Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The irony of it is...

I've just now received from a Canadian bookseller what is very likely my final mail-order Gothic: Wyndspelle, by Aola Vandergriff:

That's an Ebay scan.

This is likely my last mail-order Gothic on the basis of my dislike of ordering books "on the blind." Of course with Absinthe and Gloomy Sunday we were able to see what Gothics she'd obtained and reviewed; at least 12 of them caught my interest and I placed orders.

The irony here is, if I recall correctly, Absinthe said "Wyndspelle" was her first Gothic and the one which started her off to acquiring and reading more. And it turns out this same novel is my last to receive via mail-order. Sure, just a coincidence but it's ... sort of ironic.

Prior to receiving "Wyndspelle" in the mail, I received the 2nd-to-final mail order Gothic: "Vengeance of the Cat Goddess" by Jennifer Stephens [Trixie's already given it an enthusiastic 4 Paws, on the basis of the cover art alone]:

That was scanned by Absinthe.


Yesterday my husband and I paid a visit to a nearby large border (US/Mexico) city. Sad to say the Gothic offerings there are nil. The city was impoverished for decades, and the dominant culture frowned upon "ladies of leisure" -- particularly taking time out to read. Many of them likely could not read nor speak English for that matter. It's another reminder of cultural differences.

It seems our little city 55 miles to the north is an oasis as Gothic novels go, for this region. We've had hundreds of northern retirees moving in, and I'm again certain it's these ladies cleaning out their packing boxes and filling the shelves [keep them coming!!].

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carnaby Curse by Daoma Winston [1967]

Found this Belmont Double Gothic last May, locally. Found the cover scan via:


That's a favorite cover art of mine. It captures the story perfectly.

I give the story 5 stars out of 5. :-) Carnaby Curse is beautifully written. It's definitely crafted in a more feminine style, with certain traditionally feminine elements to it; however, it's NOT weak -- neither is Megan Benson. Forgive me if it seems sexist, but I'm rather certain ladies 40+ (I'm 43) might instantly take to the story's overall aura.

Megan Benson is definitely a likeable character, imo. She's 24 and just returned to Carnaby House in "the cold hills of Connecticut" with her younger sister, Kristine, and cousins Terrence and Celia. Megan grew up in Carnaby House with Kristine and their cousins; it was not a happy childhood. The return to Carnaby House is not a happy one either; Megan should now be married to Rory and honeymooning on a sunny beach in Bermuda...but alas, Fate decreed it otherwise.

Megan begins to brood over what she's certain is a curse on her. As a younger woman she'd believed Carnaby House was cursed; but no, Megan's seeming ill-fated star had followed her far beyond the bounds and reaches of Carnaby House; the curse resided within her...didn't it?

The family and friend dynamic of this wonderful Gothic novella is different than most. That boosted its appeal for me.

As Megan continues grappling with depression and despondency against the haunting backdrop of the misty/foggy Connecticut hills, someone attempts to kill her...or it seems that way. Megan learns an unhappy and unsavory truth regarding her mother's youthful death. Is Megan tainted by her mother's tragic fate?

Or IS someone trying to kill her? If so, why?

Liam arrives on the scene. He's instantly attracted to Megan, who instantly rejects any overtures. Megan soon acquires another would-be suitor, and twice rejects that man's marriage proposals. Into this heady mix comes Celia's mature and confident flirting with Liam, and young Kristine's jealous awkwardness.

It's a well-balanced, nicely paced Gothic with just the right amount of haunting qualities. The ending unfolds smoothly and is satisfyingly surprising.

The cast of characters as I *loosely* visualized them:

Megan Benson: Bridget Fonda [age 24]
Kristine Benson: Sharon Tate [age 17]
Terrence Parr: Tall, handsome, blonde as described [age 26].
Celia Parr: Sharon Stone [age 25]
Liam: Tall, dark, handsome as described [age 30]
Budgie: Reta Shaw [age 62]
Clyde: As described [age 65]

Trixie gives it 1 Paw: No mention of nor reference to a cat. ;-p

Friday, December 26, 2008

Gloomy Sunday update

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I sent a snail-mail greeting to Absinthe's street address (again, I won't give it out to anyone so please don't write and ask). There's been no reply.

I doubt this post is premature. It seems a certainty that Absinthe's "Gloomy Sunday" blog is permanently gone. Knowing what I do of internet forums, once a forum is deleted it -IS- deleted. I have no idea what might have happened and it's pointless to speculate. This has caused me a lot of concern and trepidation, despite the fact that we were still relative strangers and I knew only perhaps 5 personal items about Absinthe. I can't help wondering if something very bad has happened to Absinthe or in her life. :-(

2008 has been a weird and trying year as friends and acquaintances go; it's contained shockingly sudden upheavals and losses (though since November there has been a tremendous and equally unexpected GAIN of a group of real-life friends; a happy reunion), and I'm sad (and extremely chagrined) to say Absinthe and Gloomy Sunday's disappearance has been most shocking of all, despite the online nature of it all.

I truly and 100% genuinely do miss Absinthe and "Gloomy Sunday" -- it was wonderful reading Absinthe's reviews, checking out the cover art and getting a notion of what GR novels are in circulation in her area.

Guess you're stuck with me now. Don't know what else to say except my best thoughts and wishes to Absinthe...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Treats, unexpected surprises & a question...

Stopped by the local used bookstore after doing a bit of banking. I picked up four Gothics, one of which is my next-to-read: It's set in Ireland and includes a Glossary in the back, and a RECIPE for Irish Green or Erin Sauce. Cool! B-) And it has awesome cover art; can't wait to review and share the cover art -- including a scan of the novel's back -- with you!

I have a question: Does anyone recall Absinthe of Gloomy Sunday mentioning "pocket edition" Gothic mini-novels? I've tried locating her post via Google Cached and cannot find it. Would like to pick up some of those (none available locally apparently; I've not yet encountered one) and need a bit of info, particularly the *publisher.* Thanks in advance for any input/direction.

Currently I'm reading a novel out of a Belmont Double Gothic by Daoma Winston. So far so very good, and will review it ASAP. Happy Holidays to all! :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Amber Twilight by Miriam Lynch [1967]

One of the (likely) rare times I'll be reviewing 2 stories in 1 day. Finished "Amber Twilight" by Miriam Lynch just an hour ago; read it within a day. This cover art was found via http://gothicnovellover.com, which Barrymore notified me of Saturday. I've had a previous cover scan [obtained via Fantasticfiction.co.uk], but this one is much sharper.

And as the back cover got cut off via E-Blogger Image, here's the link:


This story gets 5 stars out of 5 - and then some. It is FANTASTIC. :-) It's a 92-page stick of dynamite which grabs you from the first page and keeps you turning. All elements of excellent storytelling are here, imo, especially balance, pacing and surprises.

Susan Leyton is a 23-year-old secretary who is also a shutterbug. She's in-between romances, again enjoying the single life, and decides one lazy and very snowy Saturday morning to drive beyond the town limits to photograph Blackhall.

Blackhall was owned by wealthy elitist Nathan Black in the late 1800's. He and his wife esconced themselves there, never bothering with "the peasantry" nearby. A solitary daughter was born to the Blacks, who went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood.

Susan is forced to recall this bit of history later -- after she's been conked in the head while focusing the camera preparing to take a couple of shots [she's hoping to enter and win an amateur photography contest with Blackhall as subject] and waking up in a strange room. LOCKED into the room, actually.

Her two known captors are a hostile older woman and a malicious dwarf. A hateful ragged voice booms menacingly through the corridors, thanks to a speaker/amplifier system. No electricity: Just row upon row and many clusters of candles, all of which give the ghastly mansion its continual eerie amber-twilight ambience.

Susan, of course, seeks escape. She has a friend in the enemy camp, who hides her until she can be safely released. But Susan wonders why her new-found friend can't simply stand up for her and order her release. She's left to her doubts and fears overnight, in the only room with electricity: The tower cupola. There she discovers a large splotch of what seems dried blood, dozens of framed photos of Cecily Sinclair [aka Margaret Black] in her Hollywood glory days, pieces of old furniture. Then a blizzard whips up, further delaying Susan's escape.

All the hostilities and furies of Blackhall ultimately culminate in the cupola.

Well crafted and super-enjoyable! I especially enjoyed all the wintry elements in the story, including aspects of blizzards I'd somewhat forgotten in the many years I've been away from Iowa.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Susan Leyton: Lauren Holly [age 23]
Richard Black: Don Briscoe [age 28]
Roxie: Ellen Corby [age 66]
Sidney: N/A
Cecily: N/A
Mickey: As described.

Trixie gives the story 1 Paw: No mention of cats or anything cat-like. Who's the species-ist, hmmmm?? ;-)

Cover Art: Face in the Pond [Clarissa Ross]

Thanks to Barrymore, who shared http://gothicnovellover.com/gallery/main.php, I was able to obtain a cover scan of this lovely novel which I reviewed in early November. Clarissa Ross was a pseudonym for W.E.D. Ross. I love this cover art and am glad it includes the back of the novel as well.

Here's the LARGE version:


Sorry, Link feature never works for me.

