The Woman Without A Name

Beware, Penelope!

The mysterious madwoman had come to warn her against Sir Jeffrey Wilstoun, master of Holyoak – the arrogantly handsome young man who had brought her to the big, gloomy house to tutor his two strangely precocious little sisters.

If the warning were to be believed, Penelope was employed by a man who would sooner bury a secret – and the one who discovered it – than allow it to be revealed…

Written by Laurence M. Janifer. First Signet printing August 1966.

Ho hum, I really wanted to love this one (gorgeous cover and all) but if I’m honest, Women Without a Name was as fatally flawed as any tragic gothic anti-hero, and not half as much fun to curl up in bed with.

Where to begin? There’s a governess (Penelope) and some children and an isolated house somewhere in the middle of God knows where. So far so good. Then our heroine stumbles upon the Big Scary Mystery – someone is in the attic! But not the mad woman, no, she’s wandering about in the woods, wearing a multicoloured shawl (therefore demonstrating she is hopelessly insane) mumbling about how evil it all is.

Enter our Lord of the Manor, Jeffrey, who takes a mere 50 pages to fall helplessly in love and propose to Penelope. Unfortunately for us, it takes her twice as long to actually go look in the attic to find out what all the fuss is about. Turns out there’s an evil twin (and I usually LOVE evil twins) which somehow proves our hero is not evil and therefore marriageable material. Penelope faints, then wakes up, then decides she wants to get married too. And so we all live happily ever after. Sigh.

I googled the title of this book half expecting to find not very much at all – but it transpires Laurence M. Janifer is a well known SF writer with a career spanning over 50 years. (More information on the author and some reviews can be found HERE.) Hopefully The Woman Without a Name is Laurence M. Janifer’s only gothic. To be fair the writing is ok, it’s just that he took every cliché he could think of before jumbling them all together without really giving much thought to the development or pacing of the story. At 26,000 words it’s an easy afternoon’s reading – but not necessarily an enjoyable one. Two out of five stars.

*STOP PRESS* For some extra information, check out the comments sent in by Ruben below. The artwork is by George Ziel. Ruben has also posted his collection of paperback art on the web, which can be drooled over HERE.

Ruben, thank you for the info and you have some gorgeous artwork (almost!) worth selling my soul for!

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Gorgeous cover art by George Ziel. By the way, can you tell me what year this specific printing is from ?

    • Thanks for the info Ruben, I’ve heard of George Ziel but had no idea this was one of his. This edition is the first signet printing from August 1966.

      And what a gorgeous collection of paperback art you have! If you ever felt like getting rid of the Louisa Bronte ‘Her Demon Lover’ cover, well, Christmas is coming up and I’m sure I could find a good home for her!
      cheers,
      sara

      • Hi Sara,

        No, the one you’ve uploaded to your site is the 2nd print, as I have a scan of the 1st print which is the 1966 version and has a .50 cent cover price as well as much nicer title font. Yours is from the early 70’s, probably 1973. But if 1966 is the only year you see printed inside, then it’s just one of those paperbacks where they didn’t bother to include the year of the new printing. Ziel is one of my absolute favorite paperback artists by the way, and soon (by year’s end) there will be a visual checklist of all his paperback covers that a friend and I have been able to identify. I like all his work, but his gothics (his large run for Paperback Library in particular) are some of my favorites. I only wish I could find one of the originals for my collection!

        Glad you enjoyed viewing the art. Interestingly enough, the one you like most is the one and only gothic I’ve ever read! Not to mention the most valuable one I own, due to it being an Enric piece who is famous for having done lots of the painted Vampirella magazine covers around the same time. Not looking to let go of it though!

        Cheers,

        Ruben

      • Yeah, that’s the only date they’ve given on the inside cover but it doesn’t surprise me that the publishers didn’t update the info – they rarely can be bothered to credit the artists properly, which is a shame. So thanks for the info Ruben, I’ll look out for that one – usually they reproduce the artwork much better on the first printing.

        I’m looking forward to your George Ziel checklist! Please let us know when it’s finished. And if you ever change your mind about Her Demon Lover, well, you know where to find me! (Did you enjoy the book? I rather like Louisa Bronte’s writing).

  2. Hi Sara,

    If you’d like to see an image of the first printing, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll e-mail you back the scan. Not only that, but I just came across a scan of a 5th printing with the same cover art which I can e-mail you.

