Saturday, June 28, 2008

Our strong heroines

These novels have proven a much-needed "thing." The timing was right to delve into this genre, which I definitely enjoy.

The heroines are the resourceful, intelligent, kindly, capable, efficient types of women I grew up admiring and trying to emulate.

The stories are gender equitable and fair [towards men] as well. That's another plus.

After years of having my feminine self-ideal and identity eroded somewhat (as it turns out, more than I'd realized; due to a series of unpleasant circumstances), these novels and their worthy heroines are re-strengthening/replenishing my feminine self-ideal and identity.

If I may indulge a bit: Girl power!! :D

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keys of Hell, by Louise Osborne [1975]

Fantastic! :D

This novel is on par with Stephen King's The Shining and Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, imo.

Gwen Carroll is a young journalist residing in Toronto, Ontario. She's suffered a couple of tragic losses in her life and is determined to be socially isolated. She's not bitter, but simply doesn't want to experience the pain of tragic loss again. And so she's safely esconced inside her private walls ... until the night she hears a woman screaming for help down her apartment hallway. There's a scuffle; a man is trying to forcibly take the crying child from her mother. Gwen hurries to help the woman. Gwen recognizes the woman as involved in investigating psychic activity; Gwen has recently been in the same company exploring the alleged hauntings of a nearby opulent estate, Nine Oaks. The group of would-be ghost busters is led by the handsome and charming Prof. Robert Wildfield, with whom Gwen is soon smitten.

Gwen quickly grows curious about Nonnie Richards and her dangerous situation, especially as a little girl [Laura] is involved. She is torn between fiercely maintaining her privacy and "don't get involved" sentiments versus reaching out.

It doesn't take long for Gwen to decide the right thing to do is involve herself. Maude (a now-deceased foster mother and spiritual mentor) wouldn't expect anything less from Gwen.
And so Nonnie Richards and Laura move into Gwen's apartment. The man who attempted to steal Laura away continues with stalking Nonnie's apartment and trying to break in.
Just when it seems Nonnie and Laura are off to live with a wealthy and caring uncle at the nearby secure Lion's Head estate, Gwen is unexpectedly swept back into their lives.

And then the action really starts.

The story is fast (yet smoothly) paced, characterization is strong, the descriptions unfold in the mind's eye like a movie. Gwen is a true heroine. She's brave, intelligent, conscientious, caring. Someone I'd definitely want at MY back in a dangerous situation.

A major strong point is the author leaves you guessing until the very end (with one notable exception) who the good versus bad guys are, as peripheral characters go. I had a hunch about two of them...and was proven wrong.

Keys of Hell is a true page-turner and a delight.

The cast of characters as I visualized them [drawing from quite an assortment of actors/-tresses through the years; they simply came into my mind's eye as these actors]:

Gwen Carroll: Mia Farrow [age 24]
Nonnie Richards: Liv Tyler [age 24] (especially fun visualizing her in the hair/clothing of the era; she's so beautiful)
Prof. Robert Wildfield: Harrison Ford [age 32]
Ben Potter: Fred MacMurray [age 55]
Mrs. Heaslip: Clarice Blackburn [age 50]
Nicolas Dessaix: David Selby [age 30]
Mrs. Thornby: Emmaline Henry [age 45]

Friday, June 20, 2008


I'm noticing that all novels so far have a lot of coffee drinking in them. :) All stories I've read thus far were published between 1965 - 1971.

[And also, in two stories thus far all soda beverages are referred to as "Cokes." Back home (Iowa) it was "pop." Ask for "Cokes" and you'd be given Coca-Cola. My 1st brother-in-law said "Cokes." But he could mean a Sprite or a Pepsi (so why not call the product by its real name?)]

I was born in 1965 and my parents became anti-social in the early '70s, so there was no "let's have coffee at 8 PM" with friends at our home.

Last evening while reading the current novel (will review it when finished), sure enough the heroine prepares coffee (and toast) before turning in for the night.Characters always brewing up a pot of coffee whether it's morning or mid-afternoon or late evening. Caffeine past 6 PM?? Not for me. But it's cool in the stories. ;)

It's a nice social graces touch. Social graces are, at least in this area, mostly dead. Many of these stories are bringing back certain memories of when people were more willingly connected. I miss those days...

