Help Wanted – Harry Bennett Cover Art

Harry Bennett artwork

Alex Henzel has emailed me this lovely piece of artwork crying out for a gothic romance to call its own. The artist is Harry Bennett, an award-winning painter and illustrator who created over 1,000 covers and illustrations during his career as a commercial artist.

I have quite a few Fawcett Crest novels (mostly written by Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch, Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart) that feature Harry Bennett covers but I don’t recognise this one. The more I look at it though, the more it’s ringing bells for me somewhere – I’m sure there must be a deliciously creepy tale behind this eerie threesome!

Harry Bennett close upThe piece could be a preliminary sketch for a more complete work and it’s beautiful. Harry Bennett has a very distinctive style – the lush sweep of a dress or cloak, the brooding, shadowed expressions combined with a vivid use of light and dark are all trademarks of his gothic romance art. Violet is such an evocative colour to use and very Victorian, bringing to mind a storm swept, winter’s dusk. I think this would make the perfect cover for an sinister vampire novel.

Does any recognise it or can hazard a guess what it was used for? If so, please get in touch!

Alex also has an amazing collection of vintage paperbacks which you can view at his web page Good Girl Art Vintage Paperbacks. They really don’t publish books like these anymore – I’ve spend hours looking through his collection already and I think the titles are almost as wonderful as the covers!

Thank you for sharing Alex!

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The House of a Thousand Lanterns

THE HOUSE she had dreamed of since childhood…

THE HOUSE where her worst nightmares were about to come true…

THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS… the spellbinding new novel by Victoria Holt.

Jane Lindsay never dreamed she would be wealthy. Nor that she would fall in love with a man she could not trust. Against the background of 19th century England and Hong Kong, Victoria Holt unfolds the story of a young English woman who finds a strange new world in the HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS…

Copyright Victoria Holt 1974. First Fawcett Crest printing July 1975. Cover art Harry Bennett.

I’ve had an email from Jess, who is trying to re-find a favourite gothic romance. She has a vague recollection of the plot but the title eludes her. From her description below, I thought it shared similarities with Victoria Holt’s House of a Thousand Lanterns but I don’t think this is the one.

Here’s what she can remember:

It involved a young girl coming to stay at OR getting involved with a wealthy household in San Francisco. I think I remember specifically either bothers or close cousins and while she originally was attracted to one, she ends up with the other. There is a costume party at one point where she goes as Qwan-Yin, the Chinese goddess, even wearing a wig of blue yarn. I also remember there being some sort of disaster, but cannot recall if it was the great fire or an earthquake. There was definitely an element of horror/mystery though.

Did think I had found it in “The Trembling Hills” by Whitney and ordered an old used copy, but while it had been a book I’d read previously, it was not the one I was looking for.

Any ideas anyone?

 

The Black Dog

A STRANGE AND HORRIFYING DEATH

Lottie Daley, a young teacher interested in psychic lore, was sure that the handsome stranger was the creature of legend, born of a virgin centuries before. The legend whispered that he appeared every twenty-five years, accompanied by the black dog who guarded his mothers grave. Lottie could sense his sinister and hypnotic influence sapping her will and pulling her into the strange world of the psychic occult – toward a strange and horrifying death.

Written by Georgena Goff. First published Belmont productions 1971. This Five Star Paperback published by PBS limited 1973.

More canine confabulations this month courtesy of Five Star Paperbacks. I love my Five Star paperbacks! They can always be relied on to deliver the goods in the gothic-occult-thriller pulp fiction stakes.

Lottie is engaged to be married to Jed, a ‘spook-investigator’ currently writing a book based on a local medium called Holmes and the legend behind the source of  his psychic powers – allegedly dating back through his family for twelve generations.

On meeting Holmes, Lottie finds herself irresistibly attracted to his magnetic charms and mesmeric powers. Turning up at his house one day she finds him seated in an enormous gilded cage, projecting images on to a large television screen and she cannot resist him any longer. The deal is subsequently sealed when they are married by Holmes himself in a solitary midnight ceremony.

Alas, much to Lottie’s chagrin, it is not her body Holmes is lusting after and  for the rest of the book she spends alot of her time listlessly wafting around in a floaty white nightie, weeping hysterically into her pillow. Isolated from Jed  and  trapped in Holmes’ mansion,  the naturally feisty Lottie is unable to do anything for herself; it seems the more she loves Holmes the more she is sapped of her energy.

Meanwhile, Holmes’ behaviour towards his new bride becomes increasingly cruel and bizarre and when Lottie discovers the presence of two emaciated ‘child-women’ moaning in the basement she suspects her life is in danger. Summoning every spare ounce from the last vestiges of her strength, she makes a run for it – only to be met in the woods by a ferocious black beast with red glaring eyes…

Black Dog is an enjoyable read; the writing is a bit  touch-and-go at times but the unashamedly wanton kookiness of the plot more than makes up for that. There’s something for everyone here – strange cults, spooky seances, shapeshifting incubi and an impregnated mad woman imprisoned in the cellar. Five out of five stars – naturally!

An interesting note about the cover. I’ve noticed quite a few gothics seem to recycle the same covers for different novels. Why is that? As you can see, this cover is the exact same one used for the Fawcett Crest edition of Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels. The cover art here has a signature (Harry Bennett?) which isn’t visible on the Five Star edition.

And here is a much more evocative and fittingly canine cover for Black Dog.  This mass market paperback is the 1972 Belmont / Tower edition. 

Black Dog