    Regarding the Ziel checklist, first let me make it perfectly clear that it officially will be my friend Lynn Munroe’s checklist. He’s been a collector/dealer of vintage paperbacks for decades and is something of a historian, as he’s been putting out checklists on paperback artists since long before the internet came along. What happened was that his most recent checklist was on Charles Copeland a couple of years ago (who also did many gothic covers), which is not only a visual list of all the covers produced by the artist, but he also does research and writes a bio/article on the artists. Anyway, at the end of the article on Copeland, the site mentions that the George Ziel checklist was next. Of course, Lynn is known to be very thorough in his research and although he tries to produce one checklist per year, it doesn’t always work out that way. So as it turned out, I’ve always had a well trained eye for identifying artist’s work once I’ve become familiar with some examples, and since I own a Ziel painting already (Not a gothic. Scowtown Woman), I thought it would be fun to try to put together a folder of as many Ziel covers as I could find. After only 2 days, I found 166 covers and sent the folder over to Lynn so he could compare notes if he wanted to. He was thrilled and admitted that all of the ones I included were on his list. But after working on his own list for close to 2 years, he had more than I did. What I didn’t know at the time was that the guy who had done all the vintage covers I’d picked out, was the same guy who did all those great gothics I love so much. My initial list of 166 covers didn’t even include any gothics. As soon as I realized they were one and the same artist, the list grew larger and Lynn and I began comparing notes. So while you could say we’ve been collaborating together over the past several months, he started his list long before I did and did all the research into finding out info about Ziel’s life. He’ll be posting the checklist on his site, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s HIS checklist. Just want to give credit where it’s rightfully due. I’ll definitely let you know when the checklist is posted online.

    As for Her Demon Lover, it’s not like I have a basis for comparison since it’s the only one I’ve ever read. So I can only really compare it to the overall general consensus of what gothic readers tend to think about the average gothic, which is not very good. But I have to say that despite being very predictable, I really enjoyed it. It was a simple read, which for me is nice as I’ve got too many things on my mind to really have to do too much thinking when I read for entertainment. The only reason I chose to read this particular one, was because I thought it would be cool to read a book that I own the painting to. But what also enticed me is that it coincidentally happened to be one of the Avon “Satanic Gothics”, a subset which always interested me because they make it sound like they might be more “intense” than what I hear a typical gothic is like. A Lady who has been a big gothic reader ended up selling me a gothic painting, and she mentioned that Her Demon Lover was one of her favorites, because it actually has fairly graphic sex scenes. Since I always assumed the average gothic was probably very tame (lame? Like in a cheesy way), the idea that some existed with fairly graphic sex scenes piqued my curiosity. So yeah, I have to admit that the sex scenes definitely were fairly graphic and I think that helped add to the enjoyment of the read because it made it seem much more realistic. I actually own around 750 gothic paperbacks, because I enjoy the cover art, and that includes 11 Satanic Gothics, out of 12 that I’m aware of. So who knows, I may one day try reading another gothic. If I do though, I’d probably stick to another Satanic Gothic.

    As for the painting, let me throw some numbers out at you just so you know what you’re dealing with, because I’m not sure that you realize how much original Enric paintings sell for. First off, he’s still alive and does commission work for fans. For something the size of my painting, I believe he charges something like around $1200 to $1500. If you go up to much larger sizes, they go from $3000 to $5000. When we’re talking vintage originals from the 1970’s, they tend to range between $4000 and well over $10,000 depending on the subject matter of course. Vampirella covers would obviously fall in the middle to high end of the range, and gothics tend to fall on the lower end simply because of the much higher demand for Vampirella. The ironic thing though is that I’m aware of several of his Vampirella covers in other people’s collections, but this painting for Her Demon Lover and another one are until now the only two of his original gothics whose original paintings existence I’m aware of. The only reason I don’t also own the other one is because it has weird condition issues on back which made me nervous.

    One last thing, any idea why the software that detects spelling mistakes when we type messages always detects the worth gothic as being misspelled? Sorry for such a long message!

    • Cheers Ruben! I’ve sent you an email.
      From what you’ve said about Her Demon Lover, this sounds like a book I need to look out for! I thoroughly enjoyed Lord Satan by Louisa Bronte and, yes, she is known for adding a bit of spice to her stories though the sex is quite tame by today’s standards. I think Miriam Lynch wrote at least one of the Avon Satanic gothics and I like her books alot too. Sometimes with gothics from this era you don’t know what you are going to end up with, so at least with the ‘Satanic Gothic’ range, it sounds as if they are going to deliver on the stuff that makes for great gothic reading!

  3. Fascinating stuff, Ruben, and I enjoyed your paperback cover collection. I own a couple of Vincent Di Fate covers from Lin Carter’s Jandar of Callisto books. How large is the original for My Demon Lover by the way? The Di Fate covers are pretty small, about 6″X 9″.

    I think the reason spellcheck shows gothic as misspelled is the word is supposed to be capitalized, being the name for a type of art and architecture. Gothic.

    • Hi Charles. I’m glad you enjoyed perusing my collection. The original art dimensions can always be seen below any of the scans on my site. For this painting they are as such….

      BOARD: 14 3/4 x 22 3/4

      IMAGE: 13 1/8 x 21 3/4

      It’s neat that you own a couple of Di Fate covers. But I have to admit that as someone who personally considers any vintage painting less than 20 inches tall as “small”, you can imagine just how positively TINY I consider the ones you own! But on the plus side, that makes them much cheaper to frame and hang!

      Thanks for your theory on why spell check red flags the word Gothic. I can confirm you are correct!


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