Mistress of Ravenstone by Monica Heath [1973]

Usually I'm offline Mondays, but today's an exception; I finished this novel last evening [scan obtained from Barrymore -- *thanks*!] and I also accidentally left one of my treasured Belmont Double Gothics at a restaurant this a.m.! :-( That Belmont DG is "Amber Twilight" by Miriam Lynch & "Portrait of Terror" by Paula Minton [scan of this cover posted in November, IIRC]. Fortunately the restaurant owner and her waitress are honest; safekept the book for me and instantly returned it. Belmont DG's are rare and this one's in mint condition; NEVER again is it leaving the house. Can't believe I did that, but all's well that ends well. :-\

As for "Mistress of Ravenstone": I'm sorry to say it rates only 3 stars on a scale of 1 - 5. And I dislike being critical of others' published work. The story opens with Lorraine, who's recently moved to San Francisco after having had her heart broken by a former fiancee in her small California hometown. On a lonely day she decides to visit the Palace of Fine Arts and there meets Nicholas Laughlin, who is giving a tour. They strike up a whirlwind romance [despite his preoccupation with an alleged family curse], soon marry. Nick's nasty nit of a sister, Maggie, throws a party "in honor" of Nick and Lorraine, but it's evident she hates Lorraine. Enter Felicia, Nick's old flame -- an older woman who is deeply mystical and involved in the occult; and Radi, Felicia's personal "swami". Lorraine overhears Maggie telling Sandy [a friend] of all the terrible and premature deaths Nick's previous girlfriends have suffered; is it the lingering Laughlin curse? The Laughlins are Americans for generations, but the ancestral castle remains; it's reclaimed by Nick's parents and the ghost of a beheaded Laughlin wife centuries ago is said to have cursed the castle and family, and continues to haunt the castle.

Lorraine and Nick go on a brief hectic honeymoon. An anonymous letter arrives for Nick, who becomes aggitated by it. Lorraine discovers the letter; it's regarding the alleged family curse, warning the Laughlins away from Ireland. Nick ignores it; they arrive at the castle to inhabit and renovate it.

Into this mix comes Felicia, Maggie, Radi...and Breasel, a local colorful Irish character, young and handsome, who's said to have been "fairy struck" as an infant: An alleged changeling, a sickly one of the Faery Folk who now lives as a human.

I found a certain decision by Nick's parents unbelievable; if good and worthy in-laws, they wouldn't dream of subjecting Lorraine -- their son's new bride -- to such galling inconveniences. Elements in the story are repeated and repeated, as though for padding; as if the author couldn't come up with fresh material or think up interesting twists/turns. Most sadly, Lorraine and Nick -- despite being THE main characters -- are boring. Their personalities aren't fleshed out; I felt apathetic towards both. The only interesting characters are Felicia and Breasel. The author does have one character killed off; the wrong one, imo. And the ending seems so rushed.

Trixie gives it 2 Paws: "Cat-like" is mentioned.

Of course this is just a subjective opinion. Others might find the book entertaining. I was in a hurry to finish it; that's how unsatisfied I was.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New: Co-reviewer / rating system

Since she likes curling up with Mommy while I'm reading [and trying to gnaw/chew on cover corners] and she's absolutely lazy in the daytime [sacked out on the day-bed usually], I've decided to put Trixie to good use: Co-reviewer of my Gothic novels. Her rating system will be:

One Paw: This stinks. No cat mentioned; nothing pertaining to cats whatsoever. A dog must have written this! You humans are SO species-ist; it's all about you self-important BIPEDS or those barking knuckleheads you love so much...! [You get the drift; see what I have to put up with?]

Two Paws: Alludes to a cat just once. I'm so NOT impressed.

Three Paws: Meow-velous! A cat figures in the story, maybe even mentioned by name!

Four Paws: **Double** meow-velous! I'm bowled over! There is a cat in the cover art AND s/he has a name in the story. All cats should *definitely* curl up with their Mom or Dad while reading this novel...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

~*~ Happy Holidays! ~*~

Wishing my regular readers Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year! It wouldn't take much for 2009 to be more prosperous, huh? :-\

Those black Yule trees truly are beauties. There are none for sale around here, and I doubt my husband would go for one. We have the traditional green up and decorated; it's a "Charlie Brown" artificial tree I've had since 1991. Brought it with me from NE, have kept it this long out of sheer sentiment. It looks rather ragged and "good grief" when taken out of its original box, but once decorated it's a *dazzler* which looks fine enough for a department-store window. :-D I should take Before/After pictures to prove this. Even I'm like, "Wow...that's the same tree??"

I might take a slow-down over the next two weeks; not only because of the impending major holidays, but also I've picked up some non-fictional material I want to dive into. But more cover scans and reviews are forthcoming.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let's Scare Jessica to Death [film - 1971]

This is an excellent movie I've managed to catch a couple of times on late-night or Sunday-afternoon TV. I'm generally not a movie fan and don't collect many of them; but this film is a stand-out and it is Gothic. I'm going to order a copy. It's been a while since I've seen LSJtD, so I'll defer to this man's fine review from IMDb [The Internet Movie Database]:

Dreams or nightmares, madness or sanity...it's amazing. Author: Vince-5 from northeastern PA:

Unjustly neglected, Let's Scare Jessica to Death ranks with The Haunting (1963) as a classic of understated horror. Everything about it is brilliantly eerie--from the tombstone etchings to the hostile townsfolk to the whispering voices in Jessica's head. From beginning to end, there is a distinct impression that beneath this picturesque rural setting something is very wrong...and this sense builds slowly and lyrically, leading up to a breathtaking shock-twist climax. And still, as in The Haunting, we're left with the question, "Was it real?"

Benefiting from a well-utilized low budget and beautiful color photography, this is one of the most subtly scary motion pictures you'll ever find. The characters are well-rounded and brought to life by a team of talented character actors. Zohra Lampert positively glows as the sweet, delicate Jessica; she is superbly expressive and keeps you firmly at her side all the way. Her performance should be studied as a casebook example of how to play a fragile, sympathetic character. And this rich, highly imaginative Gothic chiller is essential viewing for fans of intelligent terror.+++

This film includes Jessica's tombstone-rubbing "hobby," which was the first time I'd seen or known of it. If you get the chance and haven't already, rent and watch it.

Image obtained from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067341/

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank you Barrymore & Cover art via Ebay/Amazon

First, thank you Barrymore for sending me a scan of "Mistress of Ravenstone" by Monica Heath! :-) I'm currently (albeit slowly, due to increasing holiday rush) reading and relishing it.

I've obtained 2 additional cover art via Ebay [camera icon], 1 via Amazon. Thanks again Karswell for recommending Ebay as a cover scan source; it's been a lifesaver.

Here they are:

Whistle for the Crows was reviewed on May 25.

Nurse at the Castle was reviewed on July 2.

The Secrets of Dr. Taverner was recommended on August 30.

I'll include the scans in the reviews ASAP.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Food in the stories: Feast or Famine

Last evening Lorraine and Nicholas enjoyed St. Honore cake with coffee; they're just becoming acquainted. I've probably heard of St. Honore cake, but had to Google for it. Yuuum! Thank goodness it's 1973; if 2008 they'd be munching on rice cakes with cucumber slices instead (yuuuck!). "The tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked pastry rose around us in moistly fragrant waves..." I am so there. ;-)

Nicholas tells Lorraine she has a wholesome appearance; as though she'd been reared on "fresh milk and apples." That's *whole* milk, no doubt, as in all those old TV shows wherein a child always has a tall cold glass of milk with a sandwich (Wonder Bread brand, no doubt; white) or slice of chocolate fudge layer cake.

The authors, perhaps due in part to their own preferences, seem to be "feast or famine." In some stories "tea and toast" is mostly what the heroine subsists on. Or, more rarely, coffee and cigarettes. :-\ In "Reception at High Tower," the heroine is fearful of suffering from hallucinations and does have a spotty memory; she's still recovering from a nervous breakdown. And yet she consistently refuses to eat, including 36 hours of nothing but coffee and cigarettes. That was annoying; she would have especially needed her strength then.

Otherwise we're treated to mouth-watering descriptions of succulent roast beef with thick gravy, baked potatoes, apple pie, tender filet of fish, fancy puddings, etc. And there's the inevitable *TRAY* of food delivered up to one's room. Served in bed [if the master or mistress of the mansion], or carried to the heroine's room. That'd be a nice luxurious option; "Yes, please send a tray up."

I like descriptions of meals in the stories, even if I don't need the temptation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Gloomy Sunday" Update

A delicate topic, and with all due [tremendous] respect: Perhaps it's my imagination, but it seems Absinthe's "Gloomy Sunday" blog is becoming harder to access via Google Cached feature; which is the only way I know to access it now.

I've tried contacting Absinthe via e-mail, and more recently via snail-mail. I'm awaiting [hopefully] a snail-mail reply. Please do *not* request her street address from me; I will not give it out.

I've copied/pasted to My Pictures the 3 Gothic Romance comic books Absinthe scanned and posted to Gloomy Sunday. I will eventually contact a GR message board and request those images be included in their Files section. If not, I'll consider a "Plan B" in honor of Absinthe's work/effort in sharing those images with us ["Plan B" will *not* include this blog]. One of those comics alone is 39 pages! {-whew!-} I'm especially awed at Absinthe's devotion.

It seems there was a 4th comic she scanned/posted. From "Sinister House of Secret Love"? I recall one panel of a "modern" woman seated in the back of a car beside a burial plot on a rainy day. Can't find it. :-(

Meanwhile I'll wait a while to see if I get word from Absinthe. :-) If not, my next update will concern inclusion of the comic-book images elsewhere.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shadows by Jan Alexander [1970]

Obtained this cover scan via Fantasticfiction.co.uk. It's just a tad fuzzy, and the words beneath Shadows reads: "Ghosts rule a Hollywood manor with a deadly hand -- must Mari join them in eternal damnation?"

I finished reading this marvelous novel 20 minutes ago. It rates a definite *5 Stars* on a scale of 1-5.

