Gothic Romance Artwork

gothicpainting

Can anyone help? Robert has emailed me with a scan of this original painting he’s acquired recently and he is trying to find the book it was used for. There is no signature but there is a number on the back (1524). The seller guessed it might belong to a Lancer publication, perhaps an international edition of one of Deanna Dwyer’s (Dean Koontz) gothics. It’s not one that I recognise but it’s an amazing piece of art and would make a fantastically eerie cover. Any ideas? Please get in touch. And thanks for sharing this gorgeous artwork Robert!

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Wuthering Heights

Dominated by the wild, terrible figure of Heathcliff and infused with much of the bleak beauty of its setting, the Yorkshire Moors, Wuthering Heights is one of the most highly imaginative novels in the English language. Such is the intense power of the atmosphere which Emily Bronte builds up that even the incredible Heathcliff seems real and every detail of the fantastic story of his love for Catherine Earnshaw remains clearly remembered long after one has finished the book. It is a strange story, with something of the vividness of a nightmare and something of the beauty of an old ballad, and it contrasts strongly with Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre, the novels which were written at the same time by Anne and Charlotte Bronte.

Written by Emily Bronte, first published 1847. Published in Penguin Books 1946. This reprint, 1965. Cover art Paul Hogarth.

I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again – there’s too much running and not enough kissing going on in this blog and so of course I had to share this gorgeously smoochalicious cover of Wuthering Heights the minute I saw it.

According to Wikipedia, Paul Hogarth OBE was an English artist and illustrator best known for the cover drawings that he did in the 1980s for Penguin’s Graham Greene’s books. And yes, his artwork is worth looking out for – search for his book covers online and there is an amazing array of his work out there, it’s great.

And it’s been a good week for ferreting out some of my favourite books and writers – in addition to the Penguin edition of Wuthering Heights above, I also found this:

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte. Written by Daphne du Maurier. Doubleday edtion published March 1961. Giant Cardinal edition published December 1962. 1st printing October 1962.

Of all the Brontes, Branwell, as a child, showed the most promise. He was worshipped by his sisters and his widowed father; it was to him they all looked for literary success. Yet he alone was unable to bridge the gap between childhood fantasy and adulthood, and produce a mature, finished book.

There is, however, no question of his influence upon the writings of his sisters, and certainly Emily drew heavily on him for her memorable portrait of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

Conscious to the end of his sisters’ success and his own monumental failure, he turned to a life of dissipation and withdrew to live in the wild, fantastic imagination of his mythical, self-invented kingdom of Angria.

He died at thirty one, from alcohol and excessive laudanum – an ‘eloquent unpublished poet.’

It’s an amazing biography – Daphne du Marier’s skill as a novelist and storyteller bringing the life and times of the Bronte family alive. Anyone interested in the writings of the Bronte sisters can’t help but be drawn in by this beautifully written and wonderfully observed portrait of their incredibly talented but deeply troubled brother, Branwell.

I bought both these books for £1 at the wonderful Colin Page Books in Brighton, an amazing bookshop known and loved by bibliophiles far and wide. This is the kind of place that sells proper old books – gilt edged, leather bound, dusted in antiquity – rows upon rows of them, stacked floor to ceiling in that wonderful  ‘there must be some sort of order to this chaos’ way that real bookstores have.

And fear not all you cheap’n’cheerful paperback pulp fans – this place has something for everyone! For outside the shop are a couple of trestle tables where the paperbacks are sold and there is always a great selection, most priced at a very reasonable £1. I’m lucky enough to live and work nearby so this is one of my favourite lunchtime stops for a browse and a bargain!

For more info on this wonderful place, check out the antiquarian Booksellers’ Association page HERE.

Voice of the Dolls

It was a solitary little girl, mimicking with sinister skill the voices of her dolls, that first lured Sarah into the Foster household.

Intrigued by Jennie’s serious nature, she became her governess for the winter and soon found herself inextricably trapped in the stifling atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion that surrounded the family in the big Kensington house – a house already witness to one ‘accidental’ death, which left lingering fears and doubts among its remaining members.

But Sarah, not knowing who to trust and suppressing her mounting terror, is forced to follow the issue through to its sinister conclusion.

Written by Dorothy Eden. This Coronet Edition second impression 1972.

