Gothic Romance Artwork

gothicpainting

Can anyone help? Robert has emailed me with a scan of this original painting he’s acquired recently and he is trying to find the book it was used for. There is no signature but there is a number on the back (1524). The seller guessed it might belong to a Lancer publication, perhaps an international edition of one of Deanna Dwyer’s (Dean Koontz) gothics. It’s not one that I recognise but it’s an amazing piece of art and would make a fantastically eerie cover. Any ideas? Please get in touch. And thanks for sharing this gorgeous artwork Robert!

The House of a Thousand Lanterns

THE HOUSE she had dreamed of since childhood…

THE HOUSE where her worst nightmares were about to come true…

THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS… the spellbinding new novel by Victoria Holt.

Jane Lindsay never dreamed she would be wealthy. Nor that she would fall in love with a man she could not trust. Against the background of 19th century England and Hong Kong, Victoria Holt unfolds the story of a young English woman who finds a strange new world in the HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS…

Copyright Victoria Holt 1974. First Fawcett Crest printing July 1975. Cover art Harry Bennett.

I’ve had an email from Jess, who is trying to re-find a favourite gothic romance. She has a vague recollection of the plot but the title eludes her. From her description below, I thought it shared similarities with Victoria Holt’s House of a Thousand Lanterns but I don’t think this is the one.

Here’s what she can remember:

It involved a young girl coming to stay at OR getting involved with a wealthy household in San Francisco. I think I remember specifically either bothers or close cousins and while she originally was attracted to one, she ends up with the other. There is a costume party at one point where she goes as Qwan-Yin, the Chinese goddess, even wearing a wig of blue yarn. I also remember there being some sort of disaster, but cannot recall if it was the great fire or an earthquake. There was definitely an element of horror/mystery though.

Did think I had found it in “The Trembling Hills” by Whitney and ordered an old used copy, but while it had been a book I’d read previously, it was not the one I was looking for.

Any ideas anyone?

 

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 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/56781833@N06/6371129973/

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.

The Rest is Silence

 DEAF, DUMB…AND DEAD?

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.

The Vampire Curse

THE KISS OF DEATH

Teena Halliday, paying an extended visit to Rentlow Retreat, doesn’t want to pose for Jeremy Rentlow, a noted sculptor. There are malicious rumors that he is a vampire, which make Teena uneasy. But Jeremy persists and Teena finally gives in.

Soon after the sittings are underway, Teena begins to feel weak and tired, but Jeremy refuses to let her miss a session. Suddenly Jeremy tells his family of their engagement. Teena does not love him but she does not have the strength to protest. It is as if she has become his prisoner, with no will of her own.

Then Teena notices strange marks on her neck. She dares not ask – are they the marks of a vampire? Is Jeremy’s kiss the kiss of death?

Copyright 1971 Coronet Communications Inc. First Paperback Library Edition January 1971. Cover art Victor Kalin.

Teena Halliday’s mother, the exotic Margaretha, is getting married. Again. She has a six month honeymoon planned in South America with her handsome new beau and there is absolutely no way she can have an eighteen year old daughter in tow. So dear old mum has arranged for Teena to travel four thousand miles across the globe to go stay with distant relatives in New England, and her daughter has just four days notice to pack what she needs and leave the Mediterranean villa she has come to call home.

Teena is devastated by this bombshell, but there is a tiny ray of hope – for her father, whom she hasn’t seen in over twelve years, has written to say he will be meeting her at the airport in Boston.

However, when Teena arrives in Boston her father is nowhere to be found. Instead she is met at the airport by Rory, a family friend of the Rentlows. Rory is tall and handsome, with green eyes and ‘competent’ hands but Teena is too upset by her missing father to notice.

Arriving at Rentlow Retreat, Teena is introduced to her new ‘family’ –  the unwelcoming Aunt June and surly Uncle Charles, her niece, the slightly manic Estrella, who has a massive crush on Rory herself and who is already treating Teena like a competitor for his affections. And then there is cousin Jeremy, the mysterious sculptor – tall and dark with glittering eyes – who has attached himself to the Rentlow family in more ways than one.

Brought up in posh boarding schools in Europe, Teena is not sure what to make of this rag-taggle lot. But, stifling her qualms, she is determined to keep a bright outlook on the situation. Her father must be around here somewhere, and at least she has Scuffy, the cute friendly terrier with whom she can take for long, relaxing walks in the surrounding woods. After all, Teena tells herself as she settles in to her first night at Rentlow Retreat, how bad can things be?

