Do Evil in Return

“Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return.”  

W.H. Auden

A dark chain of evil inexorably strangles the lives of those involved: the spirited heroine, Charlotte Keating, a woman doctor; Violet O’Gorman, the innocent victim: Lewis Ballard, who loved himself more than he loved the women in his life; Gwen Ballard, who still lived in the memory of the days when she was belle of the town… the sinister theme is subtly contrived and cleverly executed… a psychological thriller, highly recommended.” The Globe and Mail.

Originally published in hard cover by Random House. Copyright Margaret Millar 1950. Lancer Books 1966.

Another lucky charity shop find. I love this cover; it’s classy (my photo doesn’t do it justice so you’ll have to take my word for it, but her matching coral lipstick and nail polish combo is gorgeous) and it’s spooky too. Look at that sinister silhouette of someone or something lurking in the darkened window behind her – no wonder she’s running away before giving herself time to put her coat on properly!

Margaret Millar (February 5, 1915 – March 26, 1994) was an American-Canadian mystery and suspense writer. She has been credited with being a screenwriter for Warner Brothers Hollywood and was a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1956. I think her writing is wonderful; I’m reading another one of her books at the moment and hope to review it soon.

As for Do Evil, a cursory flick through the internet reveals this has been reprinted a number of times. Here’s the back blurb from 1974 Avon Books:

“Girls like Violet often came into Dr. Charlotte Keating’s office. Violet wore a wedding ring, but then, they all did. They bought them at the dime store just before the appointment. And Charlotte’s response was the same each time: firm but sympathetic refusal. But there was something different about Violet…”

And an alternative Dell cover (with Map back) can be viewed on Swallace99’s Flickr page here -

The Possession of Elizabeth Calder

Spirit of Vengeance

After only a few hours in the old mansion on lonely Randall’s Island, Elizabeth Calder realized that some eerie force was watching over her. Fifty years before, the peace of that house had been shattered by murder and suicide – could it be that a revenge-hungry spirit still walked the halls?

Elizabeth was determined to find the truth – and someone was equally determined to kill her before she did. As danger piled on danger and terror on terror, Elizabeth little suspected that, in her moment of greatest need, help would come from the spirit of a woman who had been dead for fifty years!

A Ravenswood Gothic. Written by Melissa Napier. Published by Pocket Books October 1973.

Elizabeth Calder has been having a tough time of it lately. Her fiancé, Jeffrey, has broken off their engagement and run away with her best friend. To make matters worse, all her other so-called friends find the situation hilariously funny and aren’t sympathetic at all. Poor Elizabeth finds herself traumatised and friendless (perhaps that’s for the best though…) retreating ever deeper into her own imaginary world, wistfully dreaming of far off lands from times past and future…

Luckily, before her self -imposed exile drives her completely bonkers, she receives an invitation from her Aunt and Uncle inviting her over to their place. They are park rangers who live and work on the beautiful but isolated Randall’s Island, just off the Jersey coast and Elizabeth decides some time away in such a wondrous place will be just what she needs to get well again.

However, no sooner does she arrive than her imagination starts playing tricks on her again. Or does it? Locals start looking at her funny, muttering darkly about her resemblance to another Elizabeth – an Elizabeth Conway – who died over fifty years ago. Then, on her first night at the island, our Elizabeth is visited by a host of ghostly apparitions -  some good, some bad – doing the dance of death in the middle of her bedroom.

Confused? I was. But it transpires that Elizabeth Calder is being haunted by an evil force that wants to kill her as well as the spirit of Elizabeth Conway – a girl whose own lover had jilted her too. Over fifty years ago. And when that Elizabeth’s sweetheart disappeared she was falsely accused of his murder. So she killed herself.

Or did she? For there is more going on at Randall Island than mere hauntings. Woken up during a raging thunderstorm in the middle of the night, Elizabeth spots some suspicious looking characters lurking outside of the house. Following them into the cellar she narrowly escapes death by a caved in tunnel before stumbling right into the middle of an illegal smuggling operation, led by evil old crone Emily Baxter, a woman who has more than one reason for wanting to kill our heroine…

Some books read like a perfect summertime romance – there’s no point analysing it too deeply (you won’t find much worth looking for anyway) so best to just pour yourself another drink, relax, lie back and enjoy the ride. The Possession of Elizabeth Calder was like this for me – I had no idea of what was going on (still don’t actually) but our time together was short, sweet and great fun while it lasted. And with a cover this groovytastic, who cares what’s on the inside? Three stars out of five.

