Phantom Manor

THE GRUESOME LEGEND OF PHANTOM MANOR

“When the ‘ghost’ appears in the sinister monk’s corridor, someone will die!”

From the moment she came to live at Phantom Manor, a rotting pile of stone she had suddenly inherited, Jan Davis became the terrified victim of a series of ‘accidents’.

The lurking murderer could be anyone whose life was tied to the dread secret of the eerie mansion; a homicidal half-witted young man; a jealous relative who wanted the manor for herself; even a neighboring landowner with whom Jan had fallen in love.

But the hidden villain of Phantom Manor could also be one of the ‘unliving’ – the legendary ghost that stalked its shadowy corridors, leaving horror and death in the echo of its unearthly footsteps…

A Paperback Library Gothic by Marilyn Ross. First printing January 1966. Cover art Victor Kalin.

This one I found in pristine condition  at a local charity shop.  It promises all sorts of gothicky goodness and has gone straight on to my pile of must-reads over the Christmas holidays.


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Wuthering Heights

“My great thought in living is Heathcliff. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be… My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks… Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure…  but as my own being.”

WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a classic work of artistry and genius. Today, one hundred and thirty years after it was published, it is still a totally absorbing and utterly compelling novel of a grim passion, of a glorious love.

Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff must take their places amongst the great lovers of the world. Their complete obsession, and possession of each other, symbolises the oldest, the grandest, and the most romantic theme in literature…

Written by Emily Bronte, first published 1847.

Two more editions of my all-time favourite gothic Wuthering Heights.

The one above is the English Corgi edition published in 1978. This one to the right is the earlier American version published by Bantam books in April 1974.

Apart from the cover art, both are similar versions, containing the same excerpts from the author’s diary, letters, poetry and early writings, with an afterword, biographical sketch and notes on the text by Baruch Hochman.

The cover art for the above seems to be painted by Robert McGinnis – I found a link  featuring  some of his artwork for Wuthering Heights – it is very similar to this except there is no cottage in the background and the foreground is much more desolate. But the woman in the picture looks identical.  I can’t  make up my mind! Some links to the original cover art are HERE and HERE.

The Hounds of the Moon

The Bride of Evil…

A week ago, Susan Anderson had never laid eyes on handsome Stephen Branthwaite. And now she was his wife, the loving mother of his 6 year old son, and mistress of magnificent Whitehall mansion. It was a dream come true – until the nightmare began. For someone was trying to kill the child!

Suddenly the splendor of Whitehall turned black with terror. Had Susan given her heart to a killer? Would she meet the same macabre fate as the first Mrs. Branthwaite? Could she save her son from the clutches of evil when her own life had become a bonechilling race against death?

Written by Elisabeth Offut Allen, this Popular Library Edition 1974.

Three times a charm, so the saying goes, and in honour of tonight’s full moon, I thought I would  continue the month’s doggy-themed gothics with this hauntingly illustrated Queen Size Gothic.

I’ve not read Hounds of the Moon as yet – but I’ve had a quick peak through the pages and like what I see so far.

Here’s how the book starts –

“Occasionally we are told, time has a way of shaking some of its shutters loose, and if we are alert and keen-sighted enough, we may catch a glimpse through the chinks of what lies ahead.”

I like this opening line enough to want to read on and the back blurb promises ‘READING FIT FOR A QUEEN’ so I guess I  will be adding this to my ever-growing pile of gothics to get through!


The Black Dog

A STRANGE AND HORRIFYING DEATH

Lottie Daley, a young teacher interested in psychic lore, was sure that the handsome stranger was the creature of legend, born of a virgin centuries before. The legend whispered that he appeared every twenty-five years, accompanied by the black dog who guarded his mothers grave. Lottie could sense his sinister and hypnotic influence sapping her will and pulling her into the strange world of the psychic occult – toward a strange and horrifying death.