The next day, an ancient mirror falls on her head and Scuffy dies of a strange wasting disease. Things go from bad to worse as Scuffy’s burial gives Jeremy the perfect excuse to show Teena his special pet cemetery at the bottom of the garden. It’s a shadowed place, eerily quiet, dotted with sculptures of the animals buried there, each marble lovingly carved by Jeremy himself…

I allowed him to lead me from statue to statue. Unwillingly, and with a peculiar pounding of my heart, I listened while he told me about each of them, and how he had sculpted them, and how the models had died and been buried.

Jeremy’s voice went on, low, husky, hypnotically gentle, giving me the names, even the biographies, of the pets he had buried there.

And then, suddenly smiling, he said, “I hope you don’t think that I’m showing off, Teena, love. I just wanted you to have a good look. As a homage to what I’ve loved, I suppose. And to see if you think all this a fitting memorial.”

I felt a sudden cold, the silence around us had become painful. But I said, “Off course it is, Jeremy. You do beautiful work.”

Oh dear. Teena is finding Rentlow Retreat a little difficult to adjust to. Her unease increases once Scuffy is buried, for that is when Jeremy turns all his glittery-eyed attention on to her, suggesting she starts to model for him. Teena has a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling. Hastily making excuses, she does what she can to put him off, but Jeremy’s hypnotic stare and indomitable will are proving all too impossible to resist….

Overall I enjoyed The Vampire Curse – it had vampires, romance, an interesting heroine, and enough spills ‘n’ chills that kept me turning the pages. The gory stuff wouldn’t suit many of today’s readers (well, there wasn’t any gore) but I did like the creepy touches and precarious locations scattered throughout this story –there were mazes to get lost in, cliffs to fall off of and lots of crumbling architecture tumbling down on people’s heads.

Daoma Winston was born in Washington D.C November 1922. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books on this blog – The Love of Lucifer and The Devil’s Daughter and, though her writing can be a little on the light side when it comes to blood and guts horror, I love the unusual settings and macabre twists to her tales.  Four out of five stars.

The Reimann Curse

SOMETHING BROUGHT HER HERE…

Helen lowered herself into the bath slowly, luxuriating in the warmth as it flowed up and around her body. For the first time since Gerald’s death her mind was occupied only with her own comfort and well being. She fell into a reverie, going over events of the day. After all that driving she wasn’t sorry she got sidetracked off the main highway. She’d get some much needed sleep. She mused on the two other guests at the hotel. The old woman had an aristocratic air and was too spry for someone past seventy. The man was unusually handsome…

What was that? Helen sat bolt upright, blinked and shivered, her fingers grasping the edge of the tub. For a few breathless seconds her eyes searched every shadow in the room and her ears listened intently. Nothing. The wind moaned, tree branches scraped the window panes, and Helen was starkly, utterly alone… and terrified!

Written by Jean DeWeese. A Beagle Book Gothic, first printing February 1975. Cover art Charles Gehm.

The heroine of this story, Helen, has been left financially ruined and emotionally shattered after her husband and only daughter are killed in a tragic car accident. Three months on and she is now starting to put the pieces of her life back together again. We meet her just before she is due to start her new job as a teacher in the little New England town of Wertham, located at least six states away from the crippling memories of her former home. 

So keen is she to escape the depressing, though well-meaning, clutches of her grieving in-laws, she ends up driving all day and nearly half the night to reach her destination. Tired and confused, she loses her way from the main highway and finds herself travelling down a small back road, the end of which leads to a mysterious deserted mansion. A place eerily reminiscent to Helen of times past, although she has never visited here before. And underpinning this familiarity is an aura of something more sinister, something reaching out to her, something inviting her in to the shadowed interior of the abandoned old house…

Resisting the urge to explore those dim, ghostly corridors in the dead of night, Helen U-turns out of there and finds herself a much more convivial place to stay a little ways back down the road. Run by the ever hospitable Martha, Groves Lodge boasts great home cooking and sumptuous bath tubs of palatial proportions. After a mouth-watering casserole and a luxurious bubbly soak, Helen is all set for a wonderful night’s sleep before resuming her journey. And that’s when her nightmare begins….

Regulars to these pages will know how I love old family curses – or cursed old families for that matter – so I was looking forward this one. And right from the start, The Reimann Curse lured me in with its sympathetic heroine, descriptive prose and deft gothic touches of mystery.

Unfortunately, as with many gothics tackling the theme of ancestral curses, there is rather a lot of overly complicated back story, with much of the exciting stuff having already happened somewhere far back in the annals of  Reimann family history. This meant The Reimann Curse was a little on the light side when it came to action and suspense in the here and now – instead of actually getting caught up in anything particularly exciting, Helen spent a lot of her time in long discussions with various locals detailing the dastardly deeds of times gone by. This made it easy for me to drift off and lose the thread of the story at times. She did take a lot of nice long baths though.

