This week I welcome Tony-Paul de Vissage to my blog, who drops by to share a little about my favourite fanged creature of the night. Welcome, Tony-Paul!
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Romania—specifically that section of it called Transylvania—isn’t the only place having vampires. It’s just the main place people think of, thanks to Bram Stoker’s little epic. In point of fact, the first vampire novel to gain attention in the literary world was set in England.
Now for the Pop Quiz section of my blog. All those knowing the name of that novel, raise your hands? Hmm…more than I expected. How about the author? Non? Would you believe Lord Byron? If not, good for you. Byron didn’t write The Vampyre though he was blamed for it for many years. John Polidori, Byron’s physician wrote the story, patterning his villain after his employer. Generally that’s not such a good concept but I have a feeling Byron loved the idea.
After all, the man lived for scandal and it probably didn’t hurt book sales a bit. Good PR. Nevertheless, today, except for we vamp-aficionados, the name of the world’s “first” literary (as well as how to pronounce it) is fairly forgotten. Who knows Lord Ruthven? Dracula wins that title, fangs down!
When I wrote Vampires are Forever, I decided to ignore Transylvania in lieu of Ireland, which has its own special vampire. Oh, my hero/villain hails from Hungary but that’s only mentioned briefly. And the city he says he comes from actually does exist. It’s called Lugos (pronounced Loo-Gowsh), and is the town from which Bela Lugosi took his stage name. Appropriate, non?
The Irish town—Balleywalegh—is a place knowing what you do with vampires and it doesn’t involve giving them the key to the city, unless it’s presented on the end of a well-sharpened stake.
I also chose to set my story in a slightly inappropriate era…the Twenties. 1929 to be exact, when the movies were just becoming the rage, automobiles were still fairly rare, and any woman showing more than an ankle was considered “fast”…or worse…a flapper. My vampire drives a Stutz Bearcat. He dances the Charleston, smokes “coffin nails”—appropriate, don’t you think?
And he takes the lass he’s pursuing to the flicks to see Richard Barthelmess and Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms.
The time is just enough of a blend of the old century and the new to make it different.
Now, as to that vampire…
Like a thousand other countries, Ireland has its own home-grown version. The dearg-due (pronounced drag-dul). Though the vampire in Vampires are Forever is male, the true dearg-due is female, a cross between the succubus and the vampire. Her story is typical legend-material…romantic and tragic. A young woman forced into a cruel marriage, she kills herself, then rises to exact revenge upon men, enticing and draining them of blood…and life. The only way to prevent a dearg-due from rising and creating its special havoc is to pile the grave high with stones. Their weight holds the evil spirit inside. I imagine that hold-over is one reason most graves today have slabs over them. (Ce qui? You never wondered about that?)
Don’t think my tale of a vampire descending on a little Irish village is a tragic one, though. Nor is it bloody. It’s more whimsical…uh…fang-in-cheek, if you will, filled with Irish lilts and brash Gaelic characters…though it does have its shivery moments. And I think the ending will give everyone a bit of a laugh as well as leaving them satisfied.
There was a rattle of keys, a click of a lock. Slowly, the door swung open. Everyone prepared to run. Even Seamus tensed, though he would never have admitted it.
“Yes sir?” A man stood there. A very dignified man, dressed in dark, conservative livery. He blinked slightly as the sunlight struck him directly in the eyes. “May I help you?”
“Oh…uh… Right.” That brought Seamus out of his trance. “We—that is, th’ others an’ I—” He gestured behind him at his mates. “We’re from Balleywalegh an’ we saw th’ light last night, an’—”
He stopped, uncertain of what to say.
“Yes, sir, you’re from the village, and—?”
By now, Seamus had gotten a good gander at him and decided he didn’t look as he thought a vampire should, especially a dearg-due. Hadn’t they always been described as extremely ugly, having fiery eyes and the palest of skin and rows and rows of sharp teeth like those piranha-fish he’d read about as lived in South American rivers? This fella… Why, he looked to be about as old as Seamus himself, and certainly neither pale nor fiery- eyed. And definitely not ugly. Pleasant-looking, as a matter of fact. Blond and fair, with blue eyes squinted in the sunlight. And his teeth? They might be a trifle large—what Seamus considered English teeth—but there were no more than the usual number. And they certainly didn’t look sharp.
“—an’ we saw th’ light an’ thought we’d stop by an’ offer a welcome to th’ village.” Conor had finally come out of his daze and managed to speak up, if a trifle weakly.
“Oh. I see.” The man smiled and that transformed his face to something totally human and completely harmless.
“So if your master’s around,” Seamus picked up the thread again. “We’d like to extend an invitation—”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible at the moment, sir,” the man interrupted.
“The master is unavailable. He’s out for the day.”
“Out?” Conor spoke up again. “We haven’t heard any motors passin’ by, an’ anyway, his car’s still here, so how did he travel? Did he fly?”
Conor, you idjit! was all Seamus could think.
The butler—for that’s what Seamus had decided the man was—didn’t appear insulted however. In fact, he smiled again, though his answer was a trifle frosty, this time. “Master Novotny has several motor cars. He occasionally drives himself, Mr—?”
“—Leary. Conor Leary.” It was a moment before Conor spoke, reluctantly supplying his name, then adding, “Mayor o’ Balleywalegh.”
