Evil at Roger’s Cross

THIS IS A NEW NOVEL BY CATHERINE MARCHANT, ENGLAND’S GREATEST WRITER OF GOTHIC MYSTERIES. IT HAS NEVER BEEN PUBLISHED ANYWHERE BEFORE.

Prudence Dudley sought solitude in which to recover from the ache of a lover’s betrayal.

She found an oddly isolated house in which bitter secrets lurked and sinister tensions lay buried just beneath the surface.

She tried to avoid becoming involved, but she was drawn deeper and deeper into the whirlpool of emotion. And finally she had to make a choice between two fiercely proud brothers, and discover what was hidden behind THE IRON FACADE.

Written by Catherine Marchant. Lancer Books 1965.

I’ve not read this one yet but thought I’d post it anyway since I really like the cover art and it seems a suitably storm-tossed one to usher in the Autumn with.

Evil at Roger’s Cross has also been published under the title of The Iron Façade and Catherine Marchant is a pseudonym used by the multi-million selling writer Catherine Cookson – one of the UK’s most widely read novelists, with sales topping 100 million.

Lancer published at least three other Catherine Marchant novels in the 60’s – House of Men, Heritage of Folly and House on the Fens. Out of these, I’ve read House of Men and hope to review that one soon. In the meantime, here’s a sample of  Roger’s Cross from the inside cover:

Don’t let this disturb you unduly, Pru. Yet I felt I ought to warn you.

“Don’t let this disturb you unduly.” My heart was racing now. The old fear was filling me again. My lips were trembling, and I felt sick. I could hear Aunt Maggie talking, but, strangely, I couldn’t see her, for the room had become blurred, dark. I said something. What it was, I don’t know. Then I felt Aunt Maggie’s hand gripping my wrist. So hard did she grip that I winced…

Nothing that I had been through before had caused me to faint. Now I felt myself falling…

Cotton Moon

Jan Van Ord was a blond brute of a man who’d stop at nothing to get what he wanted. When he found Ellen he won her heart with a glance, her body with a touch. But he had to kill to posess her completely. His land bore heavy crops, harvested with the blood and sweat of his slaves.

He knew no fear – for him all black men were weak and only a strong man could hate. But he sooned learned that every desperate man, white or black, is dangerous.

That even his own wife wasn’t safe.

That too much hatred could plunge a nation into bloody war.

That a man had more to lose than his life…

Written by Catherine Tracy. Published 1973 by World Distributors Ltd, Manchester.

Well, well, well, this is a bit of a find. No sooner had I posted Image of Evil below than I come across this little slice of slave-trade salaciousness in the Trinity Hospice bookshop in Kensington.

I searched for ‘Cameo Romance’ on the web, just to find out more about this series but, apart from my beloved Ace Cameo Gothics, there’s no mention of a Cameo Romance line from the UK at all, so I’m not sure if these were published as ‘straight’ romances or gothics.

Though the rather fetching pink Cameo tag might suggest otherwise, there’s not much romantic about Cotton Moon – a quick flick through the pages revealing a twisted tale of randy old landowners and their innocent young brides getting all hot under the collar amidst a stormy backdrop of mistreated mistresses and sweatin’ slaves. Bonus points for the ending though – in the final chapter, our cruel yet irresistibly virile hero, Van Ord, finally realises it is Ellen who is the love of his life. So he strides across the plantation straight into her bedroom in order to declare his undying love for her. Alas, it is here he discovers our heroine has died. Alone. And unhappy.

And that doesn’t happen in many contemporary romances – not even the gothic ones!

And a link to a much more gorgeous cover over at flikr is – HERE.

The Dark Shadows Book of Vampires and Werewolves

If this were an ordinary book, and we were ordinary mortal editors, we would take our leave of you now, dear readers, and commend you to the text without further comment beyond our injunction to enjoy yourselves. But since neither of these things is true we are compelled to beg your leave to continue a while longer, in order that we may impart to you a smattering of knowledge of the curse that is our lot to carry in our withered hearts….

– From the introduction by Barnabus and Quentin Collins.

Paperback Library Gothic, first printing August 1970.

Contents

Introduction

The Vampire by John Polidori

Mrs Amworth by E.F Benson

Wolves Don’t Cry by Bruce Elliott

The Vampire of Croglin Grange by Augustus Hare

Men-Wolves (From the Polish)

For The Blood is The Life by F. Marion Crawford

Count Magnus by M.R James

The Vampire Legend by Lewis Spence

The Vampire Nemesis by “Dolly”

I wanted to end this month’s posts with a gothic about werewolves but couldn’t find one, so I’ve decided to make do with a couple of quickie stories from my trusty supply of Dark Shadows paperbacks instead.

Following on from the fabulously flowery introduction, Barnabas has the lion’s share of this anthology with seven of the nine stories featuring vampires. Of the two werewolf tales, Men-Wolves (From the Polish) is a mere four pages long and isn’t really a story as such, reading more like an extract from a textbook on werewolf folklore.

That leaves Wolves Don’t Cry by Bruce Elliott. This is an interesting twist on the werewolf legend. An enjoyable read, funny and touching at times, it follows the adventures of a wolf  in a zoo that wakes up to find itself transformed into a man and desperate to become wolf again.