And things did get a lot more exciting towards the end, with a dramatic life and death struggle over an open grave, in which Helen was able to prise a satanic idol from the skeletal clutches of a Dead Person Done Wrong (and buried alive no less), smashing the cursed stone to smithereens against the nearest gnarly oak – all the while deftly avoiding being hit over the head by a mad man with a shovel. There were some nicely done flashbacks interwoven within some scary dream sequences and the fate that befell Helena Reimann (whose spirit was the one haunting our Helen) was a truly shocking one.

Jean DeWeese is a pseudonym for Thomas Eugene DeWeese, an American born in 1934 and a writer of mainly science fiction.  He’s written over forty books and I would definitely give another one of his gothics a go.  

The cover art is by Charles Gehm. I reviewed another book with one of his covers ages ago – Stone of Blood – but couldn’t figure out the signature. A few months back I came across a lovely historical romance by Joan Aiken, (pictured below). As well as showing the rather distinctive signature to the bottom right of the front cover, the publishers rather helpfully printed the name of the artist on the back.

Looking Charles Gehm up on the web, he’s done some gorgeous prints of Gone With the Wind and he is married to Judy York, a fine romance and fantasy illustrator. Charles Gehm has also done some great covers for Nurse Romances. A nice scan of the original artwork of Lake Resort Nurse, can be viewed HERE. (And if anyone knows which lake and which resort this book is referring to – can you please let me know? I think I need a holiday soon!)

So, for the page-turningly thrilling climactic ending, as well as its gothic depictions of dastardly deeds, The Reimann Curse gets a four out of five. With bonus points added for all the lovely bubble baths. 

 

Diary of Evil

The Beginning of Terror…

Pauline Shepherd, offered a job as secretary to wealthy old John Buchanan, finds herself jumping at the chance. For here, finally, is her escape from hectic city life to his isolated mansion on exotic Adrianna Island. In transcribing the journals and diaries he kept, written by Mr. Buchanan’s illustrious ancestors, she soon discovers that the books contain a grave and incriminating secret. Pitted with an anonymous and deadly enemy in a race against time, Pauline must unravel the mystery and learn why the women of Adrianna have fallen prey to violent and untimely death – or she herself must die!

Written by Violet Hawthorne. Published by Manor Books 1977. Cover art Harry Barton.

So, what is procrastination?

Procrastination is sitting down at my desk just days away from a tax return deadline, logging on to my computer, then asking myself ‘hmmm, do the wormy kind of bookworms really exist then? If so, what do they look like? Let me just check this out here for a minute..’

I was asking myself this question because Diary of Evil – a relatively recent acquisition to the Love-Haunted library – has some suspicious, albeit rather beautiful, vermiform patterning embellishing its pages.

Well, a few hours later and I know exactly what bookworms are – my shameless dilly-dallying paying off with the discovery of a rather nice post at a bookshop’s page called Books Tell You Why. Full of facts on ye olde books and on how to look after them properly, there are some great photos of worm-ridden tomes and I loved the post on why that smell of old paper is just so delicious. (Not my copy of Diary of Evil unfortunately – this poor thing just smells rank). The books featured here look a lot more valuable then my tatty paperbacks but I’m guessing hungry beetles aren’t too concerned about such things.

So I’m unlikely to be reading Diary of Evil anytime soon, since I’m worried about dozing off with it on my lap, only to be woken by the sound of larvae munching their way through my ears and into my brain, but, musty smells and flyblown pages aside, this cover by Harry Barton is gorgeous. The reproduction on this Manor edition isn’t too great, though looking closely at some of the detailing, I bet the original artwork is stunning.

And if you’re looking for an excuse to do something other than what you’re meant to be doing, you can have a look at Books Tell You Why – HERE. 

Place of Shadows

SOMEONE TRAPPED LENNITH FORRESTER IN THE AIRLESS WALL SAFE AT HILLHOUSE, AND IN ONE INSTANT, SHE LEARNED THE MEANING OF TOTAL FEAR!

“You are going to die here,” I heard myself say.

I listened to my own sobs.

So black; all around it was so black. I sank down to the floor.

The Safe was sound proof. Air proof.

Down on the floor I started screaming again, kicking my heels furiously against the metal of the sliding door. Somebody must hear that!

But maybe that “somebody” was the person who had locked me in here…

I can’t get out. Nobody will ever let me out.

“You’re afraid,” I cried out to myself.

Oh yes, I’m afraid. I’m so afraid…

Copyright 1959 by C. Kage Booton.