The author, Jan Alexander, is actually Victor J. Banis. Apparently he is/was "a native Californian who grew up in the movie colony." This is the 2nd of such Hollywood-oriented Gothics I've read, the previous of which was "Mist of Evil" by Patty Brisco [reviewed in September]. For some reason I've liked the Hollywood "movie scene" draw and was happy to find this Gothic last month.

Mari Andrews is the 24-year-old niece of Maggie Berke, a living Hollywood legend. Mari's been working in her native Minneapolis, MN, with her mother, Maggie's sister, in their own fashion/clothing business. But Mari is intrigued with Maggie [who is gracious and good-hearted despite her phenomenal fame and money; just PLEASE don't call her "Aunt" Maggie ;-P ], and decides to pay Maggie a visit [it's been 20 years] while trying her hand at breaking into show biz.

I like this descriptive of Maggie, glamorous and regal on the stair landing, greeting Mari with "...that familiar pose; hip thrust to one side, arms outstretched, head thrown back in a frozen toss of laughter."

Can't you just SEE that? Powerful descriptive, particularly the last.

Maggie is elated with Mari's visit. Buddy's spirit, however, isn't. Just as Mari is about to cross the landing to sail upstairs and into her aunt's welcoming arms, the huge and heavy overhead chandelier comes crashing down. A terrified woman appears behind Maggie, nearly leaping on her and screaming in terror: Elisa.

Elisa is Maggie's stepdaughter. She's convinced Buddy's ghost doesn't want Mari there. From the get-go she's cold, unwelcoming, nervous and hostile towards Mari. Is it a case of exaggerated superstition or something else? And what, if anything, has Davis -- the maintenance man -- to do with Elisa's moods?

As for Davis, he's a sinister character. Rude, abrupt, hostile; doesn't behave like an employee of an estate.

Maggie's son, Buddy Berke, had been a childhood Hollywood sensation; even bigger than Shirley Temple. Unfortunately Buddy died tragically of pneumonia before age 10. His death haunts Maggie, who blames herself; The Aerie [her palatial estate] is a memorial to her beloved Buddy. And she's convinced his spirit haunts the place; visits and speaks to her. And what Buddy's telling his mother is he hates Mari and wants her gone.

Mari soon meets Maggie's dashing young doctor, Ken Wolfe. They strike up a sweet and slow romance. Mari is ruled out as actress material. She knows eventually she must return to MN if the romance with Dr. Wolfe doesn't work out; Maggie is supportive and hospitable...for a while.

Then, at The Aerie, matters take a progressive turn for the worse. Maggie seems to be losing her grip on reality. Though she's not yet 60, is she perhaps in the early stages of senility? Is she losing her mind due to insanity? Buddy's spirit continues to warn Maggie that Mari's in danger and should leave. Maggie is upset by Buddy's unjustified hostility. Mari is visited at nights by an apparition-like being; at one point she is nearly killed.

The story is a heady brew of tranquilizers, a seance, a temporary disappearance, action [more on Mari's part than any other protagonist's I've yet read], deliberate interference on Mari's part to frustrate the plans of her enemy [you go girl!] and of course intrigue.

Unlike other Gothics of the time I've read, this one included a reference to the Apollo Program [watching a simulation of going to the Moon and back], and also a vivid and enjoyable description of "hippies" strolling and dancing along the Sunset Strip.

There is one "blooper" in the storytelling: At one point Maggie and Mari are in the library, reminiscing over Maggie's old glamour shots. Maggie begins reminiscing about Buddy, becomes mildly upset. They're in the mansion, in the library. The next chapter continues the scene...with them *outdoors* and discussing going back inside, which they do. The devil is truly in the details with storytelling; I know that first-hand. :-\

There are two terrific surprises at the end. Just when the story seems to be flagging, straining at the bit to be finished -- it GETS finished, in spectacular fashion. :-) Very satisfying.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Ms. Maggie Berke [age 59]: Joan Bennett, with sable-brown hair.

Mari Andrews [age 24]: A mixture of pretty young actresses at the time: Soft brunette hair pulled back, large hazel-green eyes, fine features.

Dr. Kenneth Wolfe [age 29]: George Peppard.

Elisa [age 28]: I disliked this character so didn't bother.

Davis [age 32]: Clint Eastwood.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Are Star Wars Eps. II & III Gothic Romance?

Beautiful lady, dashing and handsome suitor. After a 10-year absence, a whirlwind romance ensues. A secret love, secret wedding. They're young, could have a bright and happy future ahead of them...except for the escalation of Darkness and warfare. Danger, deceit and trickery swirling all around. Can their love save them?

And then all does go so horribly wrong.

A *negative* Gothic Romance? There is no happy ending here. Same as many storylines on "Dark Shadows."

I think it could classify as a Gothic Romance; it contains the necessary elements including suspense, betrayal, sinister powers, scheming and manipulation vs. nobility, kindness and bravery, etc.


I've begun reading two Gothics. In one [published in 1970], the main character -- an actress named Maggie -- is described by her niece [the protagonist] as "a little old lady": Gaunt skin, slightly stooped posture, entirely gray hair, only a ghost of her former beauty remaining. I figured the grand dame is perhaps 78? Turns out Maggie is only *almost* 60 years old. What a change from today, with our hot 60-something sirens like Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Susan Lucci. Sure, some of it is advanced cosmetic techniques. But it's true that "60 is the new 40." It was a nice reminder of "then and now."

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm in Gloomy Sunday withdrawal...

Oh gosh do I miss Absinthe and her Gloomy Sunday blog! :-( I'm definitely in withdrawal.

Absinthe's blog can still be viewed via Google Cached feature. Type in (for example) Gloomy Sunday: September 2008 and select the Cached option. You'll also be able to view Comments section.

Absinthe scanned and posted at least 2, and maybe 3, Gothic Romance comic books from the early 1970s. If I don't hear back from Absinthe (will wait a while), I'll contact the owner of a Gothic Romance *message board* and see if she/they will allow me to post those comic book images to their Library File. I'd hope Absinthe would be pleased with further sharing of those lovely pages and her work/effort at that message board.

I also own two GR comic books; I'll consider scanning (in the future) the one she DIDN'T own and DIDN'T scan.

More later... *sad sigh*

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lord Satan by Janet Louise Roberts [1972]

This is the copy Absinthe included in her prize box to me last month. Still no word on Absinthe and Gloomy Sunday; I sadly presume that wonderful blog is permanently no more, am concerned about Absinthe...and a bit depressed. She previously scanned this cover, and before disappearing offered (in a recent Comments section here) to let me "snag" her scans. I'm grateful.

This novel was also published via Avon, and was one of its "Satanic Gothics." That cover has been posted here; scroll down 5 posts.

This is a strange novel. Initially I liked it, then began disliking it, and towards the end it finally won me over. It's dramatic, sometimes a bit silly, always entertaining.

It's October 1815. Adrienne Caudill is a 17-year-old Englishwoman whose dear father recently died after suffering an accident. Her mother is already deceased. Innocent, naive, sheltered, Adrienne has nowhere to go; and then a letter arrives from a 3rd cousin, Vincent Stanton, Lord of Castle Caudill [they are related via their mothers], also known as Lord Satan ["With a name like Satan, it's got to be trouble"]. He is concerned for her, wishes to have "a care for" her. Will she come and be his guest at Castle Caudill? She agrees and travels to meet him at an Inn. They meet, dine together; then he whisks her home and immediately sets about dominating and controlling her [no surprise].

And this is where the novel gets a bit irksome: Adrienne [that was a name for any English woman in 1815?] is *very* innocent/naive; to the point of being more like 12 than 17. Though women of the time didn't go to raves nor learn martial arts, she's far too naive and sheltered for a common fisherman's daughter in a humble village [a harsh/rough life]; at this point she's a rather unbelievable character.

Vincent is domineering to the point of physically carrying and/or supporting her wherever they go. He decides what she'll wear, how her hair will be fixed, picks her wardrobe, even prepares her tea [controlling how much sugar and cream it'll contain]; all that is no surprise [to a point]. But he also holds goblets and cups to her lips for her to drink from, on and on [ *rolleyes* ]. What was especially tiring was all the *carrying* of Adrienne to and fro; eventually she'd develop atrophy of the muscles or gain 100 pounds from lack of exercise! I'm surprised Vincent didn't use his magical demonic powers to blink her eyelids for her; Satan forbid Adrienne have to exert herself in any respect!

It's all rather overdone. :-\ The cutsie-pie babydoll thing was another.

But then...BUT THEN...

They marry. And things get interesting from there [despite certain logical flaws in the telling]. Their "wedding" is a harrowing nightmare in which Vincent must make his bride nearly blacking-out drunk in order to withstand it. And unbeknownst to our dear little Adrienne, her father-in-law also participates in "the ceremony"...and if she recalled his participation at all, she'd never be friendly to him as she was later.

Vincent continues his controlling, ill-tempered, domineering ways. He threatens to beat Adrienne if she doesn't obey. She is torn between remaining and leaving, especially after witnessing a Black Mass. But she realizes he won't ever let her go. Adrienne resolves to love Vincent and try to change him for good and God. However, Vincent is truly half devil and half human.

And then murders on the moors ensue. A serial rapist and killer of young girls is on the loose. Adrienne discovers she's pregnant. She resolves to discover whether or not Vincent is the rapist/killer of the girls before their baby is born.

