'Sustenance', Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Excuse us as we brush past Anne Rice, but with accolades to her name which include Grand Master of the World Horror Convention, and Living Legend of the International Horror Writers Guild, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro really does have a far better claim to the title of grand old dame of vampire fiction, and it is with genuine delight that we welcome another volume in her long-running Saint-Germain cycle, 'Sustenance'.
For thsoe who haven't had the pleasure of an encounter with Yarbro's enigmatic but highly ethical Count, a little background may help (though it is by no means required, as each of her novels acts very much as a stand-alone tale, and this latest is no exception. Saint-Germain first appeared in print in 1978, with the publication of 'Hotel Transylvania', a novel set in Paris during the reign of Louis XV. Since then, the Count has featured in no fewer than twenty-seven novels and a range of short stories, which between them have chronicled his travels from Egypt in the time of Pharaoh right through to the modern day. 'Sustenance', the latest instalment, sees Saint-Germain in America during the late 1940s, and so sits neatly between 'Midnight Harvest' (2003), set in the early years of the Second World War, and the short stories of the 'Saint-Germain Chronicles' (1983), a number of which are set in the latter half of the twentieth century.
If there is one complaint to be made in regard to Yarbro's novels, it is perhaps that they have become a little too formulaic over the years - vampire meets girl, vampire loses girl, vampire grudgingly concedes that immortality has its drawbacks. Any such criticism is generally overwhelmed by the vast array of historical detail that Yarbro employs, however - her novels are as much works of historical fiction, extremely well researched and crafted, as they are traditional horror stories. In this case, she takes the opportunity to bring the proceedings of the House Un-American Activities Committee to life in all their sinister, invasive and intrusive detail. And in so doing, Yarbro manages once again to remind her readers that true darkness lurks not in the so-called monsters of out imaginations, but in the reality of human actions, and the depths of all-too-human souls.
If you enjoy a mix of horror and historical fiction, and haven't yet sampled Yarbro, then her work is to be highly recommended. If, on the other hand, you are looking forwrd to reaquainting yourself with Saint-Germain in a new and fascinating setting, then 'Sustenance' will likewise deliver.
'Sustenance' by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was published in hardcover by Tor on 1 December 2014.