A quick google reveals this story has also appeared in Rod Serling’s Triple W: Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves – an anthology edited by Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling and published by Bantam Books in 1963. Love that spooky cover, not sure what’s going on between the two gentlemen though…

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 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


Ace Cameo Gothic Series Part 1

Thought I’d share these over the next few posts. I have twenty four of these titles published in the 1970’s by Ace books, though I believe there were at least 26 titles in total. Ace are a well known publisher for Gothic Romance and according to the blurb on the back cover, the titles in the Cameo Gothic series were chosen for their excellence and optimum readability, while promoting and developing lesser known writers.

The Ace Cameo series tended to shy away from the more supernatural elements found in a lot of gothic fiction and all basically tell the same story – nice young girl finds a nice young man and / or comes into some money but  someone is out to kill her.  Will she / won’t she survive? Of course she will! But for all the predictable endings, on the most part these books were well written and featured some cracking settings and plot lines. And I for one could never resist the fantastic cover art.

I’m posting in reverse order so here’s numbers 19 to 24.

No. 19 Web of Days

When Jennifer MacKay, known to her friends as Mac, received her promotion, she was unwillingly drawn into her boss’s family life. But nothing could have prepared Mac for the passions that seethed within Bennett Mann’s home – passions that found their focus in his wife, Thea. Both of Ben’s children hated their stepmother; Jenny, a neurotic young girl starved for affection, and Jeffrey, handsome, cold and enigmatic, who despised his weak willed father.

Then one day, Thea Mann was murdered. Each of the tormented family members suspected the other, but only Mac knew Jeffrey had lied to the police. Trapped in a tightening web of horror, Mac was determined to learn the truth – for in spite of herself, she loved Jeffrey Mann, and refused to believe he was a murderer.

Written by Helen Orr. First Ace Printing October 1975

No 20 Girl in the Shadows

Although she recovered from the near fatal accident, the beautiful young woman could remember nothing. It was from her personal effects she learned her name was Janet, and that she was the widow of the wealthy Larry Kirby. Her baby was his son, entitled to a vast inheritance.

But the past was not to be unlocked so easily. Larry’s brother Bruce was determined to prove Janet a fortune-hunting imposer (sic). And the confused young mother, not at all sure she was really Janet Kirby, was powerless to stop him.

No one was prepared for the terrible truth that emerged; an evil hoax that sent the past spinning into the present to cast a sinister shadow on the future.

Written by Zoa Sherburne. First Ace printing November 1975.

No 21 Masquerade of Evil

Left homeless and alone, Sarah York went South to Cameron Oaks, the civil war-wrecked plantation of her cousin. She withstood unexplainable hostility on her arrival, only to be totally humiliated to find herself nothing more than a servant.

With little hope of ever finding happiness here, Sarah turned her attentions more and more to Jaime, her young blind charge. And against her will, her heart turned more and more to the child’s father. Who was this man Adam, who could be so cruel and unfeeling toward his helpless son, yet so kind and attentive to her? And were the dreadful rumours true? Did he set the fire that killed his wife and left his son a cripple? Was he capable of anything for the sake of his precious pride? The questions rose from her confusion, and settled her into despair.

When she could no longer deny her love, a mad charade of twisted passions began, and Sarah found herself lulled by the player’s charm into a trap from which death was the only escape…..

Written by Eva Zumwalt. First Ace printing December 1975.

No 22 Buried Remembrance

Allyn Bourke came to Sheldon’s Crossing to forget a tragedy that haunted her nights, and made sad shadows of her days. But before one scar could heal, tragedy struck again… and again… and again.

There was her friend Nina, one minute laughing gaily, now dead. There was kind Dirk Cameron, now dead – from a letter bomb addressed to her. There was Miss Fleishmann, her spinster employer, alive and healthy while she argued with Allyn; dead when they became friends. There was the cat, frisky until he drank the soup in Allyn’s cup; now dead. Only her obese landlady, Mrs Johnson seemed to be surviving. And Steven Donner;  Steven, who threatend to splinter Allyn’s wall of emotional isolation.

Steven and Mrs Johnson – one of them would not rest until Allyn was as dead as the others. If only she could fathom the reason for this relentless pursuit… if only she could discover which one was the murderer – in time!

Written by Naomi Gladish Smith. First Ace printing January 1976.

No 23 Willough Haven

Willough Haven Ranch represented wealth, beauty, security and love. It was her second home, and the Willough boys were her closest friends. When Diane French became a woman, it seemed only right that she also became Mrs Fred Willough.

But Fate is cruel, and it was through Fred’s tragic death that Diane inherited the ranch she had always loved – and became the target of a madman who wanted it at any cost. Someone had murdered twice already.  Someone Diane called brother, friend – or mother – was trying to kill her……

Written by Geraldine Killoran. First Ace printing February 1976.


No 24 The Unforgiven

Evil happened…

In a picture-book pretty English village – and it destroyed Eve Shannon’s brother. When Eve journeyed to Baldenstock, however, her veiled questions were met with hostility – and worse….

It was from newspaper clippings Eve learned that her brother had left his mark on the tiny village – the terrible mark of murder!

But she didn’t believe it – and with her disbelief she knew real fear… Alone, her identity a secret even from the man she loved, Eve set out to discover what really happened one horrible night not so very long ago…..

Written by Maynah Lewis. First Ace printing March 1976.

Also in this series:

No 25 Winterscape by Anastasia Cleaver. First Ace printing April 1976.

No 26 Deathbed of Roses by Michaeljohn. Or rather this is what is listed in the back of my other Cameo Gothics – however on searching the web I found this cover scan. Though this title does not seem to be numbered, I’m wondering if Deborah Scott is actually the correct author.

***

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.