Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
American author George R.R. Martin is a remarkable writer by anyone’s standards. In his time he has played in, and across, several genres, most notably with his High Fantasy epic, ‘The Game of Thrones’ as well as writing for movies and TV (he is the man behind many of the stories in the now barely remembered ‘Beauty and the Beast’ series as well as ‘The New Twilight Zone’).
However it was with one of his earlier works that he first gained literary fame. The 1982 short novel ‘Fevre Dream’ is an unapologetically old -fashioned vampire horror published long before such things reached the popularity they now enjoy and quite unlike the tooth-and-bodice-rippers of today’s teen-aimed chick-lit (‘Twilight’ et al). Set in a 19th century United States in the sunset years before the Civil War it draws liberally on the traditions of American antebellum literature with knowing nods to the works of Mark Twain among others coupled with the accepted conventions of Vampire literature first formulated by our own Bram Stoker in the late 1800s as well as the greater liberality of the modern Horror genre.
The story follows the adventures of the larger-than-life riverboat captain Abner Marsh who wishes to build the fastest and grandest steamboat on the Mississippi River, which becomes both his towering achievement and ultimate downfall as he agrees to a partnership with a mysterious stranger named Joshua York – with decidedly odd nocturnal habits. With a wonderful descriptive lyricism, sense of narrative, dialogue and character Martin evokes the feel of the southern United States in the heyday of ‘the South’ that seems almost nostalgic, while making pertinent comments about slavery and poverty. His creatures of the night are, in the main, deliberately very human with identifiable emotions and drives yet very much of the Vampire tradition. Those that deviate from that humanized standard are truly horrendous, with some chillingly effective scenes throughout the story that remind the reader of the differences between both.
A strangely endearing book, despite the terrors described within, and with a genuinely touching ending ‘Fevre Dream’ remains one Martin’s best works and the deserved winner of the many awards and accolades it has gained down through the years.
(Author’s Note: This was written before the remarkable success of the Game of Thrones TV series)