Losing the work
DRACULA'S BLOODLINE is the book that almost never was. As much as Radu Florescu wanted to write this book, he put off doing so for decades because he felt, as an historian, uncomfortable writing as a memoirist. Yet he knew the book had to be written, not just for his beloved extended family but also for the sake of truth in history, his lifelong passion and true muse. So, once he'd officially retired and a few years had passed while he adjusted to a new routine that no longer included classes, seminars, and conferences, not to mention all the other obligations of a prolific and well-known historian, and part-time diplomat, he finally settled in and began to write. Sometimes he wrote at home in Scituate, Massachusetts, or in Romania in the villa his father had built in 1936 in the picturesque Transylvania town of Poiana-Brasov, and still at other times in the calm of the family refuge in beautiful Antibes, France.
By 2008, he had finished a 130 page manuscript of which he was justifiably proud, a solid body of work that needed only the fleshing out of details and the smoothing of rough edges.
And then he lost it - somewhere at an airport between Boston, Zurich, and Nice.
Radu Florsecu, the meticulous scholar and careful writer, kept his precious manuscript - and only one - in a black, leather-covered binder that resembled a brief or attaché case, and which went missing.
Frantic searching (including one bizarre midnight scene that featured the Florescu gardener "dumpster diving" in the trash bins at Nice Côte d'Azur International Airport) turned up nothing. Knowing her husband had had the manuscript when he'd left the United States but not when he got back to Nice, Nicole Florescu (the Parisian beauty a young Radu Florescu had whisked away while at Oxford) placed an ad in Nice Matin. No one responded.
Start from the beginning
Undaunted, Professor Florescu began anew, from the very beginning. This time, however, he jump started the pocess with the help of two men. One of them was his fellow Romanian, past co-author and fellow historian Matei Cazacu, who held a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne and was himself the author of several books about Romania and other subjects also of interest ro Radu Florescu, such as Dracula and Frankenstein. The other man was John Greenya, a Washington journalist with many books to his credit. Greenya was brought to Europe several times to work on the academic prose of Florescu and Cazacu and to coordinate and popularize their two writing styles.
The team's most intense effort was the several week stretch the three men spent in the villa that Radu Florecu's grandfather had built in Poiana-Brasov in order to, as Radu Florescu said in an inadvertent (bad) pun, "sink our teeth into the research".
Despite all difficulties, the Florescu name reached out and stood its ground throughout centuries of wars, political conflicts, legendary betrayals and, nevertheless, family survival. This is why the Florescu saga is the story of an undying family, a name that stood tall against all the vicissitudes at its times.
Anyone who happened to come by was pressed into service of some sort, like Lori Wallfish, the Romanian concert pianist who is the world's foremost authority on the music of Romania's most famous musical son, Geroges Enescu. Wallfish, a professor at Smith College, was a scheduled house guest and even while performing concerts in nearby Brasov, she found time to cheerfully serve as a dictationist for her long-time friend Radu Florescu.
Not everythimg the team produced made it into the final product, which was always under the control of its original author. Greenya suggested more personal life details and Cazacu wrote a hair-raising description of the agonies of being impaled to death, but the former was vetoed as taking space away from earlier family history and the latter as simply too gory.
Finally, DRACULA'S BLOODLINE, A Florescu Family Saga was complete, this time at a more robust 370 pages. It has been written that all books have a hidden history, but this book was almost hidden from history.
A little bit of history
Without giving away too much of the memoir aspect of the book, it should be noted that Radu Florescu was no stranger to excitement. As a young man in 1939, with war clouds gathering over Europe, he was in Romania visiting his grandfather. At the time, his diplomat father, also named Radu, was in London serving as Romania's top diplomat to the Court of St James. Very worried, in late August, 1940, the elder Radu sent a telegram to his 13-year old son telling him to get to England as fast as he could before German guns split Europe in two. As a result, young Radu left Romania bound for Paris on one of the last Orient Express trains (the one made so famous by Agatha Christie) to the West. He would not return to his native country for more than 30 years.
Other fascinating bits of Radu Florescu's personal (as opposed to his familial history) include his and Nicole's elopement in 1951 when he had no teaching position yet they sailed to New Orleans; how they became American citizens thanks to a couple of American politicians named Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn; what it was like to re-visit Romania on his 1967-68 Fulbright while Communism and Ceausescu both reigned terror on citizens and foreign visitors alike; or the deal that Radu struck with iconic television talk show host Johnny Carson in 1972 while Radu was promoting IN SEARCH OF DRACULA. For those, the reader is referred to DRACULA'S BLOODLINE. It's all there, and a great deal more.