Written by Georgena Goff. First published Belmont productions 1971. This Five Star Paperback published by PBS limited 1973.

More canine confabulations this month courtesy of Five Star Paperbacks. I love my Five Star paperbacks! They can always be relied on to deliver the goods in the gothic-occult-thriller pulp fiction stakes.

Lottie is engaged to be married to Jed, a ‘spook-investigator’ currently writing a book based on a local medium called Holmes and the legend behind the source of  his psychic powers – allegedly dating back through his family for twelve generations.

On meeting Holmes, Lottie finds herself irresistibly attracted to his magnetic charms and mesmeric powers. Turning up at his house one day she finds him seated in an enormous gilded cage, projecting images on to a large television screen and she cannot resist him any longer. The deal is subsequently sealed when they are married by Holmes himself in a solitary midnight ceremony.

Alas, much to Lottie’s chagrin, it is not her body Holmes is lusting after and  for the rest of the book she spends alot of her time listlessly wafting around in a floaty white nightie, weeping hysterically into her pillow. Isolated from Jed  and  trapped in Holmes’ mansion,  the naturally feisty Lottie is unable to do anything for herself; it seems the more she loves Holmes the more she is sapped of her energy.

Meanwhile, Holmes’ behaviour towards his new bride becomes increasingly cruel and bizarre and when Lottie discovers the presence of two emaciated ‘child-women’ moaning in the basement she suspects her life is in danger. Summoning every spare ounce from the last vestiges of her strength, she makes a run for it – only to be met in the woods by a ferocious black beast with red glaring eyes…

Black Dog is an enjoyable read; the writing is a bit  touch-and-go at times but the unashamedly wanton kookiness of the plot more than makes up for that. There’s something for everyone here – strange cults, spooky seances, shapeshifting incubi and an impregnated mad woman imprisoned in the cellar. Five out of five stars – naturally!

An interesting note about the cover. I’ve noticed quite a few gothics seem to recycle the same covers for different novels. Why is that? As you can see, this cover is the exact same one used for the Fawcett Crest edition of Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels. The cover art here has a signature (Harry Bennett?) which isn’t visible on the Five Star edition.

And here is a much more evocative and fittingly canine cover for Black Dog.  This mass market paperback is the 1972 Belmont / Tower edition. 

Black Dog

Romany Curse

Sign of Evil

Adela Barron and her mother traveled to Florida to sell the house Papa Barron had lived in as a boy. The house was swarming with gypsies. When Adela tried to learn their customs, she was sharply reprimanded by her stern Aunt Cecile and by the gypsies themselves, including the handsome Django.

Adela was warned never to go to the gypsy camp, but she did, and twice, attemps were made on her life. When she met Dr. Larry Norton she thought her problems were over. Then her mother disappeared. And Adela was sure the gypsies had kidnapped her.

Written by Suzanne Somers. Published by Modern Promotions 1972.

Suzanne Somers is one of the pseudonyms used by Dorothy Daniels, whose Strange Paradise novels I reviewed earlier this year.

In Romany Curse, Adela accompanies her mother on a trip to her late father’s estate in Florida. Adela loves the house but her mother hates the place and is hoping to sell it off and move on as quickly as possible.

Things do not go to plan – Adela’s mother is kidnapped by the local gypsies  and  Adela finds herself in ever increasing danger from their evil leader Hadari.

It transpires Adela’s father was Hadari’s predecessor, so gypsy law – not to mention squatter’s rights – dictate the house and all of Papa Barron’s money, belongs to them. To seal the deal Adela is forced to marry Hadari.

It all works out happily ever after when Adela and her mother are rescued by the handsome Dr Norton, the disgraced Hadari is forced into exile and the gypsies  elect a new leader – Adela’s new best friend, the charming Django.

Romany Curse is not very good and has very little to do with curses of any kind, let alone Romany ones. There is a bit of a story in there somewhere but stylistically there is nothing remotely gothic about its atmosphere or prose. Also, it is supposed to be set in the early 1800’s but  the dialogue and overall characterisation is too modern to be convincing and actually gets confusing at times.

