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 or 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.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bells of Widow's Bay by Miriam Lynch [1971]

This is a powerfully entertaining read.

[Photo courtesy Miriam Lynch's entry in "Fantastic Fiction" website, which is a UK site]

Lisa Meredith is invited by her new love interest, Anton "Tony" Belvoir, for a weekend at the family estate: Ledge House, which is situated on a tiny island somewhere off the New England coast. Tony exudes confidence and charm. They've dated a while: Cozy expensive little restaurants, an evening at the theater. She's a bit hesitant, particularly as Lisa believes it should be Tony's grandmother, the lady of the estate, who should extend the invitation. Despite her reservations, Lisa accepts Tony's offer.

En route to Ledge House, Tony's demeanor changes. He becomes withdrawn, silent, brooding.

They cross to the island from Banbury Landing. Neither the boatwoman nor Arla, the maid at Ledge House who is returning from her mother's funeral, are friendly. Tony coldly ignores both women and vice versa. Indeed, there is scant friendliness to be found anywhere on the island and Lisa immediately regrets coming along.

And then everything goes very badly.

The tolling of bells portends death...Lisa is subjected to physical attacks by an unknown female assailant...the boatwoman who runs her craft between Banbury Landing and the small island mysteriously vanishes...Tony's family is not welcoming nor very accommodating.

Lisa is soon plagued with terrible nightmares. She awakens in another room, in another time; the lamp by her bed is replaced with a candle. A different face returns her groggy gaze in the mirror. "Her" body is compelled to acts of near violence.

Is she being possessed by the spirit of a dead young servant? Or is her stressed and frightened mind playing tricks on her?

Fortunately Ledge House is modernized and contains telephones, which remain in working order. Lisa contacts Dave Shannon, the good-hearted humanitarian/pro-civil rights and activist lawyer she works for. Please come help her! Dave has been soft on Lisa for a long time, but she's ignored his attempts at romance.

Charges of witchcraft, the unexplained deaths of men, the lack of men -- or children -- on the island, ominously tolling bells, love lost and love regained: This is the essence of Bells of Widow's Bay.

I didn't foresee just who THE culprit was. It's a tightly written, *terrifically* written novel which I will read again at some point [I rarely if ever re-read fiction]. Also, I'm personally not a big romantic, but did enjoy the elements of tender and genuine romance in the novel.

On a scale of 1 to 5, this book gets 5 stars.

Cast of characters as I visualized them:

Lisa Meredith: Kim Novack [age 23]
Anton "Tony" Belvoir: Jerry Lacy [age 27]
Dave Shannon: Dick York [age 25]
Arla: I visualized her as described in the book.
The Belvoir "Sisters": Who cares what those ugla mugla losers actually look like?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Gathering of Moondust, by Patricia Morton [1965]

This Gothic novel was published by Lancer and is Ms. Morton's one and only, so far as I can discover.

It's an okay novel. I wouldn't advise knocking one's self out to obtain it. The cover art is beautiful: Young dark-haired woman dressed in black, hair upswept with ruby-red lips standing in profile with a white-gloved hand clasped to her breast. In the background is a gloomy hill on which stands a tall castle-like edifice...with the customary one lit window (sinister red). A full moon is rising amidst streaks of dark clouds above the ramparts, around which bats are fluttering. Sorry, I don't have a scanner. But this IS a gorgeous bit of cover art for the collector.

The story centers on Theodora "Teddy" Worth, a nice young girl who helps run her parents' exotic tobacco shop in San Francisco. One day a young Air Force officer happens to come in, looking for a particular tobacco. Love swirls up between them quicker than you can light and puff a cherry-wood pipe. ;)

Teddy and Frank Lang marry. The circumstances of their marriage is a bit strange initially, and after two years they move to Hope House, in New England. Hope House is a dark and forbidding (of course) estate owned by Frank's long-deceased parents. His paternal aunt [Maud] and uncle by marriage [Fred] raised him, and continue running the estate.

Teddy discovers to her chagrin that she's stepped into an unpleasant situation: Uncle Fred suspects Teddy of hating the estate and wanting Frank to sell it [hence Fred and Maud would be put out of "their" home of the past 25 years]; Mr. Parton, an ambitious real estate developer, hopes the Langs will sale so he can build another group of small middle-class homes; the Baxters also wish the Langs to sell Hope House and its ground so they [especially Martha] can extend their estate. Martha Baxter loves animals and calls their estate "The Menagerie."

Sinister accidents start happening to the Langs -- particularly to Teddy. The private pier at their little beachfront seems deliberately tampered with; Teddy sees the alleged ghost of a young woman whose father built Hope House in the 1860's; Teddy feels threatened by Martha and Frank's ex-girlfriend Felicia; she is also targeted for murder.

Mostly this novel is a "whodunit" or rather "whosdoinit." There is very little supernatural element in it, unfortunately. Also, Teddy becomes a bit too unhinged too soon, imo. There are no major twists or turns, and the ending is a bit "rushed."

The ending of the novel is gratifying, however.

One note of humor: The two highly dramatic scenes the author describes reads like what those old cheesey Gothic film scenes -looked- like.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd rate it a 3-star novel.

The characters as I visualized them:

Theodora "Teddy" Worth: Nancy Barrett [age 22]
Frank Lang: Joel Crothers [age 25]
Aunt Maud Arthur: Agnes Moorehead [age 50]
Uncle Frank Arthur: Gregory Peck [age 53]
Martha Baxter: Nancy Kovack [age 41]
Dr. Fielding: Robert Reed [age 37]
Felix Parton: Couldn't visualize him.
Hal Parton: Craig Slocum [age 23]
Felicia Morley: Tina Louise [age 24]

Saturday, August 2, 2008


What the heck is "Sundari"?

It's a Japanese Tarot. The full name is "Sundari Love Qabbalah Tarot." I've posted two panels of Sundari: One example in the right-hand column beneath the gothic candles and another towards the end of blog page.

Ultrafeminine, Gothicky, sexy.

Came across this Tarot set quite by accident yesterday. Didn't even know it existed. Was immediately taken with the images. Unfortunately it is not an actual published deck (so far as I was able to discover). Its images were reproduced in two Japanese "mooks" (a combo of magazine and book) in 2007, according to one lucky owner of the cards.

I tried finding back issues of Sundari for sale, in order to obtain the cards. No luck.

Enjoy the images!