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)