Widow in White

The Defenceless Target Of A Mysterious Intruder

It began on a rainy Saturday afternoon as Margo was entertaining her new neighbours at a small housewarming party. A car ran into one of the trees on her property, and an injured man was soon installed in her guestroom.

But the smashup, Margo soon learned, was no accident. The handsome, ruthless stranger was after something in the house, and nothing – not even Margo herself – was going to stand in his way of getting it.

Copyright 1973 by Morris Hershman. First Avon printing, January 1973. Cover art Walter Popp. (Thanks Ruben!)

The goddess of all gifts second-hand has been very good to me recently, with at least one lovely gothic a day picked up at the local charity shops this week. Monday’s acquisition was the very fair of face Widow in White and oh, how I love this cover!

One thing I’ve noticed about my Avon gothics though – the cover art is usually stunning but the covers are particularly vulnerable to wear and tear. Quite often the artwork is almost completely scuffed off. This one is in very good condition for an Avon gothic – well, for one found on this side of the Atlantic anyway.

Here’s a taster from the inside cover:

Morris Hershman (born 1926) wrote under several pseudonyms, including Sara Roffman, Janet Templeton, Lionel Webb and Jessica Wilcox. And it’s his Evelyn Bond persona that looks to be the most prolific, with at least twenty gothics published in the 60’s and 70’s.

Here’s a short biog on the author, taken from the Browne Popular Culture Library page:

Morris Hershman was born on January 31, 1926. He attended New York University. On September 6, 1969, he married Florence Verbell, a writer and editor, though they are now divorced.

Hershman writes under the pseudonyms: Evelyn Bond, Arnold English, Sara Roffman, Janet Templeton, Sam Victor, Lionel Webb, and Jess Wilcox. He also writes under various other private pseudonyms. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Morris Hershman resides in New York City.

And some more information, with scans of all his lovely gothics, can be found over at Fantastic Fiction HERE.

To Seek Where Shadows Are

Posed for Death….

Laurie’s fiancé hated the apartment she’d chosen for them to live in when they got married. Steve couldn’t be specific, but something about the old Victorian building really bothered him.

But Laurie loved their future home. As she poked through the old rooms that had once served as an artist’s studio, she discovered a portrait of a lovely but obviously unhappy young girl that had been painted at the end of the last century. The pretty young model fascinated Laurie and she longed to know the reason for the sad expression on the girl’s face. Her curiosity would soon be satisfied – but at the risk of her engagement and, ultimately, her life!

Written by Miriam Benedict. First Avon printing December 1973.

A classic haunted house mystery. Our heroine, Laurie the Librarian, finds herself the new tenant of a old but ‘heaven sent’ apartment in an eerie Victorian house located in the bohemian part of town.

Of course Laurie falls in love with the apartment and can’t wait to start settling in to wedded bliss in her first new home with husband-to-be Steve.

Unfortunately Steve hates the place, won’t set foot in it actually, so for most of the story Laurie is left to renovate and redecorate on her ownsome, assisted by the occasional morale boosting bottle of wine and Chinese take away provided by her neighbour  and best friend, Alex the Artist,  who lives downstairs.

Things soon take a gothic turn for the worse when Laurie  becomes haunted by strange dreams and mysterious goings on that have a story of their own to tell – a tale about a beautiful artist’s model driven to despair by guilt and the  murderous attentions of  the artist’s jilted, jealous fiancée .

Isolated and vulnerable, driven to exhaustion by all her redecorating and stressed by the move, Laurie becomes more and more obsessed and endangered by these nefarious spirits. Bit by bit – and with a lot of help from her friends – she is able to unravel the mystery surrounding the secrets of this house, hopefully laying to rest the unhappy ghosts for good.

This was a fair to middling read in the gothic stakes. There were plenty of spooky happenings, including a sleepwalking, spirit possessed boyfriend with a penchant for past life regression, and a nice background story involving a doomed love affair  /  tragic love triangle from the past.

However, the overall execution of the story was a little inconsistent – this was yet another book that starts out good but gets spoiled by a rushed ending where the characters will say and do anything just to tie up the loose ends in time. As a result, some of the characterisation just did not seem too credible to me and so I found myself losing interest about two thirds of the way through.

On the plus side, there are some well written, genuinely gothicky moments and the cover art is especially beautiful. I love that spooky looking tree poking out from behind the curtain. Three out of five stars.