The Bat

TERROR WAS MASTER OF THE MANOR…

When lovely Dale Ogden came to the isolated Van Gorder manor to act as companion to the strange and eccentric woman who ruled the household with a grip of iron, she little suspected the turn her unshadowed life would take. Why was there chill fear in the eyes of everyone she met, from the faithful family retainers to the haunted man for whom she felt so dangerous an attraction? What secret horror past and present did the twisted corridors and windswept countryside conceal? And why, suddenly, inexplicably did she feel herself marked as a victim?

Written by Mary Roberts Rinehart. New Dell Edition First Printing 1969.

The story takes place in a large, isolated country house recently rented by an  elderly, adventure-loving patrician called Cornelia Van Gorder, who is accompanied by her beautiful young niece Dale Ogden.

But this is no idyllic summer retreat. There is a masked criminal stalking the streets –  robbing the rich he strikes soundlessly in the night, vanishing into thin air while leaving a trail of dead police and even deader millionaires in his wake.

Get him – get him – get him! From a thousand sources now the clamor arose – press, police and public alike crying out for the capture of the master criminal of a century – lost voices hounding a spectre down the alleyways of the wind.

Cornelia has been following the exploits of this masked marauder and it has not escaped her attention that three of the Bat’s most recent crimes have been committed within a mere twenty miles of very house she is currently staying in.

Cover from Cover Browser

Soon enough all manner of strange comings and goings start scaring off the staff, leaving the indomitable Ms. Cordelia faced with a long restless night in her house full of  horror. Throw in a secret room, a murder, a cache of hidden money, not to mention the forbidden romance between her young niece and the new ‘gardener’ – who incidentally believes Urticaria is a new hybrid of rhubarb – and the night proves to be an eventful one.

Get whom, in God’s name – get what? Beast, man or devil? A spectre – a flying shadow – the shadow of the Bat.

Originally written as a play in 1926, The Bat has a real old-fashioned murder mystery feel to it. There are moments of real suspense, mixed with some genuinely funny dialogue and though I wouldn’t describe it as gothic,  it’s still worth a read. The gorgeously whimsical cover is by Hector Garrido. Three out of five stars.

To watch the silent film version – click HERE.


The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, An International Episode, The Aspern Papers, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle.

Henry James considered “the beautiful and blest nouvelle” to be the “ideal form” for fiction, and to this genre he brought the full perfection of his imaginative artistry. The themes he chose and the values he set forth in the six nouvelles that comprise this Signet Classic typify the depth and power of his craftsmanship – the unique perception of a writer who unerringly deciphers the mind of a gay and flirtatious American girl among the sophisticates of Europe…the motivations of a man who spends a lifetime waiting to experience his “rare and strange” destiny.

“Few Writers of fiction have been so inventive as Henry James,” writes William Thorp. Edmund Wilson commented that “he can be judged only in the company of the very greatest.”

Written by Henry James. This Signet Classic edition published 1980.

‘Tis the season for curling up with a good ol’ gothic ghost story and Turn of the Screw is one of my favourites.

A real ‘treading on eggshells’ sense of suspense pervades this novella, with everything you need for a chilling winter night’s reading.

Originally published in 1898 the best thing about this novella  is how artfully James sows the seeds of doubt as to whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Personally I made up my mind years ago the governess was completely barking and not the kind of person you’d want to leave alone with your kids; the conversation she has with the housekeeper after her first sighting of Quint being a great example of how easy people can mislead each other into believing whatever they want to believe.

Lots of people disagree however and the ambiguity is part of what makes this tale so engrossing. At times the children are almost as sinister as the ghosts and having read this a few times I still find myself asking questions. Henry James’ prose weaves a masterful spell of psychological suspense  by allowing the reader room to draw their own conclusions. The isolated setting, unspoken secrets and spiralling emotions all contribute toward creating a truly spooky atmosphere with a shocking climax.

And though Turn of the Screw is the most well known piece in this collection, the other novellas are worth a mention – in particular Altar of the Dead, one of my favourite stories ever.

The cover art is lovely and a very distinctive style. 5 out of 5 stars.


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 Carvello

Did the Marchessa Carvello guess what might be going on under the palazzo roofs, or the evil which threatened to descend on the ancient family whose roots lay in blood long dried, whose future now lacked permanence?

Longing to escape the dull familiarity of her father’s home in England, Harriet agrees to go to the great Carvello palace in Italy to take her cousin Ann’s place as governess to the Carvello children. But how could Harriet know she would be thrown into the midst of strange and frightening events, and herself be involved in the tragedy that haunts the Carvello family….

