House of Hate

The Gathering Storm…

The stately mansion of the Thibaults was filled with the treasures and the memories of gracious living… but it held more than that. The world of the Thibaults had been shaped by art and music, but something in the house seemed to feed on a vicious undercurrent of fear and frustration. When Norma Theale came on a mission of mercy, she became a catalyst, around which a storm of dark furies gathered… waiting to burst and spew its evil over all. Because Norma was there, someone was going to die…

Would that someone be Norma herself?

Written by Dorothy Fletcher. A Magnum Book – Complete and Unabridged. Copyright 1967

A little bit of April tomfoolery to usher in the first of the month today. Paul McCartney played the Royal Albert Hall last week and his backing video to Paperback Writer at first glance looked to be a rather fabulous montage of Nurse Romance paperback art.

Nurse romances were very big in the 50’s and early 60’s before the gothic romances eclipsed their popularity. Mind you, the nurses in Sir Paul’s video look rather sinister (something about those surgical masks… and those little trickles of blood..) and they look as if they would be right at home in a gothic, assisting in the horrific experiments of some mad professor, somewhere deep within the dungeons of an isolated asylum…

Anyhow here’s a glimpse of the video taken from another show of his:

I don’t have any Nurse Romances myself, but I have a few gothics featuring nurses on the cover and House of Hate is one of them. Another is Leap in the Dark, written Rona Randall with a stunning cover by Lou Marchetti, which I’ve reviewed earlier on in this blog.

And if you want to have a look at some real Nurse Romances, check out The Vintage Nurse Romance Novels blog HERE.

To the Dark Tower

WITCH CULT!

Since the dawn of civilisation, the secret cults – hiding in the dark corridors and gray shadows of night – have ruled the world. Studying cave drawings in the south of Spain, Joan Lambert stumbles on evidence linking the secret witch masters of today with the damned of centuries past…and the dark minds of today control powers as great as the ancients.

Discovered by guardians of the dreaded knowledge, Joan flees for her life…but finds herself unable to outrun the nightmare pursuers. Only one place offers the hope of safety…and then she finds that it too is a puppet to the witch cult!

Copyright 1969 by Script Associates Ltd. Published 1969 Lancer Books. Cover art Lou Marchetti.

Joan Lambert is a somewhat uptight archaeologist who has suffered a terrible trauma on a dig in the Pyrenees.

Alone in a cave, she had discovered ancient relics unequivocally proving the existence of a witch cult in Western Europe that antedates the ancient Egyptians by thousands of years. She also unearthed a terrifying, disembodied presence with fiery eyes that almost killed her, and which continues to threaten her with paralysing flashbacks to this day.

Concerned for her welfare, Joan’s true love, fellow archaeologist and museum curator Wilfred Allen, has summoned her to his isolated mansion, Glen Oaks, in order to introduce her to a select group of psychiatrists, psychical researchers and scholars, whose combined knowledge of all things occult, he is convinced, will dispel Joan’s awful visitations once and for all.

There were dreams just as real. Dreams in which flesh bruised flesh , moist lips parted and you felt yourself to be caught up and held in strong, imprisoning arms. To be held captive in so rapturous a way surely had to mean that there were depths beyond depths in the human mind, and that somewhere buried deep in the mind there was a wild, free world where dreams were the only reality.

 Unfortunately for Joan, Glen Oaks turns out not to be the haven of tranquillity she has been hoping for. Bizarre rituals and horrifying murders have been occurring in the woods. On her drive to the house, a monstrous being forces her car off the road, causing Joan to flee into the arms of Sheriff Forsythe. He has been investigating the murder of the local village idiot, Willie, and his suspicions are piqued when he notices the resemblance between Joan and a little wax doll found near Willie’s body. He takes her to Glen Oaks where Wilfred and his guests are waiting anxiously, and Wilfred’s reticence under questioning makes the Sheriff even more suspicious.

That night, Joan falls into an uneasy slumber, only to be woken by the midnight whisperings of a roomful of shadowy figures standing around her bed. One by one they hypnotise her into believing Wilfred is in mortal danger and only she can save him. So Joan has no option but to sleepwalk right out of Glen Oaks and right into the woods where she believes she will find her beloved.

The branches of the towering oaks were destitute of all foliage now, and swayed in the slight breeze, looking as brittle as the bones of waltzing skeletons in a danse macabre, and the moss on their boles had shrivelled and died after turning a lichenous gray.

Instead she finds herself centre stage in a hideous Black Magic ritual where she is to be the main sacrifice. Joan by this time is too far gone to care and as the celebrants prepare her for slaughter, her only chance of escape rests on one man’s shoulders… 

Dark Tower, with all its lush descriptions of midnight woods and nameless terrors, was a great gothic read. The ‘unseen horror’ that had attached itself to Joan in the caves and which continued to menace her was very effectively done and I wish the author had stuck with this rather than distract us with all that witchy jiggery-pokery.

