The Saint-Germain Memoirs is the third collection of stories featuring Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s popular vampire hero, Count Rogoczy Saint-Germain. The Saint-Germain novels are long, leisurely, and meticulously researched books set in historical time periods ranging from dynastic Egypt to the twentieth century. Saint-Germain, who debuted in 1978 in the novel Hotel Transylvania, was among the first wholly sympathetic and moral vampire characters in literature, but his unique nature and his extremely long history (he is some 4,000 years old) make him challenging to depict fairly in a shorter work.
The Saint-Germain Memoirs incorporates five tales of varying lengths: two short stories, two novelettes, and the book’s centerpiece, a 42,000-word novella. Of these, the novella is unquestionably the best piece in the book, encapsulating the finest elements of the Saint-Germain series as a whole.
I’ve read nearly all of the Saint-Germain novels, so I can’t gauge how a reader with no previous experience of Yarbro’s character would experience the stories in The Saint-Germain Memoirs. However, as I read them, I sensed that I was picking up on a lot of subtle hints and details that required extensive background information to appreciate. In her Introduction, Sharon Russell argues that the stories have something to offer readers regardless of their familiarity with Saint-Germain, but I remain unconvinced. Individuals who already have a good working knowledge of the character and his history will get the most from these brief glimpses into his life.
“Harpy,” originally published in the anthology The Secret History of Vampires, is a good example of a story that is full of meaning for those who already know Saint-Germain, but may be puzzling to new readers. In fact, one of the Amazon reviewers for The Secret History of Vampires identified the enigmatic “Ragosh-ski” in the story as Dracula! Although “Harpy” presents an interesting character study of a historical person rarely given much thought (I can’t say who without spoiling the twist ending) it took me a while to pin down the time period based on the descriptions. This is a peril of setting a story in a location, Athens, that has been consistently occupied under the same name for 2,500 years. I also remained uncertain, by the story’s end, as to why Saint-Germain picked out this woman for assistance — whether he knew her by reputation or was able, as the story hints, to sense some special quality she possessed.