The Caldwell Shadow

“My daughter has not uttered a word for four years. Someone, somehow, has to break whatever spell possesses her.”

Mr. Caldwell looked thin and drawn as he confided his desperation to Janelle Farrington, R.N. The beautiful young psychiatric nurse was his last hope. She must try to save his daughter Nadine from the strange silence that had overcome her that dreadful day of her mother’s death.

Janelle looked gently at the distraught father. “Tell me,” she asked, “what is her attitude toward you, sir?”

“I would think,” said Mr Caldwell, “that if the proper opportunity arose, my daughter would kill me…”

Warner Paperback Library Edition. First Printing September 1973. Second Printing August 1975. Cover illustration by Vic Prezio.

Thought I’d share this lovely cover by Vic Prezio. There is something wonderfully eerie about that single gravestone, poised by the edge of the forest, as if quietly waiting for something – or someone. I’ve not read this novel yet so I don’t know whether the ghostly figure next to it is a phantom, mysterious stranger or some awful future vision of the heroine herself. Could be, as with many of my gothics, the cover art has nothing whatsoever to do with the story!

Wuthering Heights

Dominated by the wild, terrible figure of Heathcliff and infused with much of the bleak beauty of its setting, the Yorkshire Moors, Wuthering Heights is one of the most highly imaginative novels in the English language. Such is the intense power of the atmosphere which Emily Bronte builds up that even the incredible Heathcliff seems real and every detail of the fantastic story of his love for Catherine Earnshaw remains clearly remembered long after one has finished the book. It is a strange story, with something of the vividness of a nightmare and something of the beauty of an old ballad, and it contrasts strongly with Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre, the novels which were written at the same time by Anne and Charlotte Bronte.

Written by Emily Bronte, first published 1847. Published in Penguin Books 1946. This reprint, 1965. Cover art Paul Hogarth.

I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again – there’s too much running and not enough kissing going on in this blog and so of course I had to share this gorgeously smoochalicious cover of Wuthering Heights the minute I saw it.

According to Wikipedia, Paul Hogarth OBE was an English artist and illustrator best known for the cover drawings that he did in the 1980s for Penguin’s Graham Greene’s books. And yes, his artwork is worth looking out for – search for his book covers online and there is an amazing array of his work out there, it’s great.

And it’s been a good week for ferreting out some of my favourite books and writers – in addition to the Penguin edition of Wuthering Heights above, I also found this:

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte. Written by Daphne du Maurier. Doubleday edtion published March 1961. Giant Cardinal edition published December 1962. 1st printing October 1962.

Of all the Brontes, Branwell, as a child, showed the most promise. He was worshipped by his sisters and his widowed father; it was to him they all looked for literary success. Yet he alone was unable to bridge the gap between childhood fantasy and adulthood, and produce a mature, finished book.

There is, however, no question of his influence upon the writings of his sisters, and certainly Emily drew heavily on him for her memorable portrait of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

Conscious to the end of his sisters’ success and his own monumental failure, he turned to a life of dissipation and withdrew to live in the wild, fantastic imagination of his mythical, self-invented kingdom of Angria.

He died at thirty one, from alcohol and excessive laudanum – an ‘eloquent unpublished poet.’

It’s an amazing biography – Daphne du Marier’s skill as a novelist and storyteller bringing the life and times of the Bronte family alive. Anyone interested in the writings of the Bronte sisters can’t help but be drawn in by this beautifully written and wonderfully observed portrait of their incredibly talented but deeply troubled brother, Branwell.

I bought both these books for £1 at the wonderful Colin Page Books in Brighton, an amazing bookshop known and loved by bibliophiles far and wide. This is the kind of place that sells proper old books – gilt edged, leather bound, dusted in antiquity – rows upon rows of them, stacked floor to ceiling in that wonderful  ‘there must be some sort of order to this chaos’ way that real bookstores have.

