I’d go, without hesitation to Le Comte de Saint-Germain, the hero of a magnificent series of adult horror/history fiction by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I'd already seen Frank Langella's hypnotic protrayal of Dracula on Broadway...three times, so I was ready for a story that reflected the complexity Langella did.
The first in the Yarbro series, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978; but I didn’t start reading the series until the late ‘80s just before I began work in my own vampire novel.
Although I'd always been a fan I came to the idea of writing a vampire novel by accident. It started as a response to being verbally attacked on a Manhattan street more than 20 years ago by a man who saw women as his prey. I was furious but rather than risk my life by physically attacking him I went home and wrote a story about revenge in which the victim/heroine turns out to be a vampire. After getting positive audience responses I started doing research on vampire mythology and began formulating my own philosophy about what role vampires play in our cultures, since they seem to appear everywhere! And thus began The Gilda Stories.
When I finally read Yarbro's Hotel Transylvania it was because I’d read all the research I could get my hands on. I was amused by the title and imagined Barnabus Collins not the elegant, thoughtful Count created by Yarbro. I wasn’t prepared for the deeply engaged historical narrative she creates or the effecting and nuanced portrayal of her characters. And for once women were not simply the victims of the vampire/hero/predator.
What appeals to me most is the value her Count places on being connected to the mortal society around him. Even though he may have a preternatural existence he is not unattached to the circle of life and the messiness that goes along with it. As he walks in the shoes of a Count, a slave, a businessman, a spy, a lover and many other identities he assumes in this lengthy series he's always is always aware of what part he plays in mortal endeavors. Yarbro weaves human emotions through the details of history from Nero’s Rome to a jet flight out of Romania in ways that put a reader inside the history no matter how remote.
And always the Count shows the humanity that humans often fail to appreciate, embrace or even aspire to. Yay Yarbro!
“Looking back,” one of the characters in my newest Gilda story says, “it all seems so natural, and perhaps it was.” http://www.jewellegomez.com/new_gilda.html Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain cycle captures the natural and supernatural so compellingly I can not imagine the world of vampires without her and Saint-Germain.