The ghost of Vincent's mother is a charming addition to the story. A major *flaw* in the novel is the involvement of Vincent's father [Roderick] -- who is a devil. At one point they're discussing the *evil* of the murders on the moors, getting Satan himself to intervene to discover who the murderer is, discussing whether or not a man in the village [a suspect in the rapes/murders] "is possessed by evil"...um, they're devil and 1/2 devil, decrying EVIL? Vincent asks his father if he's gotten a report on the matter from Satan. So...Satan & Co are crime fighters? When Vincent is formally accused of being the villain, he and Roderick threaten to punish the entire village with death; this despite Vincent saying he's not a murderer and would never murder, especially not children. Then in the next paragraph he's threatening again to destroy *everyone* in the village. Isn't that...murder? The author really fell down on this one, geez!!

Adrienne does mature quickly. Of course she must. She becomes a courageous heroine, brave and noble. She's kind and caring to all around her -- including and especially to the poor and frightened villagers and tenants; she often intervenes on their behalf against Vincent's initial cruelty and intolerance. On that basis, I give the novel 4 stars; otherwise I'd give it 3.

I visualized the characters as they're described in the book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Signet Double Gothic

Found this lovely Signet Double Gothic by accident, while browsing a Canadian bookstore for a Belmont DG; they scanned the cover. Not sure how many DG's Signet produced; Googling with "Signet Double Gothic" yields up 4 additional volumes.

I especially like the artwork for "Night at Sea Abbey"; it's both Gothic and *Fantasy*, imo. :-) Love those blues and greens, and her red blouse is a dramatic contrast.

It's a surprisingly thick book; nearly twice as many pages as all Belmont DG's I own. Each story is probably 50 pages longer. But that's not necessarily a plus; I prefer my stories short and sweet.

Am very glad to have this in my collection.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gloomy Sunday "gone"--?

I see Absinthe posted to her blog again 2 days ago. I clicked on the link to read it, but this error message results:

"Blog has been removed

Sorry, the blog at glooomysunday.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.

Did you expect to see your blog here? See: 'I can't find my blog on the Web, where is it?'"


I went to Google and entered "Lived Castle Gloomy Sunday" to pull up the link to her review of "We Have Always Lived in the Castle." That too results in the above error message. :-( Nothing I try will bring up the Gloomy Sunday blog.

Will write Absinthe privately if there's no response to this post. I hope everything is okay...

And now I'm a bit concerned my blog might suddenly vanish. :-O

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dark Eden by Barbara Kevern [1973]

A jewel of a story. Definitely 5 stars out of 5! :-)

Scan obtained 1/31/08 via BookIT.com and inserted.

This novel was included in Absinthe's prize box. Thanks for tucking it into that box, Absinthe; it's one of my favorite Gothics yet and I read it in record time. I even stayed up late on a work night to finish it!

Elizabeth Jarrow Gilmore is a young magazine editor from NYC who's just inherited Harmer House near Blackston, Virginia. Elizabeth is originally from the Blackston area; at age 6 she was suddenly orphaned just a mile or two from Harmer House. Mr. Angus Harmer took the frightened girl in, wishing to adopt her; alas, county officials figured the girl needed both father and mother, and little Elizabeth was taken to an orphange. She was soon adopted by the Gilmores.

Elizabeth arrives 20 years later to Harmer House, to reluctantly claim her inheritance. Mr. Harmer had been so kind and loving to her, but this final act of care was too much. She arrives in a rain storm and sits a while in the warmth of her car, trepidaciously regarding the foreboding mansion while recalling bittersweet memories.

Once inside, Elizabeth is greeted by a cold and curt servant named Harold. Edith Harmer, Angus' sister, is the last of the Harmers; she's in her 60s and wheelchair-bound for nearly 25 years. Edith plans to move to Richmond, to a smaller Harmer home, once the legalities are settled. She invites and insists on Elizabeth staying the weekend at Harmer House as her guest rather than taking a room in a nearby hotel. Elizabeth reluctantly agrees...

...and then pandemonium ensues.

The story is the *perfect* blend of supernatural goings-on (automatic writing, spirit possession, ghosts) and human malice motivated suspense. Elizabeth falls prey to a series of terrifying and bewildering experiences; her sanity is questioned. She turns up little clues which could point in either direction of what's really going on.

In the interim she meets and falls for the handsome and debonair Harmer family attorney, Mr. Mark Shorewood. Romance of course ensues. I can easily visualize these two passionately kissing...and then some! ;-)

This novel clicks right along. It's intelligently written and there are perhaps only two "oh COME ON" small moments in it. An overall excellent blend of many elements.

I also greatly enjoyed the wonderful *Americana* of the story: Little Elizabeth and her father riding along country roads in a flat-bed truck; childhood fishing with Mr. Harmer, who loves the little girl like his own; fixing a farm silo; two mentions of a relative in the Midwest.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Elizabeth Jarrow Gilmore: Isla Blair
Mr. Jarrow (her father): William Schallert
Angus Harmer: Gregory Peck
Harold: Jonathan Frid
Edith Harmer: Jessica Tandy
Mark Shorewood: Jerry Lacy

Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Gothics: My 2nd

This scan was obtained via Fantasticfiction.co.uk. It's just a bit blurry *frown*, but I can't be too choosy.

I received it in the mail around August.

The header reads: "She was friendless and frightened when evil threatened." What appears as bright silver stars around the curving stairwell in "Amber Twilight" is indeed, and upon obtaining this volume it instantly reminded me of the infamous stairwell scene in "Poltergeist" (presumably they're supposed to represent the amber-colored candle flames). Anyway, this story is in my "to be read in near future" pile; it's written by Miriam Lynch (one of my favorite authors so far) and concerns a young photographer who's suddenly knocked out and comes-to later in an abandoned mansion. The back description reads: "Blackhall had always fascinated me. I wanted to photograph it against the soft backdrop of snow. As I focused my camera, someone crept up behind me and struck me down...I awoke alone inside the house. It was a maze of curving corridors and staircases, a strange and eerie place. There was no daylight anywhere. The flames of many candles made a perpetual amber-tinted twilight, unearthly and disturbing. I sensed something evil in this decaying house..."

Paula Minton's "Portrait of Terror" is next obviously. Its header reads: "Could she escape the accusation of murder?" Ms. Minton (or whoever s/he was) is NOT a favorite author of mine. My "1st" Gothic was her novel "Engraved in Evil"; it left me cold/disinterested. For that reason I consider "Mostly by Moonlight" by Dorothy Daniels to be my true 1st Gothic. I've also attempted to read her novel (briefly commented upon months ago in the blog) "The Dark of Memory." With all due respect to Ms. Minton (who's obviously been published)...I simply do not like her writing style. She is, however, also the author of "Shadow of a Witch" which doubles with a novelette by Genevieve St. John in yet a 3rd Belmont Double (soon to be posted)...so I'm going to give Ms. Minton another chance.

More to follow--

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Those" Avon Gothics

{Disclaimer:} I do know not all Goths are Satanists [neither am I]. And that's already deep enough into that topic.

A cover of Lord Satan which I obtained via Absinthe's Gloomy Sunday blog, at her invitation [thank you!]. Can see the "Satanic Gothic" logo in the upper left-hand [how appropriate!] corner.

I also have three other novels in this Avon line [the covers of which I cannot find]: The Twisted Tree by Lynn Benedict; Red Wine of Rapture by Margaret Worth [the latter is on its way from a Canadian bookstore]; and Mark of the Rope by Miriam Lynch [I previously posted its image above, but it's not a good scan (obtained via Ebay)].

Here's a list of Avon "Satanic Gothic" editions:

http://tinyurl.com/6zl4cu [and like usual the Link feature doesn't work!]

I've wondered for a while why Avon books? A few minutes' search yielded up the result of Avon having been the publisher of Anton LaVey's "The Satanic Bible." And at the time, of course, "Rosemary's Baby" had been a runaway novel/film hit. Attempting to cash in on the "Satanic Panic" craze I presume. I tried to discover if LaVey himself might have given his "blessing" on the Avon Satanic Gothic line, but to no avail.

Absinthe's treasure box has arrived!

The box of Gothics I won from Absinthe's writing contest arrived late last evening, around 5 o'clock, just as I was wrapping up a long day of work [online/in my home] and preparing to fix spaghetti & meatballs.

After dinner I enjoyed opening and delving into that big box! WOW Absinthe! :-)

Other readers: *IF* she hosts another such contest in the future, I'd encourage you to participate. You won't regret the prize!

Absinthe, you mentioned at your blog earlier this week that half the bounty would be comprised of Mystique novels. You weren't exaggerating. ;-) I was especially curious to see the titles, covers, back descriptions; I've seen a few at the local used bookstore. The cover art instantly takes me back in time. I've already picked out 4 which are in my (ever-burgeoning, lol) "to read in near future" pile:

+ Voices of Terror [Claudette Virmonne]
+ Shadow of Evil [Lise Blanchet]
+ Love's Testimony [Marianne Andrau]
+ Stalked by Fear [Liliane Robin]

Of the entire box, only 3 novels are duplicates of what I already own. I've begun reading "Dark Eden" by Barbara Kevern [alongside another Gothic I purchased]. Hoped there'd be a cover scan via Ebay or Fantasticfiction, but no. :-(

Absinthe, I'd been hoping to get a copy of Miriam Lynch's "The Doomsday Bells" and also "Lord Satan" by Janet Louise Roberts. Couldn't find either locally and was happy to see them in the box.

"Harvest of Terror" looks like an excellent NURSE Gothic. I work in the medical field and especially enjoy nurses as protagonists.

"Beast in View" -- that's got my curiosity going! She's the heroine AND fiend?

The cover art of "The Castle and the Key" is familiar. ;-) I'll post "it" soon in its different cover service.

"Mistress of Devil's Manor" is part of the Kitty Telefair Series I see. You've mentioned it.