And fear not all you cheap’n’cheerful paperback pulp fans – this place has something for everyone! For outside the shop are a couple of trestle tables where the paperbacks are sold and there is always a great selection, most priced at a very reasonable £1. I’m lucky enough to live and work nearby so this is one of my favourite lunchtime stops for a browse and a bargain!

For more info on this wonderful place, check out the antiquarian Booksellers’ Association page HERE.

Where Shadows Lie

Tonight, with the room almost completely dark, the chairs and love seats and footstools had lost their outlines and seemed to have become crouching shadows.

More fancies – I am letting myself become obsessed with them, Elizabeth thought, allowing my imagination to run away with me. Still, she was glad to reach her small bedroom and lock the door behind her.

Once in bed, she fell asleep almost immediately, deeply and dreamlessly.

What awakened her she did not know. Sounds became magnified. The creaking of an old board somewhere outside her bedroom door was like a groan in the stillness. The muttering of the ocean seemed to rise to a roar. A fog horn far out on the water sang its melancholy song.

And through those other sounds came another, so unlikely that she pulled herself up on her pillow and sat hugging her knees, her ears straining and her eyes staring sightlessly into the darkness.

Surely there could not be a baby crying here in Gray House!

Written by Miriam Lynch

An original Pinnacle Books edition. First printing March 1972.

Our heroine, the lovely Elizabeth Lyman, is a true blue-blooded American, whose ancestors were prominent in the days before the Revolutionary War. We meet her as she is on her way to her childhood home, Gray House, situated in a small town just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The house once belonged to her forefather the legendary John Hackett Gray, a hero of the American Civil war. These days, Gray House is open to the public over the weekends, presided over by its two elderly custodians, Elizabeth’s Aunts, Lydia and Dorothy.

Elizabeth doesn’t have too many fond memories growing up in the company of these ‘stern, sour faced’ women and so her unexpected visit is not a social one. Clearing out the belongings of her recently deceased parents, she has recently come into possession of an old steel box. Inside this box are some letters, written by the late, great John Hackett himself, as well as a leather bound journal belonging to his wife. Convinced her Aunts will be ecstatic at her find and will want to preserve these treasures for future generations, Elizabeth has decided to deliver the documents over to them herself.  

Alas, her welcome is worse than even she could of imagined. Her Aunts make it plain they are far from happy with Elizabeth’s sudden arrival, their mood improving not a whit when they receive the diary and papers.

By now Elizabeth is too tired to care. Exhausted by the long journey she just plans to say her hello and goodbyes before beating a hasty retreat back to her apartment and her job as a secretary in the Town Hall. But fate conspires against her as sickness and a broken down car force her into accepting her Aunt’s begrudging hospitality.

Now most gothic heroines end up in perilous situations as a direct result of having too much curiosity – with Elizabeth Lyman however, the opposite is true. For if she had only read through the old diary before handing it over (and let’s face it, who can ever resist reading someone else’s secret thoughts given half a chance?) she could have saved herself a whole heap of trouble. As it happens, the few days she spends at Gray House with her vinegar-veined Aunties prove not only unpleasant but potentially lethal. Fortunately for Elizabeth, there is a handsome young author around to lend her a hand or two, but how far can she really trust him…?

I’ve reviewed a few Miriam Lynch titles on this blog, and enjoyed them all. One of them, The Deadly Rose, shares a similar ‘psychotic little old lady running wild in a rambling death-trap of a house’ plot to this novel and Miriam Lynch certainly knows how to work the spooky spinster theme very convincingly.

What I really like about her writing is the way she can keep a story moving – avoiding bogging the reader down in narrative – while still finding the time to lend a gothic hand to the proceedings. All the books of hers I’ve read contain some very effective scene setting, with wonderful terror-laden descriptions of her heroines’ state of mind as they find themselves embroiled ever deeper in danger.

The cover art for this one is rather lovely too. I found a slightly more modern version (pictured above) at a Miriam Lynch book covers page here:

I’m giving Where Shadows Lie four out of five stars, with extra gothic points for the grisly discovery of two skeletons found hidden in the cellar, entwined in each other’s bones.


Dark Dowry


The black pearl necklace – young, beautiful, enigmatic India Stuart-Brice gazed at it with mingled awe and foreboding. This fabulous treasure was her sole legacy from the aristocratic father whose death had shattered her sheltered life in British Calcutta- and sent her halfway round the globe to relatives she did not know and a fate shrouded in fearful mystery.