Of course some of these stories could use a bit more coffin than coffee -- lol.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Black Dog, by Georgena Goff [1971]

This is a fabulous story. has copies for sale (although I was lucky enough to find it at a local used bookstore). I almost passed the novel glad I didn't.

The Black Dog is, imo, what a Gothic novel should be. As far as I can discover, it is Ms. Goff's one/only novel. I cannot find information about the author (possible pseudonyms, etc.).

The story unfolds in a small town in Michigan. Charlotte "Lottie" Daley -- a young schoolteacher -- moves into Mrs. Potter's boarding house after her boyfriend, Jed, obtains a teaching position for her. It is he who also suggests Mrs. Potter's boarding house, as Mrs. Potter is a medium and likely in touch with a character simply named Holme.

Jed is interested in "The Psychic Holme Family" who date from the mid-18th century in England. Every 25 years Holme shows up in the vicinity of a psychic community...accompanied by a black dog. At the same time 3 women from an English village simultaneously disappear. It is the same Holme as he born in the mid-1800s, or a generational Holme? What is his connection with the disappearance of 3 women from the village? Jed is researching a paper about Holme...or the Holme's.

Lottie poo-poo's psychism and spooks. Jed enlists her reluctant help. He encourages Lottie to attend Mrs. Potter's seances, in hopes Holme will make an appearance.

Holme does indeed make an appearance. Mrs. Potter gets an unwanted surprise -- including a voodoo doll with a bit hatpin through its heart at the landing of her stairs. Lottie is at first repelled by Holme. Jed's reaction to it all is a 180-degree change: Suddenly he's made up his mind that it's all nonsense, this current Holme is just that and likely a charlatan; Lottie should just stay away and forget the whole thing.

Lottie can't forget it all, however. Jed tries to preoccupy her time and mind...away from Mrs. Potter's fate, the tiny graveyard behind the boarding house; he takes her to a black lake which shines like a black diamond when the clouds part and sunshine streams through. The onyx lake is surrounded by forest. They frollick there on a long late summer's afternoon, make love in the sand.

And discover an old run-down mansion overlooking the lake.

Holme reacquaints himself with Lottie. He is a gentle, charismatic, extremely attractive personality. Lottie slides effortlessly into his web of mysticism and ethereal beauty. I too would be captivated and charmed by Holme. Their carefree and playful afternoon in the soft autumn rains ... enchanting.

Jed, meanwhile, seems to have abandoned Lottie. For all his fretting and dread of Holme and supposed love/concern for Lottie, he's absolutely out of the picture.

The reader can't help wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad guy at this point.

Then Lottie encounters Rosamond and Laura...[no spoilers :P ]

The story stays on track. It is eloquently and powerfully written; eerie and seductive. It is straightforward, with just enough descriptive to give the reader a clear mental picture.

The ending was clever, with a few surprising twists.

One pecularity I noticed in the story was the play of green and the play of blue. I've not known an author to use colors this way; curious. :)

Get it, read it!

Cast of Characters [as I visualized them]:

Lottie: Alexandra Moltke (age 24)
Holme: David Bowie (age 25) ... with blonde-brown hair, not the red in the story
Jed: Stephen Collins (age 27)
Mrs. Potter: Grayson Hall (age 55)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's :::raining::: Gothic Romance novels

I did a bit of searching for "Jane Gordon." She's the author of the novel I'm currently reading, Season of Evil. It's a delightful, highly entertaining read [and rather unusual in one aspect, but no spoilers; will review it when I'm finished]. I decided to try and track Ms. Gordon down. Turns out she's Elsie Lee [Sheridan] and she's a multiply-published author, including of non-fiction [gourmet cookbooks and party guides].

Found the above link. Two novels in particular interested me: Silence is Golden [with its gorgeous cover art] and Barrow Sinister. As luck would have it, my local used bookstore with its well-stocked Gothic section had each...and each in excellent condition. :-)

I also picked up Dark Moon, Lost Lady and Clouds over Vellanti.

