Monday, October 15, 2018

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Collected Vampire Stories

Most vampire fans have probably read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's romantic historical novel HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, which introduced the ancient, ravishing "good guy vampire" Count Saint-Germain, and possibly most or all of the many subsequent novels in the series. However, you may not have come across her vampire short-story collections, two of which are a bit harder to acquire. THE SAINT-GERMAIN CHRONICLES (1983) compiles all the stories about the character available up to that point, interspersed with letters written by Saint-Germain at various times in his long life. THE VAMPIRE STORIES OF CHELSEA QUINN YARBRO (1994), a limited edition from Transylvania Press with an introduction by Gahan Wilson, reprints some of those tales, also with a selection of letters, plus an additional Saint-Germain piece, "A Question of Patronage" (in which the Count meets the future Sir Henry Irving before the latter rose to fame as the leading actor of late Victorian England), and two non-Saint-Germain vampire stories ("Investigating Jericho" and "Salome"). Both volumes include Yarbro's essay "My Favorite Enigma: The Historical Comte de Saint-Germain," in which she gives an overview of the real man's biography and the mysteries surrounding him, then explains how she decided to turn him into a fictional vampire. The Transylvania Press collection also features a bibliography of Saint-Germain fiction, arranged chronologically in order of publication with annotations by the editor, vampire literature expert Robert Eighteen-Bisang. Another item unique to this volume is Yarbro's detailed chronology of her fictional Count's life, including many details about his travels not found in the published works.

My favorite stories: "Cabin 33," a darkly humorous piece set in the present day (as of its writing), forces Saint-Germain and the love of his life, Madelaine, to deal with a young vampire who, having watched too many horror movies, embraces all the cliches of a cruelly seductive predator's role. In "Renewal," set during World War II, reporter James Tree, a lover of Madelaine's in an earlier work, dies and rises as a vampire. With no clue about what has happened to him (Madelaine warned him of her true nature and his probable fate, but he didn't believe her), James finds his way to Madelaine's former home, where he encounters Saint-Germain and gets initiated into the undead lifestyle. I've always wished Yarbro would feature him in another novel. The two non-Saint-Germain stories are well worth reading, if you can access them. "Investigating Jericho" takes a hapless IRS agent to an isolated little town inhabited by vampires. "Salome" is a sequel to my favorite Ray Bradbury story, "Homecoming." (That one comes from a 1991 tribute anthology, THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES, which you could probably get.)

A 2007 trade paperback collection, SAINT-GERMAIN: MEMOIRS, comprises newer material—two short stories, two novelettes, and a novella. I especially like "Harpy," in which Saint-Germain meets the wife of soon-to-be-executed Socrates, a woman seldom portrayed with the sympathy shown here. This book includes an introduction by Sharon Russell and an afterword by Yarbro. MEMOIRS, fortunately, is in print and reasonably priced.

The two earlier collections, not so much. Affordable used copies of THE SAINT-GERMAIN CHRONICLES, at least, are available. THE VAMPIRE STORIES OF CHELSEA QUINN YARBRO, alas, is rare and expensive.

Margaret L. Carter

Explore love among the monsters at Carter's Crypt.


Unknown said...

And soon to come will be the St. Germain origin mnovel "Fallen Gods". It's coming Real soon Now.... it says. But then... it was promised in the "spring of 2017" so....

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