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. 

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Shadow of Theale

A three week working vacation at Theale House seemed a pleasant way to spend a holiday. Shortly after her arrival, however, Ruth Hilton realized that beneath the facade of quiet elegance, the peaceful seaside estate pulsed with a malignant evil…

What was the secret of the mute, half-witted retainer who tried desperately to communicate by means of pictures drawn on the family crypt? Why did fourteen-year-old Theo wake screaming in the night? Slowly but surely the events surrounding the disappearance of Lady Theale reached out to cast a pall of darkness about Ruth as she struggled to save her young charge – and herself – from the SHADOW OF THEALE.

Written by Frances Cowen. First Ace printing January 1974.

An ancient curse, a hidden treasure and murder to boot, this Ace Gothic has it all in abundance.

Ruth has spent the whole year saving for a dream holiday abroad, but  her brother has  just lost his job so she gives all her money to him and decides to take a working holiday in sunny Cornwall instead.

Answering an ad in the local paper she finds herself a paid companion to teenage Theadora – daughter of Lord and Lady Theale.

But Theale House has its secrets; the previous year, Lady Theale disappeared within the estate in mysterious circumstances. Ruth suspects some members of the household know a lot more than they are letting on and she soon finds her own life in peril when she uncovers an illegal smuggling ring operating from the cliffs at the bottom of the garden.

Shadow of Theale was an enjoyable read, though some of the writing was a little clunky, particularly early on in the book, and I found myself  having to re-read bits to make sure I understood them properly. I think a little more time editing would have fixed this and overall I liked Frances Cowen’s prose and gothic touches. Portents, premonitions and pitiful halfwits abound in this remote part of the Cornish coastline and it came as no surprise to learn those hippies camped out in the bottom of the garden were up to no good.

Three out of four stars.

There is a signature to the bottom right for the cover artist, but I can’t be sure I have the name right; I think it might be H Barton. I have another cover by this artist, A Touch of Myrrh written by Charlotte Hunt (detail  posted below). I love the artist’s use of colour and brushstrokes – you can almost smell those oil paints dripping off the canvas! If anyone has any idea who the artist is, please let me know!

**Stop Press!** I have been told the artist is Harry Barton. I can’t find much about him on the web but here’s some more of his work HERE.