The cover art of "Marry in Haste" by Jane Aiken Hodge is gorgeous. Hoped to find it online; couldn't. Also, "The Brides of Bellenmore" has the *classic* Gothic cover art and layout, imo.

I've got 10 of the "regular Gothics" [non-Mystique] in my "to read in near future" pile.

But it's ALL an excellent collection and I've got many hours of reading pleasure ahead. :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Gothics: My 1st

I found this Belmont Double Gothic at the local used bookstore around May; was surprised to discover such a creature existed! I *love* these doubles and have ordered every title still obtainable; currently my Belmont collection is complete except for one remaining volume.

Signet also published double Gothics. I've recently purchased a volume and its cover scan is available via that bookseller -- yay!

Interestingly (?) I can only find them [Belmont or Signet] available for sale in Canadian bookstores [aside from the volume above found locally]. All volumes are in pristine condition.

--More to follow--!

[Scanned image was obtained via http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/Belmont.html]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mist of Evil by Patty Brisco Cover Art

I found this gem just now at Fantasticfiction.co.uk. :-)

I reviewed this novel on 9/14/08. Here's the link to that post:


[For some reason I cannot discover, the Link feature rarely works for me. :-( Had to reinsert this as-is]

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Christmas Carol [Animated - 1971]

Image obtained courtesy IMBd.

I've not seen this **Oscar-winning** animated version of A Christmas Carol in years, but it's never been forgotten and I've always hoped it'd be aired again. It's brooding, very dark, scary [parents' comments recommend is TOO frightening for small children], Gothic; absolutely UNIQUE. Will try to hunt down a DVD copy.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068373 [unable to link directly via post, sorry]

Some -User Comments- which couldn't have said it better than I:

"Like a painting in motion: This little gem is something I saw on ABC, waaaaay back around '71 or '72...This version miraculously managed to squeeze the entire story into 30 minutes and was out and out scary. The animation looked like an old etching, come to life with lines moving everywhere to indicate shadow and form. London became a creepy, Gormenghast-like city with spires, and arches, all sort of in this weird forced perspective. I remember the gap-mouthed Marley with his jaw dropping down to the middle of his chest as he screamed at Scrooge, and the eerie candle-headed Ghost of Christmas Past whom he forced back into a large cone that one would put candles out with in those days(but smaller). Creepy stuff even for it's time. Worth finding."


"Best animated version of a Dickens classic Xmas tale: This is the best animated version of the hoary old Dickens tale ever brought to the screen. This is no assembly-line cartoon; this is a Victorian lithograph brought to life. Splendid artwork, dizzying camera angles, magnificent and painstaking animation at its best. There are master craftsmen at work here; no shortcuts or sloppy work. The only criticism I could make of it is that it's too short. I sure wish that Santa had given them an unlimited budget to work with. Probably not suitable for younger children, as some of the images are a little terrifying (the children under the robe of the second spirit send chills up my spine every time I see it). I first saw it on PBS back in 1972, I think, and it has haunted me ever since..."

Haunted is a good word for it -- and no pun intended. It gets 10 stars on a scale of 1 - 5. ;-P

+ New Banner +

Ta-da! :-)

Thank you very much Steve aka Karswell!

Also be sure to check out Images from the Gothic film :+The Crow+: on right sidebar and at bottom. It's one of my favorites [RIP Brandon Lee].

Soon to come:

1. Cover scans of Belmont Double Gothics.
2. Cover scan of a Signet Double Gothic (ordered yesterday).

With the exception of one Double Gothic (found locally), I've purchased the others from bookstores in Canada. Were these books specially printed for Canadian readers?

Those cover scans were found on the 'net: One via Fantasticfiction.co.uk, one via Canadian bookseller, and the others via web site which catalogs old "double" fiction books (including sci-fi). Will credit sources as they're posted.

3. Cover scans of Sinister House of Secret Love, Vol. 1 - 3. A comic buy/trade/sell company scanned those covers and of course I'll credit the source.

And of course a book review is forthcoming when I'm done savoring the current. ;-)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

:+: The New Garnet Night :+:

I'm happy to announce this blog has been revamped. The changes:

1. Photos of cover art obtained from Ebay and Fantasticfiction.co.uk downloaded into my Photobucket account and posted here (with appropriate credit). Steve aka Karswell of "The Horrors of It All" suggested I check Ebay for scans/images, as it's a veritable library of same. He was right. :-) I'm not an Ebay shopper, didn't know this. Thank you Steve! Basically there are only 4 cover art I've not been able to locate. As I work an average of 55 hours per week on the computer, this is a definite and welcomed shortcut. As to my own scanner, flu and cold and relatives/in-laws and impending holidays have conspired to push that back another 2 weeks at least. We've obtained a used computer (returnable). If installing the scanner on that fails, I'll consider a new computer.

Anyway, be sure to scroll through Old Posts to see the cover art of "Bells of Widow's Bay" and etc.

2. I've included (right-hand sidebar) -- permanently -- the fantabulous cover arts by Barrymore Tebbs and Steve/Karswell for my submission "The Tragedy of Sutterbury Manor" which Absinthe of "Gloomy Sunday" hosted as part of a contest. Thanks again to all!

3. A banner is forthcoming via Steve/Karswell. We're hammering out the final touches on it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Waiting Sands by Susan Howatch [1966]

As I think this novel would make a good movie, I must give it 5 stars. :-)

Cover scan obtained via Ebay (note the camera icon in right lower corner).

The initial setting is 1960s England. Rachel and Rohan are life-long platonic friends from childhood. They share a brother-sister type bond. Rachel goes abroad (to continental Europe), meets a female friend named Decima at a school. Both return to England. Rachel hopes to fix Decima up with Rohan, but alas his cousin Charles snatches the beautiful Scottish heiress up before Rohan can blink. Charles and Decima marry 4 months after meeting. Charles is a sociable Englishman of letters, a professor of history and roughly 15 years Decima's senior. He indulges Decima's wish to mainly reside at Roshven -- her father's ancestral estate in the Scottish Highlands, NW of Inverness.

Rachel and Decima lose touch. Rohan frequently visits his cousin Charles at Roshven, but oddly and sadly Decima never invites Rachel to visit and she's too proud to invite herself to accompany Rohan during his visits to Charles.

Two years later Rachel receives an apology and an invitation in the mail from Decima. Her 21st birthday is two weeks away. Decima (I like that name btw) sounds a bit nervous and edgy in the letter; she wants to see Rachel again, yes -- but she also fears she may not live to see her 21st birthday and to that end would like Rachel to come and help safeguard her through the event. If Decima does arrive at her 21st birthday, all of Roshven is hers; if not, Charles inherits it as her next of kin as per Decima's father's Will.

Rachel, curious though hesitant, agrees. She's particularly curious to finally visit Roshven, after all the wonderful tales Rohan's told her about it. When Rachel arrives, she discovers another "couple" is staying at Roshven: The Careys. They are brother and sister, Daniel and Rebecca.

Within 24 hours' time Rachel comes to realize she's unwittingly walked smack-dab into a finely-woven web of deceit, scheming and intrigue. She's become a pawn -- for more than just one person.

It's a very finely crafted story filled with twists and turns. The story is told from the viewpoints and perspectives of each character, alternately -- although always in narrative form; this definitely boosts the story's appeal. The Scottish Highlands, ocean, weather, wild life descriptions are keen; as if you're there.

I especially liked the 3 couples but of different orientations aspect: We have a husband and wife...blood brother and sister...life-long platonic friends who are like siblings but aren't. Rather unique.

The ending was the perfect "wrap up" to the entire story. Excellent overall!

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Rachel Lord: Elizabeth Berridge (aged 23)
Rohan Quist: As he's described in the book.
Decima Mannering: Uma Thurman (aged 23)
Charles Mannering: Daniel Day-Lewis (aged 36)
Daniel Carey: Ralph Fiennes (aged 27)
Rebecca Carey: She's a nit...who cares? (aged 24)

"The Curse" of James Dean's Spyder Porsche

I'd heard about "the curse" of this car, but didn't know all these details. This was on Hollywood Myths & Legends last evening (TVLand channel) and everything presented on that show is in this online article, with the exception of Sir Alec Guiness having warned James Dean that the car felt "sinister" to him and that he'd be dead within a week...:


This definitely is eerie.

Not saying there IS (or was?) a curse on the car. But I'll admit I wouldn't touch that thing with a 10-foot pole in light of its history. The car has gone missing, btw; for decades. Presumably stolen.

Or was it?? ;-P

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gorgeous cover art

A larger version of this 1955 cover of The Quicksilver Pool by Phyllis A. Whitney:


It's been scanned alongside another. I found the novel yesterday and purchased it solely for the cover art; the story itself runs 310 pages and that's definitely 100 more pages than I care to devote to a novel. ;-) The image was scanned by a French-speaking person trying to sell the items on Ebay. Thank you whoever you are! I didn't count on finding that image on the 'net.

An update about the scanner: I've obtained a used computer (returnable) and will attempt to download the scanner onto it this weekend.

The banner is forthcoming regardless. I'll get an M.O. in the mail to Steve by the weekend.

Meanwhile I've obtained another two dozen Gothics. Have the next 3 to be read picked out, am nearly finished with the current which I'll review soon. Need to obtain another fireproof metal box for my latest in the collection. I'm soooo glad my husband is indulgent in this regard, lol!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The scanner {I just might faint}

Turned my old dino computer on. Lo and behold I get a "Found New Hardware: HP Deskjet F4200 series" prompt. :-O

Clicked it. "Found New Hardware Installation Wizard" pops up.

It's apparently now installed! :-O :-D

{::dizzy with shock and delight::}

But something seems to always go wrong...so I'll hold my breath a while longer. Hopefully can start scanning the covers of novels I've reviewed this evening. Then of course I'll need to learn how exactly the process works.