Desperately India clung to her precious pearls – even when she discovered their price in peril. Their uncanny beauty was no blessing but a curse that poisoned love and threatened life itself… as East meets West in a climax of horror…


Is the masterpiece of supreme gothic story teller Willo Davis Roberts. You’ll want to read each complete novel of this enthralling epic of romance and suspense, all in Popular Library editions.

Written by Willo Davies Roberts. Published by Popular Library, a unit of CBS Publications. May 1978.

Descended from aristocracy but exiled from England under mysterious circumstances, widower Judson Stuart-Brice is enjoying a cloistered existence, safe in the enclave of his Calcutta mansion and far from the biting gossip of London’s High Society.

All this changes after his brutal murder, when he is shot down in an alley in what first appears to be a motiveless crime.

Now it’s up to India, as the eldest daughter, to do right by her family. Named after the country she grew up in, we meet India as she is sailing to Monterey with her three younger siblings in tow. Orphaned and penniless, they are off to the Golden State in order to throw themselves at the mercy of some distant relatives.  For their father has left them nothing – nothing that is except for Black Pearl necklace hidden under the folds of India’s skirts.

Ahh, them pearls, them pearls…the rarest of them all and a dark dowry indeed; perfectly matched, each a deep iridescent grey, they were once the property of a heartbroken maharajah, who disposed of them when his sweetheart died before she ever had the chance to wear them.

And, before his untimely death, India’s father has handed them down to his daughter, with the sage advice that she should use them as a means to maximise her chances in attracting a suitable husband. He doesn’t disclose exactly how they came into his possession but he does live long enough to reassure her their unhappy past in no way makes them unlucky or cursed.

Well, that was his opinion. India soon begins to suspect otherwise and it’s not long before all manner of accidents, intrigues and incidents start to plague her – stolen luggage, bolting stallions, deadly spiders hiding out in her underwear drawer –her new  life in California is turning out very precarious indeed. Someone is after her precious pearls, and worse, the finger of suspicion is pointing directly towards her handsome new beau, Nathan Peltier.

With a bodice-busting total of eight novels to its name, Willo Davis Roberts’ Black Pearl Series seems like the perfect gothic saga to lose myself in during these long, long rainy days of spring and I’ve been looking forward to making a start on this for a while now.

 As an introduction to this ‘enthralling epic of romance and suspense’ Dark Dowry was an enjoyable enough read, though a little on the light side. There was plenty of romance, a little bit of suspense but, disappointingly, no ghosts or ghouls lurking in the shadows of its pages, despite all the promising talk hinting at demonic deeds, embraces of evil, and honeymoons in hell.

Hopefully this will change as the saga continues and I plan to revisit The Black Pearl Series soon. In the meantime, here’s a taster of instalment number two – The Cade Curse.


The fabulous black pearl necklace was blood-warm around beautiful Carolyn Stuart-Brice’s throat, but icy fear filled her heart as she stood before the altar with the man she knew only as Jack Cade. This handsome, iron-willed stranger had swept her off her feet, brushed aside her protests, and compelled her to say yes to his startling marriage proposal.

The cover art to this one is by Hector Garrido. The original artwork, as well as some more of his covers, can be seen on a wonderful flickr gallery devoted to his art: HERE.

Widow in White

The Defenceless Target Of A Mysterious Intruder

It began on a rainy Saturday afternoon as Margo was entertaining her new neighbours at a small housewarming party. A car ran into one of the trees on her property, and an injured man was soon installed in her guestroom.

But the smashup, Margo soon learned, was no accident. The handsome, ruthless stranger was after something in the house, and nothing – not even Margo herself – was going to stand in his way of getting it.

Copyright 1973 by Morris Hershman. First Avon printing, January 1973. Cover art Walter Popp. (Thanks Ruben!)

The goddess of all gifts second-hand has been very good to me recently, with at least one lovely gothic a day picked up at the local charity shops this week. Monday’s acquisition was the very fair of face Widow in White and oh, how I love this cover!

