In early March, Josh and I wrapped up one of George R.R. Martin’s earlier works, Fevre Dream. It is a vampire book set on a steam boat in the Mississippi River, with much of the story taking place in or near New Orleans. As a fan of literary tourism, I couldn’t help but book us passage on the steamer Natchez to experience Fevre Dream for myself. It turned out to be a wonderful adventure, and pleasantly vampire free.
George R.R. Martin is most well known for being the author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series (Game of Thrones). Time Magazine has called him the “American Tolkien” and has added him to the top 100 most influential people in the world. 14 years before Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin published the “Bram Stoker meets Mark Twain” vampire story, Fevre Dream.
Fevre Dream is about a vampire named Joshua York and his human business partner, Abner Marsh. Together, they build the biggest and fastest river-boat steamer the world has ever seen. Although Joshua is the blood-sucker, Abner’s love for his steamer, the Fevre Dream, is really the most troubling part of the story. His bullishness and deep desire to make a name for the boat gets him in all sorts of trouble, leading to the revelation that his partner is a vampire. And that his vampire partner has other vampire friends who eat people. So the plot thickens.
Fevre Dream is no Game of Thrones. The story is a bit lacking and the characters lack the depth of his GoT cast. It was a decent read, however, and left us very curious about this strange world of river-boat steamers. Do they really race along the Mississippi River? How big could they really be? Our trip to New Orleans gave us the perfect opportunity to explore.
The Steamer Natchez
In the book, as well as real life, the Natchez was famously fast. In 1870, it broke the speed record against the Robert E. Lee in a race from New Orleans to St. Louis. That version of the Natchez (there have been nine since 1823) was 301 feet (92 m) long and had eight boilers. In the book, it is Abner’s wish that the Fevre Dream be bigger, faster, and more beautiful than the famous Natchez.
Now, Natchez IX is one of only steam powered sternwheelers left on the Mississippi River. It no longer transports cotton from south to north, but instead runs daily river cruises out of New Orleans. While we were in town, we booked a two-hour Dinner and Jazz River Cruise. We got excellent views of the city, a New Orleans buffet dinner, and a look into the life of a steamboat passenger. I also bought a Bloody Mary. It seemed appropriate when walking in the shoes of a vampire.
Any time we can put ourselves into the settings of the books we read, it adds a special layer of intrigue. We really enjoyed our steam boat cruise and felt like we better understood the characters of Fevre Dream. I particularly enjoyed yelling “Joshua!” in my best Abner Marsh southern accent. There is nothing quite like pestering Josh in a special place and in a fun accent. 🙂