Written by Frances Cowen. First Ace printing 1973.

Ann Mannering is in Italy working as a governess for the Marchesa Carvello. The Carvello family are incredibly rich and live on a huge estate, built on the site of an ancient castle, a few kilometres from Milan.

Ann is not happy; she has spotted trespassers lurking within the Pallazo grounds and feels threatened. She wants to leave – the sooner the better – so she makes a few calls, throws herself at the mercy of the Marchesa and in no time has arranged for her cousin, the recently widowed Harriet, to come over from England to take her place.

Enter our heroine, Harriet. Everyone tells her she is very pretty and the children adore her. But soon tragedy strikes when her cousin Ann is found dead, killed by a blow to the head and it is left to Harriet to uncover the deadly secret  surrounding the Carvello family.

Hounds of Carvello started out quite promising and reads very well as an adventure/romance, since most of the story is taken up by Harriet’s blossoming love affair with the tall, dark and deadly Niccolo. Unfortunately –  apart from some uncanny howling early on in the story and the odd murder or two –  there is nothing much gothic about this title. Lovely cover though. Two out five stars.


The Brides of Saturn

A true bride of January, Vanessa thrived on the strength of her ambitions. Even her most secret dream to marry into nobility was suddenly within her grasp when handsome Lord Edward Norville fell madly in love with her.

But Edward’s proud ancestry was marred by an unearthly malignancy that was destined to twist her hopes and challenge her Saturnian endurance.

For, the instant she dared to marry him, the ancient family curse against the brides of Capricorn would be hungrily waiting to claim her as its fourth victim.

Resurrection of Evil!

Then the lights went out. She was helpless in the dank, cavernous wine cellar. Then suddenly from a distance she heard a low, gloating chuckle – a malevolent sound that sent her fears soaring!

Wheeling around she snapped her flashlight beam in the drection of the sound. To her utter shock, she saw the outline of a crouching figure in some sort of ragged robe. Then the beam leveled on the features of a gargoyle with a twisted mouth and glittering, insane eyes.

Vanessa screamed and stumbled into total blackness…….

Writen by W.E. Dan Ross. Published by Berkley Medallion Books December 1976.

The last in this months themed Gothics, Brides of Saturn is one in a series, published by Berkley, featuring a book for each sign of the zodiac.

Other titles in this series include:

TWILIGHT FOR TAURUS By Miriam Lynch

TERROR OF THE TWIN By Dorothy Daniels

THE MOON SHADOW By Kim Allyson

THE LION’S GATE By J. Alexander

MAIDEN OF GLORY ISLAND By June Wetherell

BALANCE OF TERROR By Cynthia Van Hazinga

NIGHT OF THE SCORPION By Saliee O’Brien


Stone of Blood

Stones of Blood on the Showboat of Death!

The cause of Sarah’s tradgedy remained a mystery for over a century. The Indian chieftan’s daughter, callously betrayed by her husband, was found dead near the place where her present-day namesake, the showboat Indian Princess, lay at anchor.

But if time didn’t unlock the riddle of her death, it also failed to banish her presence from the boat. Lonely ghost-like moans filtered up from the lower decks…there was an outbreak of of unexplained accidents.

And then Lyssa Du Champ, the new star singer, discovered the terrifying truth about her predecessor’s “suicide” and the bloodstone ornaments sported by the sinister men who ran the show!

Bloodstone – The March Birthstone

Mossy green flecked with red, protects its owner against treachery.

Written by Juanita Coulson. Published by Beagle Books. First printing March 1975. Cover art Charles Gehm.

Continuing from my last post (on the theme of themed gothics) Stone of Blood is the third in a series of novels, published by Ballentine Books, whose stories are based on birthstones.

The titles in this series are listed as:

1. The Ghost and the Garnet by Marilyn Ross

2. The Amethyst Tears by Marilyn Ross

3. Stone of Blood by Juanita Coulson

4. Dark Diamond by Diana Tower

5. The Shadow Over Emerald Castle by Marilyn Ross

6. The Moonstone Spirit by Jean DeWeese

7. Blood Ruby by Jan Alexander

8. The Carnelian Cat by Jean DeWeese

9. A Gleam of Sapphire by Diana Tower

10. Opal Legacy by Fortune Kent

11. A Topaz For My Fair Lady by Jane Toombs

12. Turquoise Talisman by Sharon Wagner

The cover art is pretty stunning and there is a signature to the bottom right of the picture but I can’t for the life of me decipher it. (Oh yes I can, it’s Charles Gehm)


Behind Locked Shutters / The Twilight Web

Thought I’d post a couple more of my Dan Ross paperbacks. Dan Ross is the bestselling Canadian writer who wrote a lot of Gothic Romances, using various pseudonyms. As Marilyn Ross he wrote over 30 paperback gothics based on the TV series Dark Shadows.

