Sunday, May 25, 2008

Whistle for the Crows [Dorothy Eden :: 1962]

The novel's strengths: Characterizations are excellent. Despite her being on the periphery, my favorite character was Peggy Moloney (Mrs. O'Riordian's young nurse). And of course I must have a crush on one of the male characters; that would be Rory. ;) Descriptions of life in Ireland (1962) are vivid and entertaining, particularly the rural settings.

The storyline stays on track and the pacing is okay. However, the storyline is ... a bit clumsy. Despite being a multiply-published novelist, Ms. Eden failed to deliver any truly interesting "twists and turns" to the story. She focuses very strongly upon an obsession by the main character, Cathleen, and upon Cathleen's private ruminations and quirks; this puts a true damper on the build up of genuine overall suspense.

Cathleen's being among the O'Riordians would have worked better if she'd been a new neighbor, or the distracted love interest of a neighbor. The conditions of her being at Loughneath Castle are flimsy, and begin with Cathleen's London boss telling her 6 months of grieving for husband and infant daughter killed in an accident is enough. Yeah, right.

Immediately (within 24 hours) of arriving at Loughneath Castle, Cathleen involves herself in private family matters. Within 48 hours Rory is irksomely referring to her as "coming off like Miss Scotland Yard." I agree. Cathleen is likeable in other ways, but her intensive "gimlet eye" on the family wouldn't have been tolerated -- especially as she's an employee and nothing more.

Suspense slowly builds. Two accidents and a drowning occur. One of these accidents imperils Cathleen's life. She recuperates, but despite being menaced wishes to remain [I would have left]! She's nearly fired after the accident, and yet within 12 hours she's re-accepted and helping to prepare for a party.

The climax was ... not terribly climactic. Somehow we're to believe that occasional (and hasty) excursions to Dublin (100 miles away) can provide enough intensive coincidences to keep the characters absorbed in the mystery (particularly Cathleen). Peripheral characters (two in particular) who should have been written up more weren't, and nearing the climax I'd nearly forgotten who Eileen Burke was. It took some reading back to figure out how exactly C connected with D and E in the "final reveal."

I did enjoy visualizing Aunt Tilly as portrayed by Agnes Moorehead. Often I "use" actors of any era to "portray" the character in my mind's eye; Ms. Moorehead would have been perfect in the role.

Mixed emotions about this novel. It could have been better. I do recommend it, but be prepared for some exasperating "oh c'mon" moments.

Finally: I wish we'd have been treated to Rory and Cathleen sharing a passionate kiss just once.

Actors I "used" to visualize the characters:

Cathleen: Keira Knightley (age 25)
Aunt Tilly O'Riordian: Agnes Moorehead (age 60)
Liam O: Liam Neeson (age 32)
Rory O: Pierce Brosnan (age 35)
Peggy Moloney: Laura Crossley (age 16)


I've currently begun reading House on Crow's Nest Island, 1968, by Arlene Hale.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mostly by Moonlight [Dorothy Daniels :: 1965]

My 1st Gothic romance novel. Cover scan obtained via Ebay (note camera icon).

Definitely recommended.

The story is paced just right -- keeps moving along. Good characterization. The suspense is mostly human oriented, though there is a definite double ghostly undercurrent.

It's August 1871. Prof. Perry Warren has inherited his dead brother's castle [Jabez -- a very wealthy sea captain -- had built an exact replica of his wife's ancestral Scottish castle as a wedding gift]. Twenty-year-old daughter Eve accompanies him to NE Maine, to be supportive; see the place, help to clean it. Realizing it's very doubtful the massive granite castle can be sold, they soon consider turning it into a summer hotel for the wealthy. Someone -- or something -- is prowling around the castle, however; is it dead Uncle Jabez's ghost, or that of his pretty young wife Elizabeth who preceded Jabez in death? Or perhaps a living human is menacing the place?

Unfortunately the 1st chapter nearly killed my interest in the novel. The 1st chapter did not grab my attention nor excite my curiosity (big mistake for any story). I nearly put the book aside, but decided to give it until the 3rd chapter. Actually the 2nd chapter sufficed to hook my interest...and I'm glad it did. It quickly turned out to be a very enjoyable read.

Some surprising twists and turns, and I was very skeptical of Jim Canford for quite a while. Developed a slight crush on Elisha Tuttle; wish we'd have gotten to know him better, and what his life might have been "after the story." Eve falls in love with one of these gents, but no spoilers here. ;)

I caught a handful of typos in the book, and two notable goofs with names: "Elizabeth Tuttle": Elizabeth was Jabez Warren's wife and therefore Elizabeth Warren; Elisha is single and never met Elizabeth. Another character, Amanda Hartley, is once (later) referred to as "Amanda Blake"; perhaps Gunsmoke was on someone's mind, lol. Later she's again Amanda Hartley. But those errors don't distract; I find them amusing.

The story has a great climax involving the Elizabeth B, dead Uncle Jabez's ship. The details of the climax are worthy of a movie. Ms. Daniels either knew a lot about schooners and maritime matters, or she really did her homework prior to writing this. I've been landlocked all my life, and learned quite a bit about the maritime lifestyle.

The overall social atmosphere of the story is inviting too: Prof. Warren and Eve have a close father and daughter relationship. We are also treated to nice details of local cuisine, and even how to make baked clam on the half-shell! ;)

One surprising (and disturbing) element in the story are bored local housewives, all of whom own little telescopes. They like spying on passing coaches apparently. Jim warns Eve that whether on horseback or in a carriage, alone or with someone (him), these little telescopes will be trained on any passerby and gossiped about. Yikes. :( After all the "reality TV" junk this past decade, I'm seriously wondering just how voyeuristic humans really are. :-\

Intelligently written. Believable characters. I will re-read it again someday.

Actors I "used" to visualize the characters:

Eve Warren: Nancy Barrett (age 20)
Prof. Warren: Peter Cushing (w/American accent, age 50)
Jim Canford: Leonardo DiCaprio (age 23)
Elisha Tuttle: Ewan McGregor (w/American accent, age 27)

Saturday, May 17, 2008


This blog will indulge my shadow -- or "Personality B," as Carl Jung would put it. "Personality A" is dominant of course, and enjoys sunny 1960s retro/nostalgia, bright colors, etc. Or as some folks (including and especially my husband) would say, "You would have been quite the flowerchild in the 1960s." I was born in 1965 so technically...I was?? ;)

A long-time fan of the original (1966 - 1971) Dark Shadows TV program, I took up an interest in reading Gothic Romance novels (recently) after I grew tired of reading serious non-fiction: Psychology, 18th century Enlightenment, history, science (though I never tire of astronomy), etc. A local used/out-of-print bookstore has a huge selection of Gothic novels of yesteryear in stock...rightfully located in a dark and dank (or what passes for "dank" in this dry desert climate) corner of the store. ;)

I've just finished reading Mostly by Moonlight, by Dorothy Daniels. Will review it soon. It is both entertaining and intelligently written. Approximately 30 other novels await; I look forward to reading them all.

And talk about "cheap" entertainment; I have hours of reading pleasure ahead of far for a grand total of $35.00 or thereabouts. The cover art for these old paperbacks (I'm fortunate most of my copies are in very good, if not mint, condition) are gorgeous.

Gothic Romance novels are a perfect outlet for my Personality B. The novels possess dark, chilling, forboding, haunting elements (yes I love that spooky stuff; it is part of our human Collective Unconscious and must be acknowledged), but (very importantly) they celebrate victory over troubles and trials, and love.

More to follow. Thank you for visiting.