Wuthering Heights

There are few more convincing, less sentimental accounts of passionate love than Wuthering Heights. This is the story of a savage, tormented foundling, Heathcliff, who falls wildly in love with Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of his benefactor, and the violence and misery that result from their thwarted longing for each other. A book of immense power and strength, it is filled with the raw beauty of the moors and an uncanny understanding of the terrible truths about men and women – an understanding made even more extraordinary by the fact that it came from the heart of a frail, inexperienced girl who lived out her lonely life in the moorland wildness and died a year after this great novel was published.

Written by Emily Bronte 1847. This is the Signet Classic edition with a foreword by Geoffrey Moore, copyright 1959.

Happy Birthday Emily Bronte, you are 193 today, so I thought I’d commemorate the occasion by posting another wonderful edition of Wuthering Heights.

This Signet cover is gorgeous and illustrated by the same artist who did the cover to the Signet edition of Turn of the Screw, reviewed HERE. The signature is a little easier to read- Jaines / Jainee Hill? – but I’ve not been able to find any info on the artist.

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The Devil on Lammas Night

When Tristan Poole moved into Colwyn Court, in a remote Welsh seaside village, was it to form a nudist group? Or was it, as Nicola Morrison suspected, for something much more sinister?

What was the hypnotic effect Tristan had on Lisa, Nicola’s glamourous young stepmother?

What was the explanation for the sudden illnesses, accidents and deaths at Colwyn?

And what was Tristan planning for Nicola?

As Lammas night approaches, and the true, supernaturally evil nature of the group is revealed, Nicola is drawn into deadly danger…

First published in Great Britain 1973 by Hamish Hamilton ltd. This edition second Pan printing 1974.

Tristan Poole worships Satan and is the enigmatic leader of a ‘nature cult’ that fronts for a Black Magic coven. In exchange for his devotions, Satan has blessed Tristan with mesmeric powers over animals and a way with the ladies, but, unfortunately, very little in the way of money. So Tristan and his coven survive by cuckoo-ing themselves into the lives of the rich and the vulnerable, manipulating their way into gaining control of their land and assets.

Tristan is currently staying at Colwyn Court, an estate in Wales owned by Walter Colwyn. Walter is more than happy to allow Tristan to use his house as a base for the ‘Society for the Propagation of Nature Foods,’ since Tristan is showing great success at curing Walter’s wayward daughter, Gwyneth, of her ‘nervous disorder.’

Fawcett Crest edition

Walter’s son, Evan, is not so happy. Working as a Doctor in Africa he is becoming increasingly alarmed by the letters from his family, detailing the goings-on at Colwyn Court. He decides to come home and makes it his mission to rid his family of these pagan interlopers. However, when he returns, things are much worse than he realises. The love of his life, Nicola, has caught the eye of Tristan too – or rather her enormous inheritance has. (Tristan has already bumped-off her millionaire father and started an affair with her mother thinking she was the one getting all of the money. Now he knows who the real heiress is, he has moved on to plan B – hypnotising Nicola into falling in love with him so they can get married and he then can legally steal her cash). As Lammas night draws ever closer and Tristan prepares his bride-to-be for their satanic wedding, Evan himself falls into a suspicious fugue state, leaving him helpless to defend his home or fiancée….

As you’d guess from the title, The Devil on Lammas Night is packed full of all sorts of supernatural shenanigans – with vivid descriptions of black magic rituals, spells and incantations. There is even a demon possessed cat, hell-bent on carrying out its new master’s every command. 

The devilry is all very polite and refined, in that quintessentially English ‘More wormwood with your tea, vicar?’ kind of way and as such reminded me of The Witches written by Peter Curtis (aka Nora Lofts). There is some great attention to detail and these touches really add credibility and depth to an otherwise fantastically over-the-top story.

The ending was a little predictable, with the almost comically sudden demise of our chief villain threatening to ruin the climactic showdown, but the quality of writing and characterisation just about pulls things together. This novel was great fun. Susan Howatch creates a near-perfect blend of the mundane and macabre, therefore making the evil goings on all the more sinister. Four out of five stars.

