Yves Fey, author of Floats the Dark Shadow is my Halloween guest blogger.
A Fin de Siecle Halloween
Parisians have adopted Halloween, dressing their children as various monstres, fantômes or sorcières, sometimes even as Egyptian momies, but it is not truly their holiday. Instead they have a more somber sort of Day of the Dead on November 1st — La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day. Graves are visited and bouquets of autumnal chrysanthemums left in displays praised as worthy of tourist visits.
Nonetheless, if the clock struck midnight in Paris on Halloween and you climbed into a passing coach for a magical mystery tour of the city in all its fin de siècle glory, you could have treated yourself to a long night on the town, conjuring suitable shivers to celebrate the holiday.
First, you could visit the most famous of black cats, Le Chat Noir, signpost and mascot of the Paris cabaret, and the veritable symbol of Montmartre. Le Chat Noir is considered the first modern nightclub, where the patrons imbibed their potables while watching a show. There were comic monologues, singers, and the famous “shadow plays.”
Having seen the Cat, which only lived until 1897, one might wander over to Le Rat Mort, which maintained its existence for a good deal longer. Legend says the rat was punished by death for having disturbed some clients engaged in a most private tête a tête. Or perhaps other body parts were engaged. Despite its unappetizing name, the club was quite spacious. Artists populated it by day, at night it was one of the most favored lesbian haunts.
From their names, Le Chat Noir and Le Rat Mort are quite suitable for Halloween veneration, but there were clubs far creepier in context. Le Cabaret du Néant, or Nothingness, would now most certainly be the darling of the Goth crowd. There the tables were coffins. Trompe l’oeil tricks turned flesh and blood humans into skeletons before the delighted eyes of the patrons with a visual illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (I can’t help it, I hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band start to play).
More skeletons dangled from the ceiling of Nothingness, taking the form of crazed chandeliers. The lighting cast a greenish pall over the inhabitants, and waiters dressed as undertakers invited them to partake of such delicacies as a microbe of Asiatic cholera from the last corpse. Perhaps you should move on?
I suggest you finish your Halloween tour in Hell. Promising damnation, Satan will gesture you through a mouth of gigantic demonic fangs and into L’Enfer’s interior of plaster souls writing on the ceiling. Inside, the walls ooze metallic lava from their crevices. There is the occasional belch of sulphuric smoke and rumble of thunder. At your blood red table, you can order a seething bumper of molten sin, with a dash of brimstone—black coffee with cognac. According to William Chambers Morrow, who visited the club in 1900, the club’s drinks promise to “season your intestines, and render them invulnerable, for a time at least, to the tortures of the melted iron that will be soon poured down your throats.”
Feeling parched? Le Ciel, Heaven, is right next door, filled with fluffy clouds and star-spangled ceilings. There you’ll be served by gauzy angels (doing a bit of moonlighting from the Moulin Rouge). They’ll serve a star dazzler to cool your throat. But why would you go Heaven on Halloween? Just down another bumper of molten sin and remain invulnerable.
About Yves Fey
My first introduction to Yves Fey was when I was asked to review her wonderful dark mystery Floats the Dark Shadow by the Historical Novel Society. You can read my review here.
Floats the Dark Shadow is the first of Yves’ series set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It recently won several Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards.
Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing when she was twelve. She holds a Bachelor’s in Pictorial Arts from UCLA, and a MFA from the University of Oregon in Creative Writing. In her varied career, she has been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, baker, creator of ceramic beasties, illustrator, fiction teacher, and finally, novelist. She’s won prizes for her chocolate desserts, and her current obsession is designing perfumes inspired by her characters and by the magical city of Paris. A Libra with Scorpio Rising, Yves’ romantic nature takes on a darker edge. She hopes these shadows bring depth.
A world traveler, Yves has visited Paris, England, and Italy. She lived for two years in Jakarta, Indonesia, with many trips around Asia. She wishes she could live in Montmartre like her heroine, but feels lucky to reside across the bridge from San Francisco, with her husband and their three cats, an Asian Burmese dubbed Marlowe the Investigator and two rescued girls, half Siamese and half tabby, The Flying Bronte Sisters.
Under her own name, Gayle Feyrer, she authored two historical romances for Dell. The first takes place in the lush and violent world of Renaissance Italy. The second is set amid the earthy glamour of Robin Hood’s Sherwood. Under the nom de plume Taylor Chase, she wrote two historical romances for Avon. These novels explored the turbulent realm of Elizabethan England, an era of brash and bawdy manners contrasting with elaborate courtly protocol, of vice and venality contending with a questing romantic spirit. These books will all soon be available again under her own Tygerbright imprint.
To learn more about Yves, her books, and fin de siecle Paris, visit http://yvesfey.com