview Room, concerns a forensic psychiatrist who, in the course of interviewing a stalker, finds his life becoming inextricably linked with the patient. This novel earned further critical praise for Anscombe. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called The Interview Room a "heaven for connoisseurs of mind games." David Wright, in a Booklist review, dubbed the same work "a riveting, nuanced psychological thriller." Similarly, a critic for Publishers Weekly found that Anscombe "delivers precise, perfectly calibrated thrills one after another in an implosive story." Ron Bernas, writing in the Detroit Free Press, believed that the novel "provides honest-to-goodness chills."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1994, Ray Olson, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 1893; September 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Shank, p. 180; May 1, 2005, David Wright, review of The Interview Room, p. 1514.
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), July 6, 2005, Ron Bernas, "'The Interview Room' Author Doles out Thrills in Tiny Doses."
Entertainment Weekly, September 16, 1994, Tom De-Haven, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 105; November 10, 1995, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 56; November 29, 1996, Vanessa V. Friedman, review of Shank, p. 84.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1994, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 859; March 15, 2005, review of The Interview Room, p. 301.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 30, 1994, Patrick McGrath, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 3.
New York Times Book Review, October 30, 1994, Nina Auerbach, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 11.
People, November 14, 1994, Ralph Novak, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, March 14, 1994, Robert Dahlin, "Hyperion Puts Major Stake in the Doctor's Dracula," p. 22; July 11, 1994, review of The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula, p. 61; September 2, 1996, review of Shank, p. 109; May 2, 2005, review of The Interview Room, p. 176.
Bloodlovers.com, http://www.bloodlovers.com/ (April 14, 2006), "Interview with Roderick Anscombe, MD."
Roderick Anscombe Home Page, http://www.roderickanscombe.com (April 14, 2006).