Oh dear, before posting the above I was just going to add how much I love the cover art on this one. Then I went out, had a few glasses of wine and now I’m back I can’t help but fixate on that humongous hand of hers holding the candle! It’s hideous! There is something very creepy about the perspective here, or maybe my eyes are just a wee bit wobbly and it’ll all be ok in the morning…

The Curse of Collinwood

DO ZOMBIES WALK AT COLLINWOOD?

 Upset over the death of Ernest Collins, Victoria begins to believe that phantoms are haunting her. Are they figments of her imagination? As the threats to her life become very real, she is forced to accept the horrifying truth.

The strange figures are not phantoms but the bodies of Derek and Ester Collins, murdered more than a century ago. They were unwittingly released from their coffins by a shaft of moonlight – and doomed to roam the earth as the “living dead.”

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First edition printed May 1968. This seventh printing – April 1969.

Dysfunctional families – that great invention of the 1990’s Oprah generation. Of course in the good old days, before all this new-agey psycho babble became all the rage, f***ed-up families weren’t ‘special needs’ at all – of course not, they were cursed. So much more glamourous.

In my last post I had the audacity to suggest that the Collins’ of Dark Shadows fame stood as a shining example to us all of a family so riddled with dark deeds and unnatural lusts even Jeremy Kyle would shudder at the prospect of taking them on. And here’s the proof!  Plundering my collection of Dark Shadows paperbacks, I’ve found not one, not two, but THREE Marilyn Ross novels chronicling the various curses afflicting the Collinwood clan – though truth be told I think the word is being used a little loosely here.

Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch’s Curse

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing August 1970.

CAN BARNABAS STOP QUENTIN FROM BRINGING HIS COVEN TO COLLINWOOD?

Quentin Collins’ coven of witches, centred in the Castle Asariana in Venice, was the scandal of the city. Reports of the bizarre practices of the Devil worshippers, all of whom were beautiful girls, circulated widely, and invitations to the parties that Quentin sometimes held to attract new members to his cult, were greedily coveted.

Then two Americans died while spending an evening at the castle but before the authorities could investigate, Quentin and his entire group vanished. Soon after, Quentin shows up at Collinwood, with the intent of establishing his cult there.

Barnabas knew it was up to him to stop Quentin before Collinwood was turned into a centre of Black Magic and Satan worship. But who wielded the stronger power – Barnabas or the Devil himself?

Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse.

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing November 1970.

IS THE SIGN OF SCORPIO THE MARK OF DEATH?

Terror reigns at Collinwood when several patients at a nearby psychiatric clinic at which Barnabas Collins is a patient are stabbed to death. Each victim’s forehead is marked with a scorpion, the zodiacal symbol of death,

Then Diana Collins, another relative of the Collins family who is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the hospital, finds a bloody knife in her room. Diana, whose astrological sign is Scorpio, is afraid that she may have committed the murders during one of her blackouts. The fear that she is losing her mind is compounded when no one will believe she has seen a strange, wolf-like creature prowling the grounds.

The only person who will listen to her story is Barnabas. But how can he help her when he too has become a suspect?

As far as I can tell, there is at least one more Dark Shadows ‘curse’ book – Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse, which – considering how much mothers get blamed for everything – must surely be the most cursed curse book of them all…

The Curse of the Clodaghs

As the new visitors’ guide, Tess Connolly is a lovely addition to historic Clodagh House. Neither Richard, the new Lord Clodagh, nor the other members of the household, however, are aware that Tess is really the key element in a dangerous scheme concocted by her fiancé, Shaun Clodagh, to expose his brother’s murderer…

When it appears that Shaun, too, is dead, Tess is torn between the knowledge that this is part of the plan, and a horrible suspicion that he has unwittingly become the victim of his own ruse.

Alone on a mission that has lost its meaning, in a house full of people she doesn’t trust… Tess stands in the way of a murderer bent on total victory.

Written by Frances Cowen. First Ace printing March 1974.

Since we are now in the middle of our ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ great British summer, I thought it’d be nice to post something light and summery looking to cheer me up – and counter-balance the fact it’s been pouring with rain all day.

