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 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 {}. 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.