“Mr. Leary.” The butler acknowledged this with a nod. “If you’d care to come back this evening, I’m certain the Master will—”
“We wouldn’t mind waitin’,” Seamus put in quickly, knowing it would take a team of horses and a blast of gunpowder to get Conor or any of the others back here again. Even in daylight. “Until he returns.”
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t be proper,” came the answer, as he expected. “I’ve no authority to allow anyone in without the Master’s permission.” He was pushing the door shut as he spoke. “Just come back this evening.”
The door was closing fast. Seamus attempted to insert one of his Size 13 brogans into the still-open space. “Wait—”
“Good day, sir.” It was said with finality. The door was nearly shut.
“What’s the problem, Steven?” The question came from behind the man, somewhere far inside the house. Asked with a slight accent.
“Sir? W-when did you get back?” There was bewilderment in the question.
“I never went out.” Footsteps came down stairs. The door was pulled open again, the butler looking back. Once again, those on the stoop braced themselves.
The man standing beside Steven couldn’t have been more different. Seamus felt his heart sink as he looked at him. Now here’s what a vampire should look like, was all he could think. Tall, longish dark hair, very much out of style—more like what one of them stage actors would sport, Seamus thought—framing a pallid, narrow face contrasting with the lightest of blue eyes, so pale they appeared nearly colorless… Handsome, yes, the Master of the house truly could’ve graced the screen of any cinema.
As a creature of the night.
“Karel Novotny.” It was an introduction as he peered out at Seamus, blinked as Steven had done, then took a step backward out of the doorway and into the shadows inside. Seamus nodded an acknowledgement and offered a hand.
After a moment, it was accepted, Novotny stepping forward and clasping it in his own. Seamus was surprised at how warm it felt.
“You must excuse Steven,” Master Novotny said, releasing Seamus’ hand. Not much of an accent, Seamus decided, but enough to give his speech an odd melody. His voice was well-modulated, carrying all the way to the men standing on the steps though he wasn’t speaking loudly. “So…you’re a welcoming committee from Balleywalegh,” he summed it up with a smile revealing another set of white teeth. But no pointed ones, as far as Seamus could see. He’d like to get a closer look at those eye-teeth, however. Master Novotny glanced out at the others, as if assessing whether they might be carrying flaming torches, pitchforks, or crucifixes. “And you’ve come to…?”
“—to invite you to th’ Fall Fellowship Festival. To be held this Sunday at th’ town hall.”
“A festival? How interesting. At what time?” That was asked a little quickly.
“Starts at six in th’ afternoon,” Conor spoke up. “So’s we all have time to finish our chores aforehand.”
“Six in the afternoon…” He appeared to consider that. A bit of a scowl appeared on the smooth forehead. Caused by the sun slowly creeping over the threshold?
He’s going to decline. Seamus could tell. He felt his heart sink a little. He was startled to find himself actually believing that nonsense Conor and the others were spouting the night before. He’s goin’ to give us some song-an’-jig about bein’ too busy when in reality, he can’t come out in daylight. ’Tis just a fluke he’s awake now at all.
He was surprised, therefore, when Novotny asked, “And what does one do at a Fall Festival? Will there be food?” Did he imagine it or was there a quick flick of a tongue across a pale lower lip? “And drink?”
“Anything you could want,” Seamus forced joviality into his reply. Aye, the treacherous thought wiggled through his mind, an’ which o’ us will you be wantin’ to sip from? “’Tis to celebrate all th’ good Lord has given us in th’ way o’ bounty this past year.” Was there a slight cringe at the mention of God? If so, it was so brief, he wasn’t certain. Perhaps Novotny’d simply shifted his weight a bit. “There’s be plenty o’ good cookin’ an’ beer an’ even some home-brew…” He let his voice trail away because Novotny was speaking again.
“I’m certain I can make it, Mr…?”
“Flannery. Seamus Flannery.” Now why did I give him my full name?
“…Mr. Flannery. I definitely wish to meet everyone, though I hadn’t expected to quite so early.” Did this second smile hide a secret meaning, some darkness?
“Sir? Y-you’re going?” The butler turned to stare at his master, looking astonished at his acceptance of the invitation.
“Of course!” Novotny looked almost gleeful as he answered.
But sir. What about…?” Steven looked from him to the interior of the house, nodding slightly.
“Any tasks here can wait, I imagine.” Steven’s concern was dismissed with a shrug and a third smile, this one slightly wolfish. “Have you ever known me to turn down a chance for a good dinner…or liquid refreshment? Home brew, you say, Mr. Flannery? I’ve found homemade drink the best kind.”
Now Seamus was certain of it. There was a hidden meaning there. Without meaning to, he shivered. It didn’t go unnoticed. The smile eclipsed a moment, then was back in place.
“I’ll see you all there. On Sunday. Around six.” The door was closing again. Seamus turned away. The door reopened. “Ah…Mr. Flannery…?”
“Yes?” He looked back.
“I was wondering. Could you possibly refer me to a good carpenter? There’s been some damage to one of the rooms. Looks like a fire. Vandals no doubt.” He paused slightly.
“Aye,” Seamus replied. “Vacant houses do invite such.”
“So I supposed. But it will need to be repaired. So…?”
“Ah…well…Sean Sweeney does most o’ th’ carpentry work around here. You might ask after him. If ’tis not too big a job…”
“Sean Sweeney. Excellent.” The dark gaze swept past Seamus to the men on the stoop. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I’ve some things to attend to.”
With a click of finality, the door shut.
Vampires are Forever has been available since May 15 from Class Act Books, www.classactbooks.com.