More later and hopefully SOON.

Face in the Pond by Clarissa Ross [1968]

Cover scan obtained via http://gothicnovellover.com/gallery/main.php, which was recommended to me via Barrymore. Here's the LARGE version [sorry, Link feature never works for me]:


This was a beautifully told story and a nice change of pace. It opens in May 1870, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sarah Bennett, a governess, is on trial for allegedly poisoning her employer, Mr. Gordon, in a fit of jealous pique. The jurors acquit her on the basis of "not proven"...which of course isn't the same as "not guilty." A cloud of suspicion still hangs over Sarah's head.

A handsome blonde man attends the trial throughout. Sarah notices his supportive and kindly gazes at her. He is John Stone, who has also had a run-in with a poisoning. After the trial, the elderly judge -- who is also kindly disposed towards Sarah -- takes her under his wing. She is a guest in his home for dinner and a room, is introduced to the blonde man who'd faithfully attended her trial. John Stone is Master of Dankhurst, and needs a governess for his sickly son, Richard. Sarah agrees to employment with Mr. Stone.

Poison and poisonings continue to shadow Sarah. She begins to suspect most everyone around her, and fearfully wonders if she's unwittingly been lured and trapped into the role of scapegoat for another's activities.

A slashed portrait. A missing portrait. A quiet woman who seems not to be as demure and innocent as she appears. A sickly boy who reports his dead mother's ghost visiting him at night. An unexpected death. John Stone's mysterious secretiveness and moodiness. And just what exactly is his interest in the ancient Egyptian relics in the attic...and interest in the high and fine art of ancient Egyptian poisoning techniques?

I give it 5 stars on a scale of 1 - 5.

I had a hunch who the culprit was about 2/3 of the way through. My hunch was correct.

The only mar on the storytelling is Sarah's intensely suspicious nature (she's got it all figured out after only 24 hours on the estate, plays Judge/Jury/Executioner in her own mind). That, and her silly, unfounded over-trust in Rodney Stone. She blurts out extremely provocative and slanderous accusations with nary a second thought; also, she "confides" the wrong things to Rodney which inadvertently keeps young Richard in danger a bit longer than is necessary. She comes off as a fool, frankly. I could have liked this character a lot better otherwise.

I enjoyed the Richard Stone character, the little boy. He was a definite ray of sunshine.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Sarah Bennett: Katharine Ross (age 22)
John Stone: Ewan MacGregor (age 29)
Rodney Stone: Orlando Bloom (age 24)
Abigail Durmot: Emma Thompson (age 28)
Mrs. Fergus: Maggie Smith (age 65)
Richard Stone: As he's described in the book: Blonde hair, blue eyes; a sweet and sincere little boy who deserves better (and who, I'm happy to say, gets just that).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Paranoiac! Hammer Films, 1963

I'm recommending this b/w screen gem. Stars Janette Scott and the gorgeous Oliver Reed. A favorite scene in the film: It's birthday time again, and though we don't want to trigger any nasty memories for Eleanor [?] the cake is nonetheless wheeled out with a butcher knife to cut it with. :-P

I have a Hammer Film collection, 12 in all. Love Peter Cushing (those cheekbones -- *sigh*). Unfortunately Mr. Cushing is not in Paranoiac!

We might watch it this evening after the dinner party, whilst handing out goodies to the kids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love & Halloween 2008

Absinthe at Gloomy Sunday previously posted about this old Gothic comic:


I'm happy to say I obtained a copy of it for $20; it arrived in yesterday's mail. Her copy looks to be in a bit better shape than mine, but I have no complaints; it's "very good." Will tuck that into a fireproof metal box.

I especially enjoyed the Kenner (cartoon) advertisement within, for a girl's manicure set. Wow, that brings back memories; I've not thought of Kenner in years. I recall that manicure set but in 1971 was far too young (6) to bother with such things.

A copy of an edition of Sinister House of Secret Love is also on the way.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When life reads like a Gothic novel.

Come to think of it, more like a *comedy* novel.

2008 sure has been A Year For Screwballs. Will skip the meaty/juicy dramatic bits, though (sorry to disappoint). One involved Pam, a friend's friend, who apparently skipped her meds one day and threatened Alondra with court action/lawsuit for "internet slander." That's the thanks Alondra got for years of friendship to her. Another involved "M", who sabotaged a fun online friendship over his latest squeeze -- that's my best guess. Apparently he confused me with his ex-wife, insofar as attempting to provoke jealousy (and he's the 1st man to come bragging to me about a sexual conquest; that's the respect she gets from him). Pointless; it was platonic, I'm married and live 1600 miles away. It's amazing, the dumb things people will harm and/or ruin friendships over.

Stupid is as stupid does (I guess life really is like a boxsa chok'lits). I'm 43 and it's gotten to the point where I can laugh at these idiots. Actually they're not entirely idiots: They craftily give you two choices: Keep quiet and take it OR react and then they react either abusively or passive-aggressively.

Fuck them. You know? :-)

Anywho, a scanner and a banner are forthcoming. I'm a bit reluctant about the scanner -- only because I'm a tad bit impatient and my computer is a '98 Presario. Yep, a dinosaur. Hopefully I'll soon have crisp images posted with each "review" AND I'll go back and start inserting scans of novels previously "reviewed." Lots of these have gorgeous cover art. ;-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ravenkill by Paulette Warren [1965]

This was an all-around awesome novel. Five stars.

Found it last Sunday at the used bookstore. Paulette Warren is the pseudonym of Paul W. Fairman, btw. Photo obtained via Ebay; unfortunately it's a bit fuzzy. There ARE bats fluttering around the top of the old spooky mansion. ;-P

The story centers on Jennifer Wonderly, a 25-year-old woman whose beloved mother has recently died. Turns out Jen hails from Iowa (my home state), and is working as a librarian. That fact could garner a few snickers, but we Iowa folk are not timid clodhoppers -- as Jennifer's vim and feist throughout the novel proves. Jennifer is residing with her plump, adoring and protective Aunt Madge when a letter arrives from John Belaman.

John Belaman is a 45-year-old "retired" world-famous concert pianist. He has also known personal tragedy and the death of loved ones. He and his equally talented sister Margo were, as children (and obviously before Jen's time), briefly unofficially adopted by Jennifer's adventuresome Uncle David (now deceased or simply vanished) after their soon-to-die father, Hugo Belaman, entrusted little John and Margo into David's care. Wealthy and powerful Belamans out east objected and claimed familial rights; John and Margo were taken from David and sent from Iowa to live at Ravenkill, the Belaman family estate in Maine.

John went on to become a wealthy and famous concert pianist. Margo also found success and fame and married Frank; the newlyweds were soon tragically killed in a freak accident.

John Belaman now sends his condolences to Jennifer from Ravenkill (he later personally recalls to her the letters and photographs he'd exchanged over the years with Jen's mother. Jen is surprised to learn this; she's also -- later -- surprised to discover it's true that she and Margo shared an uncanny resemblance). John is aware that Jennifer is a librarian. Ravenkill boasts a huge (and highly disordered) library; would she be willing to travel to Maine and Ravenkill, and put the library into professional order for a fee?

Jennifer agrees; and what and who she encounters at Ravenkill...my hunches and speculations proved almost entirely wrong. "Paulette Warren" kept me guessing. The atmosphere, characterizations, pacing are excellent; the timing is impeccable. And at 151 pages it's the perfect length.

The story is filled with bitterness, love, betrayal, wit, lust, vengeance, a ghostly figure which sings lullaby's as it flits about the grounds, desperation, cruelty, a ghostly face in a mirror, etc. The ending was nothing I expected (a definite plus).

It also uses (new to me) two 1st-person narratives: Jennifer tells some of the chapters from her personal perspective, Gaspar tells the remainder from his. As mentioned in a recent post this is the first time I've encountered this storytelling technique, but then I'm generally not a fiction fan (the Gothic genre is a definite exception).

The author wrote a sequel to it: Ghost at Ravenkill Manor [1969]. I've ordered it and it's due to arrive next week. I can easily see how a sequel is possible to the original story, and hope it's every bit as good.

Cast of characters as I visualized them:

Jennifer Wonderly: As she appears on the cover; beautiful bold brunette "American beauty" of the time [age 25]
Aunt Madge: Bea Arthur [age 53]
John Belaman: Gary Oldman [age 45]
Garth McCroy: Joel Crothers [age 27]
Agatha Pate: Sigourney Weaver [age 41]
Veronica: Couldn't visualize.
Mr. Bannister: Couldn't visualize.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin [1967]

Most folks reading this have probably seen the 1968 film starring (brilliantly) Mia Farrow. Love her!

Around 2003 I read the novel for the first time. The film is very much in keeping with the novel, but still I recommend reading the novel.

How in the heck Rosemary ever fell for that whiney wuss named Guy, I'll never know. :-\

Bless someone's heart, they own and scanned the cover of the 1st edition at wikipedia (above).

Need little ol' me say it's a masterpiece? ;-)

There's a sunny psychedelic side to me (sorry 100% Goths), and I must admit the white and yellow decor of the Woodhouse's apartment, Rosemary's stylish "Pixie" haircut and Mod clothing contrast spectacularly with the sinister satanic elements. What can I say; I'm into Carl Jung and know I've got a light side and a dark side...

Halloween is right around the corner; what better time?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two 1st-person narratives

I'm currently reading Ravenkill [no "s" in there] by Paulette Warren [pseudonym for Paul W. Fairman]. Published in 1965 by Lancer. So far so very good; am really enjoying it.