I have already reviewed Voice of the Dolls in an earlier post but I had to share this slightly earlier edition with its all too eerie artwork. If scary, starey dolls didn’t frighten you before, then this cover should change all that. Definitely not a portrait you’d feel comfortable turning your back on!

This creepy gothic was given to me by the lovely Tom. (Thanks Tom!) He co-runs The Yard Vintage & Makers Market in Brighton where he is gatekeeper to that most diabolical machination of misfortune and misery – The Trauma Tombola (the place… where every silver lining… has a cloud…)

Held on the second and fourth Sunday of each month and only a few minutes walk from Brighton station, if you like vintage, you’ll love this market. Mosey on over to our House of Secrets bookstall to say hi, and I might even have a few gothics under the counter to give away! (No promises mind…)

The Casebook of Dr Holton

Like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Dr Paul Holton and Manfred Blackton enjoy a deadly rivalry. Time and again they meet, on different battlegrounds, but the victor’s prize is always the same: a human soul.

In The Gilded Sarcophagus, their first adventure, the life at stake is very precious to Holton. His fiancée, Julie Font, has become a pawn in a dangerous game of mystic power… and the forces of evil are on Blackton’s side.

The struggle resumes in The Cup of Thanatos, the story of Holton’s clash with a society dedicated to worshipping the ancient God of Death. The gripping climax takes place in the most unholy of monasteries, where the sacred and the profane vie for the possession of an innocent young girl.

Written by Charlotte Hunt (aka Doris Marjorie Hodges). The Gilded Sarcophagus copyright Ace Books 1967. The Cup of Thanatos copyright Ace Books 1968.

These are the first two books in Charlotte Hunt’s Dr Holton series. Dr Holton is an eminent English psychiatrist who finds himself pitted against the evil occultist Manfred Blackton and his exotic sidekick, Zerena.

The Gilded Sarcophagus opens with Dr. Paul Holton’s fiancée, Julie, turning to him for help to find her missing twin brother Simon. A suicide note and a large quantity of drugs has been found at his flat but no body. Julie claims a telepathic connection to her twin and is convinced he is still alive. She suspects his disappearance has something to do with a sinister group of people who call themselves the ‘Circle of Ra.’ Their leader, the enigmatic Manfred Blackton, has been spending a lot of time befriending Julie and Simon’s Uncle Rupert and Julie believes his motives are far from innocent.

For Uncle Rupert is a keen occultist and archaeologist recently back  from Egypt and in possession of a priceless ancient artefact known as the Roth Parchment – an Atlantean papyrus with talismanic powers containing references to a secret mine of Uranium, which, if it fell into the wrong hands, could bring destruction to the world. Devastated over the recent death of his wife, Rupert has been attending séances held by the Circle of Ra to try to make contact with her spirit.

Julie is certain Manfred Blackton is merely exploiting her Uncle’s recent bereavement in order to gain access to the secrets of the Roth Parchment  and since Simon had been transcribing this parchment for his uncle when he disappeared, she is sure Manfred Blackton holds the key to her brother’s disappearance. According to Julie, there had been a terrible row during which Simon threatened to expose Dr Blackton for the philandering fake he really is.

So, with the help of his commando-trained cockney manservant and an old school friend at Scotland Yard, Dr Paul Holton attempts to uncover the truth behind Simon’s disappearance. Little by little he is drawn into the shady world of the occult. And when his beloved Julie is kidnapped and held in a trance-like spell only an evil magician can undo, Paul’s powers of self control are tested to breaking point…

Sarcophagus has plenty to please if occult thrillers are your thing. There are  spooky seances, strange rituals, ancient legends, mysterious talismans and a daredevil plot to bring about world domination, contrived by villains as cold and calculating as they come.

What makes this atypical to most gothic romances is that the protagonist, Paul Holton, is… well, a man. Furthermore, he’s a man who starts and ends the novel completely devoted to his fiancée  Julie so there is absolutely no ‘romantic suspense’ involved at all. However he is a very nice man and I will be reviewing his next run-in with the evil Manfred Blackton in the Cup of Thanatos soon.

The cover art is by Raymond Kursar and matches the  flavour of the story perfectly. A more evil looking mage I’ve not seen for a long time…. Four out of five stars.