Curse of the Clodaghs takes place in Ireland in July and, coincidently, it is raining there too. Our heroine, Tess Connolly, has just turned up to her new job at the ‘unutterably dreary’ and storm-soaked Clodagh House. Her fiancé, Shaun Clodagh, has suspicions about the new family taking over his home and he has come up with a plan. His brother was recently drowned in a boating accident just off the coast and Shaun suspects foul play, so he decides to ‘disappear’ while faking his own death. Meanwhile, Tess takes a summer job at Clodagh House as a tour guide – using her position in the house to inveigle herself into the confidences of the new owners in order to find out the real story behind the infamous Clodagh Curse.

It is a scheme that looks good in theory but, when Shaun misses his secret rendezvous with her, Tess begins to suspect he really is dead. Grief stricken and alone, she has no idea who she can turn to for help. She decides to stick things out for the summer to see if she can solve the mystery behind these suspicious disappearances but before too long, strange accidents start to plague her…

I am irresistibly drawn to books about family curses for some reason but I have yet to read one that fully lives up to the promises hinted at within. The ancestral curse was a staple in earlier gothics and there is something about the idea of vengeful ghosts reaching out from the past, punishing the innocent for their forefather’s misdeeds, that chills the cockles of my heart.

Then there are those families so messed up, so unutterably deranged that they may as well be cursed – and these make for great gothic reading too. Dark Shadows very own Collins family or V.C Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic are good examples of this.

Alas, Curse of the Clodaghs doesn’t quite fulfil my expectations in the ‘curse’ department but it does have some nice gothic touches – with legends of sea monsters, mysterious ghostly ladies and lots of mist-laden, lush descriptions of the Irish coast. Three out of five stars.

The Dark Shore

Did the ghost of evil still hover over Clougy House?

Soon after Sarah Hamilton stepped into her new home as the bride of charming, enigmatic Jon Towers, a cold shock of instinct warned her to run for her life – too many ‘accidents’ were beginning to plague her.

Clougy had seen violence when Sophia, Jon’s first wife, mysteriously fell to her death from a cliff. Now someone was trying to kill Sarah, to keep a ghastly secret.

Was it Jon’s beautiful, tormented cousin, Marijohn who had sought refuge in a convent after Sophia died? Or his son Justin who was out on the cliff the night his mother fell? Or his old friend Max, who seemed to be confusing the two Mrs Towers?

Or was it Jon himself, panicking because Sarah was getting too close to what really happened that terrible night…?

THE DARK SHORE is filled with the ingredients that made a bestseller out of Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Written by Susan Howatch. Copyright 1965 Ace Books.

A story with echoes of Rebecca, based on the love triangle between a rich, successful man with a past, his newly wed, innocent bride and the spectre of his first, much sexier wife – who may or may not have been murdered by him.

Jon Towers, a Canadian property millionaire, has returned to Britain to patch things up with his son Justin. Recently married to Sarah, he has not set foot in the UK since the untimely death of his first wife Sophia, who fell (or rather was pushed) over a cliff at their Cornwall Home, Clougy, some ten years ago.

Told from multiple viewpoints, the first part of Dark Shore brings together the same six characters who were present at Clougy that fateful weekend Sophia died. Each has a secret and a reason for wanting her dead. One by one they are reunited at the same isolated farmhouse where Sophia was killed – much to the increasing alarm of Jon’s new wife Sarah. She is already feeling trapped under the shadow cast by the violent death of her husband’s first wife and the more she learns about what happened to Sophia, the more she fears she could be heading for the same fate. But why would anyone want to kill her?

For a short book, Dark Shore packs in a fair amount of gothic suspense, with hidden motives, dark secrets and all sorts of skeletons falling out all kinds of closets (though not literally unfortunately). I particularly liked the mysterious relationship between Jon and his ‘cousin’  – the beautiful telepath Marijohn.

Susan Howatch has enjoyed considerable success with her gothics. She began writing from an early age and submitting work for publication as a teenager. The Dark Shore is her first novel, published when she was in her mid- twenties. I have quite a few of her books and I think her writing works best in the longer novels, where she has room to explore the development of her characters and the impact of their actions on those around them. The Dark Shore is a cracking first novel but, like many gothics written during this period, the ‘shocking’ secret when revealed isn’t all that scandalous to the modern reader, so the drama built up in the first part of the book fizzles out with a bit of whimper towards the end.

On the plus side, Susan Howatch isn’t afraid to explore the darker side of her character’s natures and she achieves a high degree of depth and complexity within this concise and well-paced murder mystery. Three out of five stars.

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