There were also too many long discussions between characters explaining away the plot and adding unnecessary asides – including a slightly surreal and completely irrelevant conversation about the satanic connections of Joan of Arc while our very own Joan was being gagged and bound to a stake. Overall though, there is a lot to like about this book.

So who wrote To the Dark Tower? Fantastic Fiction states Lyda Belknap Long is a pseudonym for Frank Belknap Long – Lyda being the name of his wife. But on the inside cover of my Lancer copy there is a dedication that reads:

Which begs the question, if you were writing under a pseudonym would you add a dedication to yourself? Why?! Or was this book actually written by his wife? The copyright gives no clue since it is by Script Associates Ltd so maybe neither of them wrote it! Anyway, I would recommend the Lyda Belknap Long gothics if you can find them. Four out of five stars.

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Shadow Of A Past Love

COME BACK TO TERROR!

Kerry Reneau was happy in San Francisco, and confident that the bitter past was safely locked in the dark corners of her memory. She kept herself busy, too busy to think of other people… of one person. It had been years since she had seen that one man.

…And then Aunt Agatha reappeared suddenly after two years – reappeared dead! And like it or not, Kerry found herself thrust back into those other times and other places that she so much wanted to forget. But unpleasant as the homecoming seemed, she knew that it would soon be done with… and then dark horror brought the shadow of death over good memories and bad, and Kerry found herself fighting for her very life against the ghosts of the past!

Written by Willo Davis Roberts. Lancer Books 1970.

Kerry runs a bookshop on the edge of a college campus in San Francisco, so we know she’s smart. And we know she’s pretty because at least half the customers come in just to look at her – skulking around  the bookcases, buying  the occasional 50 cent paperback while working up the courage to ask her out.

But Kerry is not interested in college boys. She’s 26 years old and is carrying a torch for John, her childhood crush who’s a bestselling writer currently travelling in Peru researching his new book.

Or so she thinks. Closing up the shop one day she answers a phone call that drastically alters the course of her life. It is from Coyle, one of her cousins, summoning her back to her home town of Eureka. A woman has been killed in a hit and run accident in nearby Willow Creek. The wristwatch she was wearing has been traced by police to  Kerry’s Aunt Agatha – who disappeared from her home over two years ago and has been presumed dead ever since.

Though Kerry has many fond memories of the summers spent with Aunt Agatha and her cousins, she isn’t particularly interested in attending the funeral until she learns John will be there.

So she returns to Aunt Agatha’s. But it seems her love for John will forever remain unrequited as he continues to treat her as his ‘little cousin’ – refusing to recognise how grown up she has become. And Kerry is convinced John’s new secretary and constant companion, Lois Elliot, is in love with him too.

For Kerry, the whole trip is a bust so she decides to make a quick exit.  Paying her last respects at the funeral she notices Aunt Agatha has a mole on her face she has never noticed before. Hmm, that’s a bit strange. And then, when the contents of the Will are finally revealed,  Kerry finds out she has inherited slightly more than her Auntie’s good looks.

Surrounded by resentful relatives and the new owner of a creaky old mansion, Kerry is finding it difficult to sleep at nights. But making herself a relaxing cup of cocoa in the middle of the night turns out to be far more eventful than she could possibly imagine…

A couple of hundred pages of Lancer Easy Eye large type meant Shadow of a Past Love only took a couple of days to read which was probably just as well as it’s kind of obvious where this one is going. This is one of those ‘hazardous inheritance’ type gothics where the heroine more often than not ends up both rich and married to the man of her dreams. Some girls have all the luck.

Despite all that was happening to her, Kerry only had eyes for John and I would describe  Shadow as more of a romance than a gothic, though there were some nice spooky touches along the way – a body bricked up in the basement is always a good thing, but disappointingly no vengeful ghosts or tell-tale mutterings leading us to the killer, just a bit luck and an underfed Siamese cat. Three out of four stars.

As well as writing gothics, Willo Davis Roberts, who worked in hospitals and GP surgeries herself, wrote a number of Nurse Romances.

Nurse Romances were very big in the 50’s before their popularity was eclipsed by Gothics. My mum read loads of them and she was an actual nurse so they must have something going for them.

And in the spirit of Valentine’s day I have one lovely Ace Nurse Romance by Willo Davis Roberts to give away free to anyone with UK postal address.  Nurse at Mystery Villa is part of the Ace Nurse Romance Series. First published in 1967 this is the Ace 1973 second printing. Just email me via the contacts page and she’s all yours.


Journey Into Twilight

No Place To Run…

Marcia Lovell ran away from Bannersville when she lost the only man in the world she could love – lost Adam Wilson, to her cousin, Gloria. She managed to stay away from the past until the day when her plane was forced down at Logan Airport, in Boston, only fifty miles from the town where she had grown to womanhood. There in Boston she again met Adam. She was ready to shut her ears and her eyes to this ghost from a time that never was, until she learned that the usurping love had quickly died. Now Gloria herself seemed marked for death?

