Archive for July, 2014

A vampire novel set in the age of Byron, Shelley, and Keats
by Charles Justus Garard

I have been a fan of vampire fiction for quite some time, and not only Bram Stoker’s DRACULA. Before we had Stoker in the late nineteenth century, we had Sheridan Le Fanu’s CARMILLA. In the early 19th century, we had VARNEY THE VAMPIRE, but Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem CHRISTABEL which features a vampire named Geraldine, maybe the most well-known vampire tale written by a well-known poet. The setting of Julia Skyler’s FOREVER TAINTED is set in England in 1820, long before Dracula appeared as a vampire in London but not long after the setting for CARMILLA. For this reason, I am reminded of Coleridge and Le Fanu, as well as the Hammer Studios vampire movies LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and VAMPIRE LOVERS (both loosely based on CARMILLA) set in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Writing a novel set in England during the romantic age of Byron, Shelley, and Keats cannot be an easy task, but this novel chooses this as a setting and . . . yet. . . adds to this era a few modernisms lest any contemporary readers who are not used to reading classics become lost. The author, for example, uses idioms such as “it’s all part of the job” . . . “I’ll just die if he finds out about this” . . . and “It’s a deal.” Without these modern idioms, we may be reminded of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE — particularly the social dance at the Winfrey Masquerade which is, as in Austen, a fishing sport for suitable matches. Here is where our hero, handsome John Connolly who is a baron with a small b, and the Lady Ann Winfrey, both overly anxious to find a mate, encounter each other and fall head over heels in love/lust at first sight. Both are immediately drawn to each other and can’t wait to be alone. No coyness here on the part of Ann Winfrey; she jumps head first into the pond of “romance” — not like a lady of the early 1800s but like a 21st century female.

However, this is not where the novel begins. In the prologue, we are introduced to the “handsome beast” vampire, the “fully depraved, self-centered” Prince Langley. His eyes are amber with traces of black — as are all of the people who are turned into vampires . . . or half-vampires. The half-vampires seem to be something new — they have vampire eyes and skin-tone but eat normally (even while thirsting for blood, which they can control) and can live like a human but with super-powerful strength. This eventually leads to a duel between the two types, but I will stop here lest I give away too much. Let’s just say, I was reminded of the duels in the UNDERWORLD films.

The aforementioned ball at the Winfrey mansion is interrupted by the screams of a young peasant girl who transforms into a vampire and begins chewing up the guests. The descriptions of her appearance and changes are well-drawn. In fact, FOREVER TAINTED does contain some excellent descriptions of vampire transformations and fight sequences, even though one of the vampire transformation at the hero’s house interrupts his and his brand-new lady friend’s attempts at anatomy explorations with purple-prose (purple as in royalty, of course) expostulations accompanying their breathless efforts. Talk about bad timing (intentionally on the part of the author) which causes the reader to be torn from the lovers and thrown back into the fray with the vampires. Many action scenes involve skillful descriptive passages, some of which are completed or interrupted by a single expository statement as summary. The Winfrey mansion and the Connolly residence are the settings for most of the action, and this device may remind one of the back-and-forth structure for Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS. In that novel, set approximately during same period as FOREVER TAINTED, the action and the characters move back and forth between the rustic mansions of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, long novels often involved the omniscient point of view. This allowed the reader to be able to see into every character’s thoughts and to be privy to the narrator’s (author’s) mind. FOREVER TAINTED mainly employs the third-person limited omniscient point of view, but occasionally the author changes point of view within a chapter or even from one paragraph to another. We change the center of consciousness — moving from the thoughts of one character to those of another. As a writing student, I was told not to do this. But then again, without the freedoms of the written language, we would not have the stream-of-conscious works of Virginia Wolfe (TO THE LIGHTHOUSE and MRS DALLOWAY) would we?

If you are a lover of vampire fiction or of romantic fiction that doesn’t drag its heels getting to the he / she confrontation, read this non-lengthy novel and tell us what you think. Be sure to keep handy your silver crucifix, garlic, and wooden stake. If you need more help, ask a half-vampire for aid.

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With a vampire, you can use a crucifix and holy water — with a werewolf, you can use a silver bullet, especially one that is blessed — with a zombie. you can shoot one in the head because the body is already dead. But what can you do with a creature from another dimension who can not only get into your past but get into your dreams? If you find a ghost in the dark places and dark spaces in your life, be glad. These shape-shifting entities who can control time-tunnel bridges are much more deadly. And Dr. Harper Paget wants revenge against them for murdering his wife, and he is willing to risk not only his life but the lives of his paranormal investigator assistants by entering with them into the DARK NEIGHBORHOODS? Someone had better warn him. In fact, warn anyone who will listen.