All 4 for only $1.25. Each in excellent condition with fabulous cover art.

I told the cashier, "I'm cleaning out your Gothics." He laughed and said, "Good! There's plenty back there."

Glad I went on an internet hunt for Jane Gordon. Here's to her! *Toast* And hours of pleasurable reading ahead.

The Dark of Memory [Paula Minton]

Can't recall which year it was published [for the Title Line, but doesn't matter]. I obtained the scan from web site.

Took me all of 30 minutes to decide I wasn't going to spend more time on this lemon. Ms. Minton [or whoever s/he was] spends an inordinate amount of time on superficial descriptions: Down to characters' shoes. Minute, minute.

What cinched it for me was when she criticized a lead character's penchant for droning on and on [more minute] regarding the various courses of the fancy French dinner she was consuming. Ms. Minton describes that character as being SO talkative because she loved the sound of her own voice.

That's the first time I've seen projection (of a fault) of a writer onto a fictional character!

My advice? Skip it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

House on Crow's Nest Island, by Arlene Hale [1968]

Finished it this afternoon. Excellent! On a scale of 1 to 5, it's definitely a 5. The setting is very unique, imo; I mentioned it in a different thread [while halfway through it]. Scan obtained via Ebay.

Story takes place on a tiny and privately-owned island in the Mississippi River. The island is near a city on the river's edge. Grain elevators are mentioned, and grain dust (I hail from the Midwest; ol' Miss is the eastern border of my native state). Barges too.I was immediately taken with this idea: A forboding old mansion set upon a tiny island in the MS river. And if far enough north (I visualize it between southern Iowa and Illinois), next to the Quad Cities, the weather would often be gloomy enough (cloudy, rainy, foggy). That decided me to read this novel ahead of a stack of others.

Ann Clark, RN, is the young heroine of the story. She's smart, competent, professional, compassionate. She's hired to care for an elderly man, Nicodemus Laniard, who is master of the estate. Is the old man really senile and falsely accusing family members [themselves generally selfish and cold] of wanting to do him in for their share of the inheritance, or is he telling the truth despite half-coherent rants and tantrums? The family is unwelcoming and self-absorbed; no nurse has remained past 48 hours at Crow's Nest Island. But Ann, suspecting the family whom she does not like, is determined to stay, care for and protect her helpless elderly charge.Romance brews up between herself and Max Able, and also with Dr. Steven Webb. She's essentially torn between the winsome doctor with his warmth and charming smile, and dependable loyal Max -- the "strength of a sturdy tree which could weather any storm."I'm glad Ann had to choose between them and not me! The author tries to remain as "medically correct" as possible. One line did give me a laugh, though: That Nicodemus' "wild behavior" [sometimes] might be due to hardening of the arteries. However, I am impressed with the author's overall treatment of its nurse and doctor characters: Their devotion to patients, compassion and professionality.

The story stays on track, characters and surroundings are simply yet adequately described and easy to visualize; as though it's a movie unfolding to one's inner eye. Good twists and turns, most of which I did not foresee. Action, suspense, drama.A slight criticism [which I'm reluctant to make, as the story is so good] is a bit more Gothic atmosphere could have been injected into the story. Another thunderstorm, fog, "things that go bump in the night," perhaps the rumor of a haunting.Ann is definitely the kind of person I'd like to have as a friend. She's an ace, a real trooper. I was sorry when the story ended.

I "used" these actors to portray the characters [different eras]:

Ann Clark: Julie Adams [age 24]
Dr. Steven Webb: William Katt [age 28]
Max: Kevin Spacey [age 30]
Nicodemus L: Kirk Douglas [age 82]
Tenspot: Himself [a dog, lol]
Clayton L: Harrison Ford [age 30]
Mara L: Nancy Barrett [age 22]
Valerie L: Meryl Streep [age 52]
Harrison: Roddy McDowell (w/US accent) [age 35]
Kate: Kathy Bates [age 40]

Definitely, definitely give this book a read!