As I've mentioned, I mostly read non-fiction. So perhaps it's not an uncommon device for an author to tell the story using two 1st-person narratives?? But I've never encountered it before. Like it; but it's definitely different.

In this story, the opening chapter is told from the 1st-person perspective of Jennifer. The 2nd chapter is told from Gaspar's. And so on, alternating (though not every other chapter).

Interesting. It definitely does work. I'd never have thought using such a method. :-)

I'm also concurrently reading Island of Fog by Myra Kingsbury.

Reviews to follow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reception at High Tower by Dewey Ward [1969]

This is a spectacular powerhouse of a story. Definitely rates 5 stars. Took me a bit longer than I'd anticipate to read it, as it is a complex and involved story.

I found the cover at the Gothic Romance message board, in their library of images.

Maurie Thomas, 28 and divorced, has suffered a nervous breakdown. The story opens with her last day of hospitalization in New York City. Reading the opening paragraphs, I immediately knew this was going to be a knock-out story.

Maurie is being discharged to the care of her grandmother, whom she refers to as "Grannie." She's hated Grannie for as long as she can remember, and the feelings are absolutely mutual. Maurie's divorced father lives with Grannie at High Tower, a countryside estate in New Hampshire which boasts fine riding horses.

Maurie has undergone shock therapy treatments. The side effect is amensia. Even the basics of her past life is unknown or a vague blur. As the story progresses her memory begins "filling in" ... albeit slowly. She does recall the mutual hostility and hatred she and Grannie share.

But how did all these negative feelings come about? And whose fault was it, primarily?

Maurie dreads returning to High Tower. But her only other option is admission to the state mental hospital. She very reluctantly chooses to return "home."

Her condition doesn't improve once at High Tower. Things begin happening to and around Maurie. Is it her doing these things? Was she well enough to be discharged from psychiatric care? Or is it Grannie, who refuses to pay for private psychotherapy, trying to drive Maurie into a permanent breakdown and hospitalization? Just when it seems apparent that Maurie is the victim of a malicious and nasty bitch of a grandmother, something happens which makes you wonder just how stable and rational she really is.

Maurie, on the verge of another nervous collapse, tries to recall her past. Enormous pieces of the puzzle which is her life remain out of reach. What exactly drove her mother away from High Tower? How did her brother Sam die? What was it about concentric circles and fire and water and a face which terrified her so? Why is she afraid of the slow-witted farmhand named Gus?

Had she been responsible for all or some of it, or was it Grannie? Or was it neither of them?

And as if this weren't enough, the townsfolk of Newbury despise Maurie. Her being the granddaughter of the wealthy and influential Grannie does her no good. She's a friggin' nut, a mental case who deserves to be locked up and should have remained so. They treat her like dirt, spread wild rumors...except for Dr. Brian Peters, Don & Pat Farmer (who run a roadhouse bar-hotel). It's a gritty and realistic story.

Many times this book was difficult to read on that basis.

The story includes rape, lesbianism, prostitution, two gentle romances, suspicion of murder, cruelty. It's perfectly paced; holds one's attention and keeps you straining at the collar, wanting the answers to be finally revealed!

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Maurie Thomas: Mostly as she appears on the cover art; a blend of pretty brunette women of the time [age 28]
Nurse Moore: Michael Learned [age 45]
Angie: Kirsten Dunst [age 17]
Grannie: Helen Mirren [age 71]
Sam Thomas, Sr.: Bryant Keith [age 50]
Laura Thomas-Robinson: Nancy Kovak [age 47]
Dave Andrews: Earl Holliman [age 33]
Dr. Brian Peters: Visualized him as a somewhat nice-looking though nondescript man of average height, pleasant face, brown hair, brown eyes [age 37]
Pat Farmer: Sheilah Wells [age 53]

Summer of the Fire Ship by Nancy Faulkner [1976]

I picked this up as the next novel to read after finishing the previous [review forthcoming later today]. Will "review" this one first because imo it's a lemon. There's references to children calling someone "Aunt Witch" and then mention of "Hansel and Gretel." What's next, skipping through The Enchanted Forest?

Also, constantly encountering the name "Cindy" frequently throughout the text is disruptive. If it were the main character's name it wouldn't be a problem; the narrative is in the 1st person. Mine is a mostly uncommon name in fiction, so when I encounter it it's...oddly disruptive.

I wasn't impressed with anything I read. Pass.

Couldn't find an image via Google. My copy (Popular Library) shows a mostly bluish gray cover, coastline and lighthouse, mildly crashing waves, beautiful wind-swept brunette wearing a cloak and gown.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Gingerbread House by Maeva Park Dobner

I began reading this novel at the recommendation of Absinthe via her blog {http://glooomysunday.blogspot.com/}. I'm sorry to say my reaction to the novel was quite different. Generally I prefer a story remain focused on a very small cast of characters and the protagonist of course. Ms. Dobner is bold in writing this multi-focus novel, wherein the attention shifts from one major player to another. Kudos to her for managing it and this is a quality I've not yet encountered in any other Gothic...however, I find it distracting. :-(

Ms. Dobner's book is also very moody. Some of that is of course due to the shifts in focus; but even the main protagonist's moods and the atmosphere around her can change rather suddenly. I prefer that a tone/mood be set from the get-go in a Gothic, and it's maintained (until the very end of course, when everything's been resolved and "happy"). To that end I didn't feel relaxed with the book...and to be honest, my husband's moody enough! ;-P

Overall I didn't have the patience for the book either, and will admit I didn't read to the end. Perhaps some day I will. Hopefully I haven't done it an injustice, but I simply wanted to get on and read a Gothic (in the process of that currently) which gripped me from the get-go and has all the character/atmosphere/speed "settings" I prefer.

Will defer rating the book. Maybe it's one of those "you either like it or you don't" things. And mine is merely a subjective opinion of course.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nostalgia 1

I plan to comment on bits of nostalgia from these books. Last evening "rhubarb and soda" was mentioned; the heroine's grandmother requests it from the local drugstore to help her indigestion. I'd never heard of this concoction before and sure enough found an online reference:


Also a reference to "bobby pins." My mother had zillions of them. Sure they're still around, though not commonly used nor referred to in this region of the U.S. Bobby pins...that sure tweaks the memory.

Those, and a male character entering the drugstore (for rhubarb and soda, bobby pins and toothpaste), and inquiring of the store's owner if he can use the telephone. Ah yes, those wonderful days without annoying cellphones -- lol!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just lipstick

In the latest novel (last night's reading) the heroine dresses, brushes her hair and applies lipstick before going downstairs for breakfast coffee.

I've previously come across, in a different novel, another reference to the heroine applying only lipstick as her daily makeup.

No foundation nor powder. No eyeshadow nor rouge (aka "blush").

Just lipstick.

That's a fun flashback, because my mother did the same thing back in the day. In photos from the late 1950s and throughout the '60s: Lipstick. That's it.

I asked her once why just lipstick? We gals from the 1980s painted our faces with lots of makeup: Particularly eyes and cheeks. But we had the entire ensemble: Groomed eyebrows, eyelashes and lips as well.

She couldn't recall why. It was just "the thing" back then.

I love retro stuff, and these novels are another treat in that regard; they often provide little memory glimpses from early childhood.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Film: The Changeling [1980]


Someone who reviewed it at IMDb called it "a chilling ghost story." And it is. It stars George C. Scott and Trish van Devere.

If you've not yet seen it, by all means rent it soon. I can't understand why this knock-out ghost story isn't more highly recommended/visible, especially as it won a Genie Award. Frankly it should have gotten an Oscar nod too, imo.
The storyline, acting, dialogue, sets, soundtrack: All top notch.
Not infrequently you'll see/hear a film touted as "the scariest since The Exorcist!" This film isn't as scary as The Exorcist (nor Hellraiser for that matter), but can and does definitely holds its own. It also has a heart, and in that respect has a definite human-interest element. I watch it every two years or so, and it still always gets my nerves wired up. The seance/automatic writing scene is especially unforgettable.

Barrow Sinister by Elsie Lee [1969]

Found the cover art via Ebay [note the camera icon].

I began this novel around June, stopped reading about 1/4 way through and actually almost forgot about it! Earlier today I briefly considered picking it up again (after I'm finished with the current novel)...then figured *why*? I know myself, and if it's forgettable...forget it.

The characters, including the main, are haphazardly introduced. Even well into the story the characters (with two exceptions) are not well formed. It's a social peripheral jumble.

The story's lead female character finds herself surrounded by men, at the expedition. This too is awkwardly written. She's either feeling adrift in a little sea of men or she's isolated.

This novel has an entirely different tone to that of "Season of Evil," also by Elsie Lee...which I also didn't finish (though did review it months ago; see below) because imo that novel isn't a Gothic. "Season of Evil" is well written, but is not a Gothic; at least halfway into it I was still waiting for "gothicness."

I hope Ms. Lee's other works are more rewarding. I have 2 or 3 other novels of hers.

Anyway, "Barrow Sinister" gets 1 star on a scale of 1 - 5.

Hopefully I'm not selling the novel short. But my overall advice would be to skip it.

I can only aspire

The more I read these novels from a variety of authors, the more impressed I've become. There is genuine talent in these pages. Each author's personality shines through to some extent; characters are generally not formulaic; unique twists and turns are frequent; there's diversity of expression and imagery. It's a far cry and quite a switch from having previously mostly read (and long since given up) King, Koontz (never liked his books much anyway), Rice, Barker and other horror authors who, to me, are the after-1980 monopoly.

