Gothic Romance Artwork


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 Web of Evil

Web of Evil closeup

Fear and terror creep into the heart of a lovely young bride as she watches her husband change before her eyes – as she learns the tragic story of that other bride who was so like herself – as she becomes the helpless prey of a strange and relentless hatred. Swiftly the web of evil spreads until its meshes enclose – murder! Strangely enough, it is the murder that drives away the evil – while a twenty-foot wall of water washes away the debris of two almost wrecked lives.

Web of EvilCopyright 1948 by Lucille Emerick. Cover painting by Robert Stanley. 

Dell Publishing Company, printed 1951.

I have completely forgotten when or where I found this gorgeous gem of a book, but it stands out as one of the oldest examples of the classic ‘gothic romance’ cover that I own. Painted by Robert Stanley long before the hey-day of the 60’s & 70’s, when gothic romances were at their most popular, this picture is as sinister and storm-swept as any – with those deep, rich colours and airbrush effect combining to create a lush, dreamy feel that I love.

According to The Book of Paperbacks  written by Piet Schreuders, Robert Stanley often used his wife Rhoda as a model for his covers. My curiosity piqued, I looked up some scans of his work on the internet and she is beautiful! You can see what I mean from this fabulous Flickr gallery HERE

Schreuders’ book also includes a short but informative section devoted to gothic cover art, with a wonderful story from an (un-named) author about the immutability of the gothic cover who says:

“Once, just to see what would happen, I wrote a story set in a suburban ranch house in a densely-populated valley, with every single scene taking place in broad daylight; the heroine was a short-haired redhead who wore jeans throughout the entire book. But when the paperback came out, sure enough, there on the cover was a long-haired blonde in a flowing white dress, haring away from some frightening mansion at the top of a lonely hill in the dead of night!”

Web of Evil back coverThis edition of Web of Evil is one of the Dell Mapbacks – a series of paperbacks printed in the 1940’s to 1950’s, each with a map on the back detailing the scenes where the events of novel took place. Apparently Dell’s sales department hated the idea, finding it unnecessary and non-commercial and the practice was phased out in 1951. Personally I think they’re kind of cute and great for those lazy days when you’re much too hazy-headed to read a book – far better to just stare into the map and make up your own! 

Another feature common to this series is the list of story characters set out in the flyleaf, with brief descriptions of who they are. So in Web of Evil for instance we learn CAROLINE SPRINGER is a shy and pretty girl whose parents drowned in her infancy. Her leading man is JONATHAN WARREN; handsome, self possessed and at 41 he knows what he wants and what he stands for. RED KOVACS is a hot-headed young fire boss, blindly devoted to the cause, with a passionate hatred shining in his eyes, whereas AUNT ELOISE is a delicate and self-effacing woman who, fluttering nervously in the wake of her domineering sister Harriet, is relegated to her room as much as possible. 

Web paperback LGThese cast-lists are common in older romance novels and something I am not so fond of  – overly twee and unnecessarily theatrical, not only do they undermine the story telling before you have even reached the start of Chapter 1, but I prefer to get to know the characters in a novel on the writer’s terms, as and when they appear in the story.  

Nevertheless, I love this cover. And with a map that features a cemetery, lilac tree and stables, I think it has all the makings of a very intriguing tale! The Web of Evil was also published by Paperback Library Gothic in 1965. 

Web of Evil

Web of Evil back cover

Climb The Dark Mountain

Climb the dark mountain close up

Dream… Or Nightmare?

Paris! Anita could not believe it. Her every dream had been of the glories of the City of Light, and now, thanks to aunt Emily’s legacy, she was really here.

Anita had one goal: becoming a successful artist. And what better place to study art than in the world capital of art? When Alexis Binaud agreed to accept her as a student, she was ecstatic… but her idol soon proved himself nothing more than a man. And Anita found she had opened the door to a dark secret… and that door was closing, locking her prisoner in a private hell!

Climb the dark mountainCopyright Press Editorial Services.

This edition published by Zenith Publications, London. (No date). 

It’s been awhile since my last post, I know… so thanks to everyone who has stopped by and left comments & emails – I promise to start replying soon! Bear with me as my beleaguered brain relearns its way around WordPress – I have been doing things the old fashioned way these past few months and am slowly refamiliarising myself with the internet.

Having reviewed a couple of Julie Wellsley novels on this site before – House Malign and Chateau of Secrets – I thought Climb the Dark Mountain would be a good book to start the summer off with since it’s been lurking on my to-read pile for ages.

The story starts when Anita Morris inherits some money and uses it to fulfil her long time ambition of becoming an artist. Thanks to a small legacy left to her in her aunt’s will, she now has enough cash to fly to Paris and study under the tutelage of renowned painter Alexis Binaud.

Lancer Edition

Lancer Edition

Montmartre is a long, long way from Maida Vale and everything Anita imagined it would be – all cutting edge glamour crossed with bohemian insouciance. As for Alexis, well, if drinking Pernod and chain-smoking Gitanes didn’t single him out as a genius, his moody charm and ruggedly handsome good looks sure do – so it’s no wonder Anita has fallen helplessly in love by the end of chapter 3.

When Alexis offers her a part time job illustrating a cartoon strip he is creating for a local paper, she jumps at the chance of spending more time with him. There is one slight catch however – for a mysterious fire at the art school means Anita will now be living and working from the artist’s home.

And it’s not just any old house. Alexis lives with his mother in an old French chateau with a dark past. Occupied by the Gestapo during the war, it is a place impregnated with evil, haunted by the ghosts of prisoners of war who were tortured and buried in its dungeons.

As soon as she moves in, Anita knows something is terribly wrong – strange accidents, a sense of being followed, shadowy figures creeping into her bedroom at night… someone wants her dead… and though she can not know for sure, the sinister, skeletal finger of gothic romance is pointing very much in the direction of one troubled artist with mad glittery eyes…

Climb the DM insert

Fast-paced, action-packed, Climb the Dark Mountain was a lot of fun crammed with whole heaps of gothicness – including eerily painted murals with eyes that follow you in the dark, an artist’s incestuous love for his dead sister, Nazis, secret rooms, madness, murder and much, much, more – I really sensed Julie Wellsley must have had a lot of fun writing this one.

But with so much going on, I found the story did get a little convoluted at times – with a confusing subplot about a spy ring or criminal gang that did not make sense to me at all – although that could be because I was far too engrossed with Alexis’ tortured love for his embalmed sibling to take much notice of other such minor fripperies.

Three out of four stars, with bonus points for this lovely cover which could have been painted by Alexis Binaud himself!

Climb the dark mountain