Could Marcia return to yesterday, to save the life of a woman she still hated…save her before she herself met death?

Written by Miriam Lynch. Lancer Gothic 1970.

Marcia Lovell is a nurse living on the West Coast. Returning home from a holiday in Athens, she is delayed in Boston’s Logan Airport when her plane is forced to make an emergency landing. Marcia is no stranger to the East coast as her home town is only a few miles from Boston, but it is a place of bad memories she has been avoiding for years.

At the Airport she bumps into Adam – her childhood sweetheart and the man who broke her heart when he left her to marry the town’s glamour puss, Marcia’s cousin Gloria. Though Adam is the last person Marcia wants to see right now she agrees to one drink and, over cocktails in the airport lounge, learns that Adam’s engagement to Gloria was a disaster and it was Marcia he really loved all along.

But there is more – Gloria has had a nervous breakdown and is currently undergoing ‘special’ treatment in a sanatorium called Riversong. According to Adam, Riversong is a spooky place run by an even spookier Doctor called Theodore Sherman. No-one will let Adam see Gloria and, worried for her safety, Adam pleads with Marcia to visit to Riversong to find out what is going on.

Marcia reluctantly agrees; she hates Gloria but cannot resist Adam’s big brown eyes. In any event, as a nurse, her professional interest is piqued so that afternoon Adam drives her out to the fog-ridden isolated, peninsula where Riversong is located.

What follows one of those night-of-terror-trapped-in-a-house-full-of-hell gothics Miriam Lynch seems to do so well. Trying to rescue Gloria while simultaneously uncovering a fiendishly clever blackmailing racket, our heroine is drugged, tortured and chased through a mansion that is fast becoming engulfed by flood waters from the surrounding river. Can she and Gloria escape in time? What strange power does the demonic Dr.  Sherman have over the inmates of Riversong? And where the jiminy cricket is Adam?!

Journey into Twilight is a pacy and enjoyable read with enough bizarre plot twists  to keep me coming back for more. Mad scientists and their insane experiments make for great gothic reading and Dr Sherman’s infernal hypnagogic dream manipulator was a treat. 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.


A Touch of the Witch

She was Melanie Clauseven, of Port Kulshan, Washington, who lived and worked in New York City – OR WAS SHE?

That question was to terrify the beautiful young Melanie, who, called mysteriously to her ancestral home, found it inhabited by a strange old man, a sprite like teenager – and an incredible secret.

What torturing bond held Whip Benedict fast to the elfin Ursula? Was he mad or was she actually a Clauseven  – like Melanie – but from another time and a different order of being?

But mostly, what did Benedict want from Melanie? Then she found out – there was an unknown power deep within her, and it turned an adventurous lark into a living nightmare…………

Written by June Wetherell. Published by Lancer Books 1969.

Melanie Clauseven and her handsome beau, Ward Dana,  have left the hustle of New York behind them for a trip to spooky ol’ New England.  Why? Because Melanie has received a letter. A letter from a stranger telling her she may be heir to a large  manor house situated in the backwoods of Massachusetts and offering her the chance to lay claim to this fortuitous slice of real estate.

However, imagine her disappointment when she eventually arrives at the location of her ancestral home in the hills only to find a rather eerie little shack perched precariously on the edge of  a fast flowing river. To add to the not so great welcome, the host, Mr W (please call me Whip – everyone else does) Benedict is nowhere to be found – instead our intrepid travellers are greeted by a rather strange elfin woman with a necklace of claws, who calls herself Ursula and speaks as if she lives in a time warp.

Mr Benedict eventually arrives and attempts to put his guests at ease,  filling them in on bits of family history and explaining the shack is only an add on to the main house – which lies hidden by the hill and is accessed via a rickety corridor of bits of timber cobbled together by himself (an idea I loved but found difficult to visualise at times).

But right from the start, Melanie is suspicious of his motives and her unease grows with every passing moment she is forced to stay in this creepy house. Things are not made any easier when she is awakened in the middle of the night by a black magic coven, known as the Omegates, hosting an orgy in the abandoned basement right under her bedroom.

The plot gets thicker than custard as Melanie is forced to confront her family’s murky past and the possibility that she too might be a witch. Things build to a violent climax when Melanie’s only ally, her boyfriend Ward, is knocked out by poison and she is left alone to fight against the forces that have led her to this house and into the clutches of the maniacal witchfinder Whipple Benedict.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for all its New England witchiness and sympathetic approach to our heroine’s heritage. There’s plenty to keep you occupied plot wise and lots of nods and winks toward the supernatural side of things. The characters were all fairly well written and the ending – involving a  suspenseful life and death treasure hunt for a mysterious Peruvian talisman – kept me wanting to keep turning the pages. I would have liked to have learnt a little more about those naughty Omegates though. Three out of five stars.