Both titles below – in addition to The Third Spectre which I reviewed in my last post – are published by Macfadden-Bartell. I thought the covers were interesting in that they both feature rather sinister looking men lurking in the shadows, both of whom seem to be wearing eye patches……

Behind Locked Shutters

A Ghastly Dream Come True….

Elizabeth felt like a beautiful princess in the romantic chalet. It was a setting out of a dream.

Then suddenly her life became part of the bizarre and chilling terrors locked behind the chalet doors – weird noises in the night, cries of madness creeping down the halls, ghostly figures lurking in the shadows and pursuing her.

Where does a dream begin and where – and when – does it end?

Paperback edition Published 1970.

The Twilight Web

Better Dead Than Alive…

Rose Hilary faced a glorious future with the man she loved. Rocky Terrace, the beautiful old mansion that was to be their home, was only part of the fortune she’d inherited.

But dark terrors crouched in the estate’s every corner. The lovely young heiress was about to become a victim of happenings so bizarre she could only wish for death….

Paperback edition published 1970.

Dan Ross was a very prolific writer with over 300 novels to his credit. His Dark Shadows books each took about three weeks to write. Behind Locked Shutters was his hundredth novel, dedicated to his wife Marilyn, and published with this message on the inside cover. How cute is that?! There is an interview with Dan Ross by Craig Hamrick over at Dark Shawdows Online.

The Third Spectre

WELCOME TO TERROR…

The newlyweds had come home to the Marchand mansion. But the silent old manor house quivered with hidden terrors.

Their life together had just begun, yet, suddenly, it faced a horrible – and abrupt – ending. For the beautiful bride had just received an invitation to die. And the murderer was near… very near…

Written by Dan Ross. First printing by Macfadden-Bartell April 1969, second printing June 1971.

Nancy Marchand is newly wedded to Ralph, a hot shot criminal defence lawyer and proud owner of a large ancestral mansion situated on the shore of the idyllic Green Ridge Lake in Vermont.

Sounds to good to be true? Of course it is! For one thing, Nancy’s husband takes his work far too seriously, giving the phrase ‘bringing your work home with you’ a whole new meaning when he brings one of his clients – the beautiful blonde and accused poisoner Jean Gilbert – home to live with them.

Ralph insists his motives are entirely professional but Nancy has her doubts, especially when Jean confesses to her she actually quite fancies him. And then Nancy starts getting ill – someone is trying to poison her…..

I quite enjoyed this book as a bit of a thriller but I did not find it very gothic. There was a lot of dialogue but not much in the way of atmosphere. The  spooky bits were very few and far between and centred around the appearance of a ghostly spectre of a long dead ancestor supposedly acting as a portent of bad things to come – but ultimately I was left with the impression it was merely  a device tacked on to the story to add a supernatural dimension. I do however love the dreamy, almost psychedelic, cover art. Three out of five stars.


 

The Lady of Glenwith Grange

Enter-

If you Dare-

The gothic world of Wilkie Collins.

– a world where the eerie and the terrifying work their evil in the shadows of old, dark houses.

-a world where secrets and curses never die- even after they’ve been buried.

-a world where endangered young women live their fearful lives in a smouldering atmosphere of madness and death.

The Lady of Glenwith Grange will lead every reader of romance and mystery into a land of chilling enchantment!

Written by Wilkie Collins. First paperback Library printing April 1966.

Wilkie Collins was a very popular Victorian writer, perhaps best known for his novels The Moonstone and the Lady in White (pictured left). Both are considered to be his best works and excellent examples of early detective fiction, and they are still in print to this day.

As well as being considered one of the most masterful novelists of his time, with 30 novels to his credit, Wilkie Collins wrote over 60 short stories. This Paperback Library edition  brings together six of his sinister tales of romance, menace and suspense.

The stories are:

1. The Lady of Glenwith Grange

2. Mad Monkton

3. The Dream Woman

4. Mr Lepel and the Housekeeper

5. The Dead Hand

6. A Terribly Strange Bed.

I love short stories and I wish there had been more collections of this type published in this genre. Short stories are a great way of  grabbing a ‘quick fix’ of escapism without having to commit to a whole novel. Wilkie Collins’ prose is a gothic gourmet’s delight and these stories do not disappoint. And even though most are now available on the web, it is nice to have a mouldy book to curl up with now and then.