One thing I’ve noticed about my Avon gothics though – the cover art is usually stunning but the covers are particularly vulnerable to wear and tear. Quite often the artwork is almost completely scuffed off. This one is in very good condition for an Avon gothic – well, for one found on this side of the Atlantic anyway.

Here’s a taster from the inside cover:

Morris Hershman (born 1926) wrote under several pseudonyms, including Sara Roffman, Janet Templeton, Lionel Webb and Jessica Wilcox. And it’s his Evelyn Bond persona that looks to be the most prolific, with at least twenty gothics published in the 60’s and 70’s.

Here’s a short biog on the author, taken from the Browne Popular Culture Library page:

Morris Hershman was born on January 31, 1926. He attended New York University. On September 6, 1969, he married Florence Verbell, a writer and editor, though they are now divorced.

Hershman writes under the pseudonyms: Evelyn Bond, Arnold English, Sara Roffman, Janet Templeton, Sam Victor, Lionel Webb, and Jess Wilcox. He also writes under various other private pseudonyms. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Morris Hershman resides in New York City.

And some more information, with scans of all his lovely gothics, can be found over at Fantastic Fiction HERE.

House of Hate

The Gathering Storm…

The stately mansion of the Thibaults was filled with the treasures and the memories of gracious living… but it held more than that. The world of the Thibaults had been shaped by art and music, but something in the house seemed to feed on a vicious undercurrent of fear and frustration. When Norma Theale came on a mission of mercy, she became a catalyst, around which a storm of dark furies gathered… waiting to burst and spew its evil over all. Because Norma was there, someone was going to die…

Would that someone be Norma herself?

Written by Dorothy Fletcher. A Magnum Book – Complete and Unabridged. Copyright 1967

A little bit of April tomfoolery to usher in the first of the month today. Paul McCartney played the Royal Albert Hall last week and his backing video to Paperback Writer at first glance looked to be a rather fabulous montage of Nurse Romance paperback art.

Nurse romances were very big in the 50′s and early 60′s before the gothic romances eclipsed their popularity. Mind you, the nurses in Sir Paul’s video look rather sinister (something about those surgical masks… and those little trickles of blood..) and they look as if they would be right at home in a gothic, assisting in the horrific experiments of some mad professor, somewhere deep within the dungeons of an isolated asylum…

Anyhow here’s a glimpse of the video taken from another show of his:

I don’t have any Nurse Romances myself, but I have a few gothics featuring nurses on the cover and House of Hate is one of them. Another is Leap in the Dark, written Rona Randall with a stunning cover by Lou Marchetti, which I’ve reviewed earlier on in this blog.

And if you want to have a look at some real Nurse Romances, check out The Vintage Nurse Romance Novels blog HERE.


She was torn between a married man and the lover who haunted her dreams…

When Linda Vaughan is assigned to work in England with her boss, Harvey Seymour, she is, at first, deliriously happy. She is in love with him and for a while has him all to herself.

But when she rents an ancient cottage in Somerset, the deep influence of the cottage’s past impinges on the present.

Then she is promised happiness by the stranger she meets on a journey and from then on Linda struggles between her yearnings for Harvey and the will-o’-the-wisp lover who haunts her dreams.

Written by Derry Moffatt. First NEL paperback edition, July 1974. Cover photograph by Lagarde.

Linda Vaughan has red-gold hair and wears squirrel-fur coats. She lives in Vancouver and works as a PA to Public Accountant Harvey J. Seymour – a man she has been hopelessly in love with for nearly two years. Harvey loves her too and when they are sent away on a business trip to England, they both welcome the chance to continue their illicit affair far from the prying eyes of Harvey’s wife.

However, the hotel they are staying in lacks character and, with so many other work colleagues wandering its corridors at night, it is proving not to be the haven of guilt ‘n’ gossip-free sex they were hoping for. So Linda decides to rent Magpie Cottage, a secluded place full of Olde Worlde charm, located far enough away from work for our amorous couple to enjoy themselves without raising further suspicion.