I could only aspire to be a Gothic author in the fashion of many of these excellent authors. Cheers to them! And long live the Gothic genre. :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mist of Evil by Patty Brisco [1976]

I visualized this charming and very unique novel set in 1968. What it lacks in a genuine (imo) gothic tone it certainly makes up for in charm. It truly is one of a kind, as writing style and characterization are concerned.

Molly's father had recently passed away after a lingering illness, during which she took care of him. After his passing, Molly's Aunt Bunnie suggests Molly take a sea cruise and accompany her. They head off to Puerto Rico. Molly dreams of a cruise-ship romance, but being a realistic sort of girl quietly acknowledges the slim likelihood of that happening.

And then one evening, who is sharing the dinner table but the handsome and famous Carter Faraday? He's a famous horror and sci-fi actor and many years Molly's senior, recently retired from acting. Molly's had a tremendous crush on Mr. Faraday since 8 years prior, when she was 14 and instantly smitten with him on the silver screen.

They fall in love. They marry.

No sooner have they returned to Carter's Hollywood mansion "Trollhaugen" (what a name, huh?) than Molly's made starkly aware of just how much Carter loved his former (deceased) wife, Nedra. It seems someone doesn't want Carter to forget Nedra, nor the terrible manner in which she died. Molly swiftly and unhappily realizes just how tormented and haunted a man Carter is.

And then it becomes abundantly clear that whoever wishes to torment Carter also seeks to torment Molly...and kill her.

She's swept up into this real-life nightmare while also simultaneously swept up into Carter's Hollywood lifestyle and friends. The Wolfman, Snake-Woman, Dracula, Mist-Woman all come into Molly's life as the real persons behind the costumes and scripts.

And one of them is bound and determined to destroy Carter and Molly's marriage. Or is Carter himself mentally unbalanced and doing these horrible things?

I give it 3 stars on a scale of 1 - 5 for "gothicness." However, it gets 5 stars for being a fun and very unique read. This writer has a style all her own: It's kitschy in some places, a touch of corny in others, and often it's too highly detailed (likely would have been better written in the 3rd person); but it's a "must read" and highly engaging/entertaining.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Molly Faraday: Sharon Tate (age 22)
Carter Faraday: Pierce Brosnan (age 41)
Aunt Bunnie: Emmaline Henry (age 45)
Raul del Rio: Raul Julia (age 43)
Alf Martin: Jack Nicholson (age 50)
Emma Boles: Shirley MacLaine (age 47)
Clive Martel: Orlando Bloom (age 33)
Monica Vili: Lara Parker (age 35)
Roger St. James: Christopher Lee (age 49)
Sandra Hooper: Susan Sarandon: (age 37)
Alexander: David Davis (age 45)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Secrets of Dr. Taverner [by Dion Fortune]

Is a collection (12) of short true stories by Christian mystic/occultist Dion Fortune [real name Violet Firth: 1890 - 1946]. My copy is by Ariel Press [same as in pic]. I'm sure Google will yield up info and Alibris.com or Bookfinder.com would have copies available.

"Dr. Taverner" was a real-life male mystic under whom Fortune worked and studied. These short stories recount her most remarkable "cases" with him as mentor. Ms. Fortune briefly outlines all this in her Introduction.

The stories are:
1. Blood-Lust.
2. The Return of the Ritual.
3. The Man Who Sought.
4. The Soul That Would Not Be Born.
5. The Scented Poppies.
6. The Death Hound
7. A Daughter of Pan.
8. The Subletting of the Mansion
9. Recalled.
10. The Sea Lure.
11. The Power House.
12. A Son of the Night.

Gothic enough for you? Lol.It's right up the Gothic alley. I've had this book about 14 years now, occasionally re-read the stories. Always interesting.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Castle Midnight by Evelyn McKenna [1966]

Some of these novels are timeless. I can't believe this one was published in 1966. Bev, the lead character, is so modern. I mean "post-feminist modern." Actually all of the characters are (perhaps with the exception of Effie)...and while reading it couldn't help thinking the novel could have been written and set in 1990 instead.

It's a very good story. A 5 on a scale of 1 - 5.

The cover art (will scan it when I get a scanner, soon) shows a woman (waist up) with long medium blonde hair hugging herself (right hand grips her left bicep) while looking nervously over her left shoulder. Her sweater is hunter green, and the shadowing effects about her eyes and face are a very light green mixed with cream and flesh tones. In front of her are 3 flameless tapered white candles, their wax drippings now hardened and dry. Behind her is what looks like a leaning metal hat/coat tree held by a chain (weird). The lettering for "Castle Midnight" is pale yellow, and unusually styled with rounded characters.

Tom Houston, Beverly Nichols' long-time friend and secret flame, asks Bev if she'll act as hostess at Castle Midnight, which is located in an isolated region of the Sierra Mountains in California. Tom has come into an inheritance. He's flown to Europe, played the extravagantly rich bachelor...and now his money's nearly run out. But there's a method to his madness: Tom's wealthy facade was to lure a genuinely wealthy European woman into marrying him. Sibyl Morrison is "the catch" and she's due to arrive in the U.S. with her family and mini-entourage to see Tom's nonexistant penthouse, luxury mansion, etc.

Tom asks Bev to assist in hoodwinking Sibyl. He rents Castle Midnight for a month. Will Bev pose as his sister and hostess?

Bev resides in San Francisco and has just lost her job. And she loves Tom. She dislikes his principles and especially dislikes the thought of helping Tom court, woo and propose to Sibyl...but (thinking with heart instead of head) she reluctantly agrees.

Bev, Bill and Effie (a married couple who are dear friends of Tom's) drive to Castle Midnight. They take a tour of the grand old manse. Bill immediately starts to work on the grounds. Bev begins planning the care and comfort of over 1 dozen guests, and Effie discovers the kitchen.

And they also discover suits of armor from the Old World which seem to change positions, disappear then reappear. There are startling incidents of unexplained shoving which leads to nearly fatal falls. Lights unexpectedly go out, then come back on. Bev awakens one night to discover a lamp has "moved itself" from one bedside table to the opposite one. Etc.

Things are really gearing up -- and getting seriously dangerous -- when Sibyl and family/entourage arrive. Bev doesn't want Tom's elaborate (and expensive) plans ruined, but can she continue tolerating the situation? Tom quickly becomes clued into the weird and sinister goings-on at Castle Midnight...but it's too late, as Sibyl has arrived.

Lots of interesting twists and turns in the story. Good characterization, tightly told.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Beverly Nichols: Katharine Ross [age 25]
Tom Houston: Bill Bixby [age 25]
Bill Taber: Couldn't quite visualize him
Effie Taber: As above
Sibyl Morrison: Kiera Knightley [age 23]
Phillips: Fred Gwynn [age 52]
Richard Moyle: Louis Edmonds [age 29]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Night of Evil by Genevieve St. John [1967]

Excellent. :-) It's a 5 on a scale of 1 - 5.

This novella (it is 81 pages long but packs all the entertaining punch of a regular full-length novel) is one of Belmont's "Double Gothics":


The story concerns Judith Porter, a 23 year old woman who leaves her father's home in New York City to attend her ailing Aunt Carol at Bay House, on Chesapeake Bay. Judith dislikes Bay House, the intensely foggy days and the eerie wails of distant foghorns.

Judith is taking a tray up to her Aunt Carol, is midway up the tall staircase when she becomes mesmerized by fog drifting into the room below. How can this be? The doors and windows are securely shut, the casements are tight. Judith's hands weaken and she drops the tray upon seeing the fog thickening...seeming to become upright...taking on a human form. She huddles onto the staircase, screaming; when she dares to look again, the menacing foggy form is gone.

This is just one of many seeming hallucinations -- both visual and auditory -- Judith has been suffering from since arriving at Bay House. She seeks a rational explanation, but is plagued with fears of insanity. The author pulls some very unique and clever tricks out of her hat in the tormenting of our fictional heroine.

Also residing in Bay House are Gregory Stanton, a questionable character whose presence Judith questions and who is entirely devoted to Carol; Dr. Craig Wilson, Carol's young private physician on whom Judith has a crush; Miss May Millner, the "difficult" housekeeper and cook, and Tom Bradford the maintenance man. Mr. Arthur Porter, Carol's father and Judith's grandfather, returns from his rest home in Baltimore for a weekend stay at Bay House. Judith is puzzled as to why her wealthy old grandfather chooses a nursing home two hours away, when he could be privately cared for in the luxury of his grand estate.

Judith tries to solve the perplexing mysteries around her. But the biggest mystery of all is whether she's the victim of cruel hoaxes and pranks...or if she's rapidly losing her mind, as her mother -- who committed suicide when Judith was 12 -- did.

My only (admittedly petty) criticism of the story is that Judith seems perhaps 18, not a more mature 23. She's a terrific character, but a mite bit immature for 23 [especially in 1967].

It reads neatly, swiftly; stays on track. It was a short and wonderful "interim" read while I'm awaiting the replacement for the previous novel I'd started, with the 15 (or so) missing pages.

I'm unsure if this novella is available separately or only appeared in "Double Gothic" form with Ms. Winston's story.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Judith Porter: Sally Field [age 23]
Carol Porter: Marie Wallace [age 44]
Mr. Arthur Porter: I can't recall the actor's name nor credits, but recall the face.
Gregory Stanton: Jerry Lacy [age 40]
Dr. Craig Porter: Warren Beatty [age 25]
Miss May Millner: Maggie Smith [age 61]

The cover art: A somber blue-gray background; young woman to the left, with flowing blonde hair dressed in an ankle-length and full-sleeved reddish dress; three black dogs chasing her across tall green grass; to the right a two-story shadowy manse in the background with a turret and one [of course!] lit window.