My only quibble is that I would have liked a little more background information on the author, when the stories were originally published etc presented in an introduction. (But  to be fair there might be one as my edition does appear to be missing a few pages). Four out of five stars.

Ace Cameo Gothic Series Part 3

More murder, madness and romance brought to you courtesy of  Ace Cameo Gothic series. Here are numbers 7 to 12…

No 7 Tapestry of Terror

Anne Redford had been looking forward to spending a pleasant few weeks at her college roommate’s home. But Cecilia’s grandfather died unexpectedly, and the house was plunged into gloom.

Could John Blake’s death had been unnatural? Cecilia shared her home with several relatives – all of whom had a stake in her grandfather’s will. When the family maid who knew too much was found dead, it seemed Blakesville sheltered a murderer.

With mounting horror, Anne suspected that the man she had come to love was plannng to make Cecilia the next victim. Torn between friendship and love, Anne found herself snared in the tangled passions of a TAPESTRY OF TERROR.

Written by Marianne Ruuth. First Ace printing February 1975.


No 8 Without a Grave

She had promised…

..to go to Moreau House, and only by fulfilling her husband’s deathbed wish could the lovely young widow lay his memory to rest forever and begin anew.

It was to be a brief visit. However, Alisa Moreau found that the inhabitants of the house by the sea needed her desperately – and she gave herself willingly to the child strangely frightened of her own mother; the beautiful woman who shrank from the truth; and Marcus, whose terrible secret burden drove him to reject Alisa’s love.

Only when t was too late did Alisa realize that they had unwittingly trapped her…that a twisted love made blind to evil had claimed her for its prisoner……..

Written by Poppy Nottingham. First Ace printing February 1975.

No 9 The Devil’s Due

The Blackwoods were a noble family, steeped in the glory and infamy that was England’s history – marred only by the memory of Sir Robert the Damned. Some said he was the child of the devil, still able to reach across the centuries to wreak havoc….

Although Maura came to the Vicarage at her cousin Annette’s request, her reception was less than cordial. Aunt Harriet, tradition bound matriarch of the Blackwood family, had never forgiven Maura’s mother for leaving her. But Maura was determined to remain – until she learned the real reason for her cousins invitation.

Annette was sure her life was in danger – that her handsome, taciturn husband, Drake, wanted her dead.

And then Annette disappeared, and Maura found herself in love with the man who might have killed her…

Written by Lanora Miller. First Ace printing March 1975.

No 10 Fire on the Cliffs

The wild, sun-drenched beauty of Greece was balm to a tortured soul, and Elizabeth Holland understood why her sister Jessica had made the country her home. She, too, had hoped to find happiness here. But the ancient gods were angered, and as the sun beat evilly and beauty turned savage, a woman fell from the cliffs at Delphi.

The official verdict was suicide, but Elizabeth had seen a man push the woman to her death. Suddenly it was vital to make them believe her, for she had reason to suspect that the man her sister was to marry – handsome, rich Ted Samos – was the murderer.

Nobody listened – not Jessica, not Ted’s attractive brother Alex. And just when Elizabeth was beginning to question her sanity, she realised that someone in the magnificent Samos mansion did believe her  – for a murderer was ready to kill again…

Written by Chris Waynar. First Ace printing April 1975.

No 11 Rievaulx Abbey

Letisha Harraton was dead. She had willed Rievaulx House and her fortune to her grandniece, Jane Warren – who had never heard of Letisha Harraton…

In fact, Letisha Harraton was very much alive – as Jane discovered when she arrived at Rievaulx House in the wilds of Yorkshire. The inheritance was a mistake – a cruel, puzzling joke.

Jane turned to inspector Charles Thomason for help, for suddenly the master jester was death itself haunting the frightened girl’s footsteps – making her doubt the man she loved – her sanity – herself.

In the mysterious, mist-ridden ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, when Jane’s worst nightmare became reality, the evil hoax would stand revealed….

Written by Norma Davison. First Ace printing May 1975

No 12 Picture of Death

It had been eight years since Charles Huron’s wife mysteriously drowned – eight years that his lovely daughter Wendy had not spoken a word. …

Jessica Brandt had simply agreed to be Wendy’s companion for that summer; she was unprepared for the bond that developed between the tragic, withdrawn young girl and herself – or her growing attraction to her sophisticated employer – or the magnetic appeal of the handsome, antisocial artist who lived down the beach.

But nobody would tell Jessica what had really happened the night Wendy’s mother died. Convinced that the events of that night were the key that would unlock the young girl’s soul, Jessica was determined to learn the truth. And someone was equally determined to prevent her from doing so – if necessary, with murder…

Written by Diane LaPoint. First Ace printing June 1975.