Soon as the lease is signed, Linda and Harvey move in, settling down to a life of quasi-domestic bliss. And that’s when Linda starts having some very vivid dreams…

The tunnel was long and misty. Linda faltered, fearful and uncertain, then the haze cleared, torn aside like a veil. She was standing in a garden. It was high summer and fluffy white clouds sailed across an azure sky. Fragrant blooms spread a patchwork of colour in the flower beds. Beyond the garden walls soft hills were clad in green and gold … buttercups formed an undulating yellow carpet…

Amongst the shrubberies, his back towards her was a young man. She followed at a distance feeling curiously elated. Slowly the young man walked down a flight of worn steps and along a flag-stoned path between the evergreens to a sunken garden. As if suddenly aware of a presence he stood still, then turned. His wide sea-blue eyes made their way into Linda’s with a long unflinching look. With a start, Linda realised that he alone was aware of her… could actually see her.

For a full minute they gazed in silence at each other. Linda felt her heart hammering against her ribs. Something in the strength and beauty of his features stirred her soul. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came. His vibrating whisper of exultation caught and spun her heart. “My love… at last my love, you have come.”

Hmmm. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this reads like the perfect gothic romantic threesome – the man, the woman, and her otherworldly lover – but a few pages in and it was clear there was a bit more to this particular mix – not least Harvey’s long suffering wife, Susan, and their two young children.

Now I’m sure I’ve read lots of books full of people embroiled in extra-marital affairs, without thinking anything of it, but here, in the context of what I took to be a fairly straightforward romance, it was a little jarring. And it didn’t help that a large chunk of this novel chronicled Susan’s side of the story in all its soul crushing glory – the pain she endured finding out about the affair, the helplessness of being thousands of miles away from her husband, knowing she couldn’t do anything about it and the struggle she had keeping up a brave face for the sake of her children (one of which was seriously ill and dying in hospital no less).

This made it made it very difficult to empathise with our leading lady Linda, or to care very much about what happened to her and her ghostly lover. True, the ending to her story was suitably romantic and she did get to fall in love with the man of her dreams (literally). But any enjoyment the reader might have derived from this otherworldly romance was completely eclipsed by the wretched reality of Linda’s affair with Harvey and the devastating affect it had on his family

I first read Will-O’-the-Wisp a good few years ago and, even after re-reading it for this blog, I can honestly say I’ve not read a romance – gothic or otherwise – quite like it. And it makes me wonder, just how successful was the New English Library romance series if this was their idea of an example of the genre?

Judging from the signature in my copy, Derina Ridley is a pseudonym for Derry Moffatt. I can’t find out much else about her, except that she also wrote a few Disney movie tie-in books for New English Library in the 1970’s. The Bear Alley Blog states she was married to James Moffatt, the prolific pulp novelist best known for his Richard Allen ‘Skinhead’ books. 

Whether this is the case or not I cannot say but whoever Derry is, he/she has created a gloriously twisted take on the romance genre with Will-O’-the-Wisp. Though if lighthearted escapism is your thing, you’d probably best stick with Wuthering Heights. Four out of five stars.


The Rest is Silence


Nona O’Carty was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It was her first visit to England, and it should have been a festive vacation. She was looking forward with delighted anticipation to the royal wedding procession, and then…

She witnessed a brutal and seemingly senseless murder. At the same time, she was struck by a bullet which left her alive – but totally deaf.

She was completely unable to communicate what she knew – and she was not even sure how much she had actually seen and how much she had imagined. She was terribly, dreadfully alone. And there was no place to run – because now the murderer was stalking her, to ensure her silence… forever.

Written by Virginia Coffman.

Lancer Books 1968. Cover art Lou Marchetti.

Just when I thought I’d seen most of what Virginia Coffman has to offer gothic-wise, along comes another one! Of course Deaf, Mute and Dead would be the more politically appropriate, though far less alliterative, by-line for today’s back blurb, but I guess this was 1968.

I’ve had a quick flick through the first couple of chapters – the heroine, Nona, has a golden ticket for a royal wedding and she has travelled to England on a once in a lifetime trip from her hometown in Ireland. She is staying at the ‘little’ Richmond Hill Hotel, and this made me smile, for when my family first moved to the UK, we actually lived in this hotel for a few months – and I remember it as being very, very big! (Though I was quite little myself at the time and buildings do have a habit of shrinking as you get older).

Anyway, along with Behind Locked Shutters and The Twilight Web, this cover gets filed in the ‘shady-looking men wearing shades’ section of my bookcase.


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