I begin my story on my thirty-fourth birthday because a story must begin somewhere, and it was what happened on that day which led me to Castle Mandragora and involved me in an experience so fantastic that I could almost persuade myself now that I dreamt the entire episode, were it not… But I must not start by violating the story-teller’s art. The reason why I know that Castle Mandragora belongs to the realm of reality will not be revealed till the last chapter.
‘Tis the season for all things topsy-turvy and for inverting the, well, uninverted, so I thought it would be fun to post some artwork featuring a man running from a doom-laden castle for a change.
And what a gorgeous cover! This THRILLER BOOK CLUB edition contains no blurb revealing anything of the story within. At least we can safely guess there’s a castle – there is even a rather nifty map of the place helpfully inserted into the front pages. The opening paragraph (which I quoted above) sounds rather promising too.
I’m guessing the cover artist must be the same Felix Kelly best known for his paintings of country houses. An introduction to a book about his paintings describes the emotional impact of Kelly’s work:
It is this element of strangeness in his work which both fascinates and eludes one… These canvasses, too, are peopled with the past, though there may be no figure in them. Here, someone has just turned away from a half-opened window. There another has just vanished from a balcony. From the round window at the top of a house, an unseen child looks down at the shadows lengthening across the lawn or observes a slender young tree-now ancient and leafless. One is conscious that, at the very moment one looks at the painting-and only at that moment-the people who are there have turned aside, withdrawn from our gaze, stepped out of the picture, leaving behind them an intensely evocative feeling of their presence… Paintings by Felix Kelly, Falcon Press, U.K. 1946, with an introduction by Herbert Read.
I used to have another one of Margaret Durham’s Thriller Club books – The Devil was Sick. This has one of the greatest gothic covers ever known to woman, with a devil that’s pure Eric Stanton. Lordy only knows where my copy has gone but you can sneak a peak and read a review of the book HERE.