On the plus side, Romany Curse is only about 100 pages long,  so makes for an easy afternoon’s reading and I do like the artwork. The greenish cast and subject’s wide-eyed expression is somewhat reminiscent of those kitsch, plastic-framed  matglo prints we used to win on the bingo stall at the funfair. Two out of five stars.


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.

Curse of Deepwater

I closed my eyes but sleep would not come…

The smell of must and decay in the room stifled me, and I opened a window – and looked down. The mist swirled over the lake like figures bending and swaying. Surely they were women! Women with hair floatingbehind them like smoke streamers, as they moved together in a macabre dance.

There was a sad moaning sound that made my scalp tingle with fear. I heard my name like a sigh in the wind, like a cry of torment. “Veronica…Please come…Come, please…”

Written by Christine Randell. Warner Paperback Library Edition, first printing February 1974.

I really enjoyed the last Christine Randell book I read, so I thought I would give this one a go. I’m about half way through and things seem to be shaping up nicely in the gothic department. Deepwater features a beautiful yet vulnerable heroine – Veronica – who has accompanied her elderly friend Camille to a doomy old castle so that Camille can be re-united with her estranged husband  – Sir Justin Quinton Brande.

Of course the rest of Sir Justin’s relatives do not take kindly to their new guests and soon Veronica finds herself the victim of all sorts of strange goings on. Legend has it the lake  at Deepwater is haunted and disembodied voices start plaguing Veronica in her sleep. Disturbing family secrets are unearthed as, shortly after her arrival, Veronica  starts seeing visions of Camille’s daughter, Rosalyne, who went missing on the grounds of Deepwater years ago and is believed drowned.

Though Curse of Deepwater lacks the frenetic pace and all out weirdness of A Woman Possessed (reviewed in my last post below) – it reads very well as a gothic, with lots of atmosperic touches and an interesting cast of odd ball relatives lurking in the background, all waiting to pounce on their piece of Sir Justin’s inheritance pie. There is also a potential love interest in the strapping young gardener Tom, but it is too early to tell and, since he was prime suspect in the Rosalyne disppearance, he might well turn out to be one of the bad guys.

The cover art is rather lovely too and is credited to Vic Prezio.  Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find much about him on the internet and I’d love to be able to see more of his work.


 

A Woman Possesssed

SHE WAS A WOMAN POSSESSED.

The woman who woke up on the beach thought she was Betty Bates. But the sinister man with her revealed she was Sara Dent- and that he was Henry her husband.

She had never seen him before.

She had never known Sara Dent.

Suddenly she was tormented by doubts of her own identity, fears of going mad and suspicion of her impending murder. When Henry threatened to commit her to an asylum, she ran away – back to her life as Betty Bates. But to her horror, no-one in her hometown recognized her!

Desperate, she returned to Henry to make a last attempt to regain her sanity. And there in his grim, mountaintop mansion she realized that to discover the secret of the mystery, she would have to pay – with her life!

Written by Christine Randell. First printing, Paperback Library Gothic August 1966.

This story plunges straight into the action as it opens with our protagonist, Betty Bates, waking up on a strange beach in Cyprus with a strange man claiming to be her husband and insisting she is in fact a woman called Sara Dent.

The plot gets curiouser and curiouser as we follow Betty  / Sara desperately trying to adapt to her ‘new’ life – surrounded by strangers she has never met but who all claim to know her. Has she imagined her whole life up to this point?

Her ‘husband’  tells her she is ill, that Betty Bates is a figment of her imagination and  she has been prone to these blackouts for a while but Sara / Betty is not so easily convinced. Things get worse when the love of her life, Robbie,  turns up at a dinner party. She cannot ignore the chemistry between them,  but why is it he only knows her as  Sara too?

