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Saint-Germain: Memoirs
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Elder Signs Press, 251 pages

Saint-Germain: Memoirs
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Born in 1942 in Berkeley, California, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro attended Berkeley schools through high school then spent three years at San Francisco State College (now University). A professional writer since 1968, she has worked in a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to westerns, from young adult adventure to historical horror. Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than two dozen essays and reviews.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: States of Grace
SF Site Review: Midnight Harvest
SF Site Review: The Palace
SF Site Review: Blood Roses
SF Site Review: Writ in Blood

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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Are you sick and tired of vampires? So am I, but with one distinct exception, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Comte de Saint-Germain. Created more than thirty-five years ago with the novel Hotel Transylvania, Saint-Germain has been the main character in a long series of novels, the latest of which is Borne in Blood.

In addition, the undead has been starring in a bunch of short stories and novelettes, now assembled for the first time by Elder Signs Press. The collection provides an enjoyable, although disjointed portrait of that vampire running across the centuries from ancient Greece to the present day and fits well into the wider scenario depicted in the longer works.

Saint-Germain is not an ordinary vampire, a symbol of evil, a fiend, a vulgar bloodsucker. He's a connoisseur, a bon vivant (no pun intended), an entrepreneur, a healer, a considerate lover.

Obviously he shares most of the standard idiosyncrasies of the vampire (he can't stand boats and water, doesn't drink wine, etc.) and needs to find nourishment in blood, but can be helpful and compassionate toward people as in the two tales which bookend the volume, "Harpy," the adaptation of the facts concerning the life and death of a famous Greek philosopher and his unpleasant wife, and "A Gentleman of the Old School," a modern, allusive but atypical vampire story.

A gentleman indeed, Saint-Germain exhibits classy manners even when, turned into a captive on a pirate ship he has to negotiate his freedom with greedy and murderous monks living in a monastery on a lonely greek island ("Lost Epiphany").

In the excellent novella "Tales Out of School" set in the Padova of 1325, he is an alchemist and a teacher for the local University. He prepares herbal remedies to treat a variety of diseases, while having an affair with a young widow. Imbued with refined eroticism and deep melancholy the piece conveys a strong sense of the loneliness and quiet despair inherent the vampire's condition.

"Intercession," a splendid novelette where Saint-Germain never actually appears, set in the South America of the 17th century, reports, by means of the manservant Rogerian's letters, the undead's mysterious detection at the Convento dell'Agonia for more than fifteen years and the unceasing efforts of the faithful servant to obtain freedom for his master.

Yarbro is a skilled storyteller, able to carve his characters with extraordinary subtlety, probe the feelings of both livings and undead, cleverly investigate the peculiar predicament of a creature who sees his friends and lovers get old and die, the world change, the ages come and go, while remaining undead, unchanging and lonely.

As the song says: who wants to live forever?

Finally, I must warn you that this book does have a major drawback: it's too thin, too short and too good. It makes a delicious appetizer which will leave you hungry for more Saint-Germain stories.

Copyright © 2008 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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