First Paperback Library printing December 1965.

I wanted to post this to show off the gorgeous cover by George Ziel. This time I know who the artist is because Lynn Munroe  has recently forwarded me a link to a booklist he has compiled on cover art by George Ziel, a concentration camp survivor born Jerzy Zielezinski  in Poland 1914, who died in Connecticut USA in 1982.

Fans of the Paperback Library Gothics, as well as the Dell Mary Roberts Rhinehart covers, will instantly recognise George Ziel’s hauntingly beautiful artwork. Very few of George Ziel’s covers were credited on the published books but Lynn has done some exhaustive research, creating a checklist with an amazing collection of covers by this artist.

The booklist of George Ziel covers can be found here: 

http://lynn-munroe-books.com/list62/George_Ziel-home/Ziel_checklist-home.htm

And a fascinating biog of the artist, including some great background information on Paperback Library gothic cover art, can be found here:

http://lynn-munroe-books.com/list62/GEORGE_ZIEL2.htm

Thanks Lynn!

Image of Evil

The face of the Louisiana plantation of Southern Moon gleamed invitingly in the summer sun when Susan arrived for her visit. The ravishing, aristocratic plantation mistress, Corinna Hamilton, her elegant suitor, Cedric Raimond, her handsome, dashing son, Paul, her breathtaking daughter, Lacy – all welcomed Susan as one of their own.

But once within the old mansion, Susan soon discovered the dark side of Southern Moon. Too late the lovely young girl knew she was lost and alone in a nighttime world of sinister secrets and fearful danger, where she was being helplessly turned into a slave of love and a prisoner of evil…

Image of Evil by Rosemary A. Crawford. First Dell printing November 1971 & Candlelight Intrigue Dell printing October 1979.

The weather is hot, hot, hot – and it’s raining (again!) – so what better time to immerse myself in a sweat-drippin’ gothic set in the swampy morass of Louisiana.

Susan is twenty three and works as a junior designer in New York. One day she receives a letter from a strange woman, Corinna Hamilton, claiming to be her mother’s long lost sister. Corinna is inviting Susan to come visit the Hamilton plantation so she can become reacquainted with her southern cousins.

Susan is suspicious – as far as she is aware her mother was an only child with no surviving family. If Corinna Hamilton really is her Aunt, then why did her mother lie to her? And for so long? This really is a secret too tempting to resist, so Susan takes an early holiday to travel down to Louisiana to find out the truth for herself.

When she arrives at Southern Moon, Susan finds herself underwhelmed by all her new relatives and their showy pretence at hospitality. Worst of all is Susan’s cousin Paul – by about page sixty he decides he wants to marry her. And he won’t take no for an answer. In fact, to her horror, the whole family won’t take no for an answer – marrying your cousin is quite acceptable in certain circles and, as her Aunt sagely advises: “It saves a great deal of controversy when it comes to divide the spoils – all in the family you know.”

And as if that wasn’t enough to ruin her holiday, Susan also has Billy Ben to contend with. He’s the tobacco chewing deputy sheriff who drawls a lot and has an awkward habit of popping up out of nowhere, languidly leaning on door frames while leering suspiciously at our heroine.He seems to know more than he is letting on, but what?

Dell first printing 1971

Meanwhile Paul conveniently crashes his car and ends up in a coma, leaving Susan free from his unwanted advances and giving her the perfect opportunity to make her excuses and leave. Against her better instincts, Susan decides to stay but, as she uncovers more of the secrets behind her mother’s estrangement from the Hamilton clan, she (eventually) realises her own life is in danger. Escape seems impossible – the horses have all been sold off and her car impounded. Trapped in an isolated mansion, surrounded by lecherous law enforcement officers and treacherous swampland, only the handsome Dr Clay Foster can save her now….

I found Image of Evil a bit like the weather – muggy and dull and heavy going at times, the story bogged down in lengthy genealogical revelations, with not enough actually happening in the here and now. Worse still, the ‘terrible evil’ at the root of this family rift turned out to be nothing more that a stolen stamp collection. Dear God, stamps! With not even a whiff of a ghost to spice up the equation.

On the plus side, I did like the location and all the lush descriptions of swampland and thunderstorms. The car crash towards the end was suitably dramatic and perked me up a little but overall I found this one difficult to finish. Two out of five stars.

I have two copies of this book. The cover on the earlier edition below works better, I think – the artwork more detailed and vivid (though you’d never guess from the condition of my copy). The cover above is a later Dell reprint under their Candlelight Intrigue series – I must admit, the juxtaposition of the tradtional Mills & Boony type design with the creepy gothic artwork is well… intriguing. I’d like to see more of these!

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