In desperation she travels to England, hometown of Betty Bates. None of her family recognise her as Betty but at least now she can prove Betty Bates actually existed. What she learns in England helps her to understand a bit more about the mystery surrounding her identity and so she returns to Cyprus for a life and death showdown with her embittered and twisted husband Henry.

I must say this novel intrigued me and kept me turning the pages right from the beginning. The ending won’t disappoint either. The settings aren’t particularly gothic and there isn’t much supernatural going on, but it is well written with lots of suspense driving the story forward.

The cover art is gorgeous; I can’t find a credit for the artist but it looks a bit like a Marchetti to me. Four out of five stars.


The Devil’s Daughter

Dead Dolly Creek would soon be just another western ghost town. Now it was still undergoing the slow and painful process of dying, the mines worked out, the young people gone away in search for a more promising future…but to Sharon Benedict it seemed as though the ghosts had already moved in. She came back to the village high in the mountains of New Mexico, the place where she had spent so many of her summer growing up days with May Daily, her mother’s oldest friend.

Dead Dolly Creek had been a happy place, then ….

But now something was haunting the village, terrorizing the few people still living there… and preparing to murder! Sharon found the old woman hiding behind locked doors, guarded by fierce dogs and nearly insane in her fright…an insanity that soon touched Sharon herself. For with her arrival, it seemed as though the evil in the village was about to be unleashed… for it was waiting for her!

Written by Daoma Winston. Published by Lancer Books 1971.

Sharon appeared to have everything –  an exciting job in Washington DC, a nice apartment and the love of a tall, blonde bloke with a firm chin called John. The she receives a letter from May, an old friend of the family whom Sharon used to vacation with as a child – something was seriously wrong at Dead Dolly Creek.

Personally, I cannot imagine anything ever working out fine in a town with a name like Dead Dolly Creek, but apparently this was once the place of many happy childhood memories for Sharon. When she returns to visit, after receiving the letter, Sharon is appalled by the change in the place. All the elder folk are dying of fright, while the younger ones seem to be under the spell of the mysterious stranger, Evangeline. Soon Sharon’s own life is in danger as she is drawn closer into a web of  intrigue and she is forced to stand up against the evil forces destroying the cursed town.

It has been a while since I’ve read The Devil’s Daughter, but I remember it being quite the page turner. I actually thought the decrepit, dusty ghost town worked really well as an alternative gothic setting to the usual dank and gloomy castle.  There was plenty of supernatural spookiness to keep things interesting too – including shapeshifting witches and mysterious unaccountable deaths. However, cat lovers beware – the cover may hint otherwise, but Dead Dolly Creek is certainly not the  kind of place to be  keeping cute fluffy kittens. Three out of five stars.


Wuthering Heights

The ominous and brooding shadows of the Yorkshire moors set a dramatic background for the tragedy of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. It tells of the frustrated love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. When Catherine marries another man, Heathcliff’s passion turns to revenge – an urge to destroy the people and the raw beauty of the places the two of them had enjoyed as children.

Emily Bronte’s only novel , a masterpiece, lays bare the full misery of a man and woman who can never be free to love one another and the ultimate destruction this brings.

Written by Emily Bronte. First published 1847. This edition published 1967 by Pan Books Ltd, second printing 1968. With an introduction by Elizabeth Jennings and notes by Phyllis Bentley. Also includes  a selection of Emily Bronte’s poems. Cover art John Raynes (Thanks Tim!).

Of course this book needs no introduction. I thought I would share this lovely edition I picked up last week at the Worthing Car Boot Fair for a £1.

I love this cover – those dark, brooding purples and turbulent brushstrokes really capture the spirit of the story. Check out more of artist John Raynes’ work over at the amazing Pan Paperback Books website. Just follow the artists link at the top of the page.

I’m reading this again for what must be the hundredth time and still loving it – the poems are an extra treat too. Five out of five stars.