Place of Shadows

SOMEONE TRAPPED LENNITH FORRESTER IN THE AIRLESS WALL SAFE AT HILLHOUSE, AND IN ONE INSTANT, SHE LEARNED THE MEANING OF TOTAL FEAR!

“You are going to die here,” I heard myself say.

I listened to my own sobs.

So black; all around it was so black. I sank down to the floor.

The Safe was sound proof. Air proof.

Down on the floor I started screaming again, kicking my heels furiously against the metal of the sliding door. Somebody must hear that!

But maybe that “somebody” was the person who had locked me in here…

I can’t get out. Nobody will ever let me out.

“You’re afraid,” I cried out to myself.

Oh yes, I’m afraid. I’m so afraid…

Copyright 1959 by C. Kage Booton.

First Paperback Library printing December 1965.

I wanted to post this to show off the gorgeous cover by George Ziel. This time I know who the artist is because Lynn Munroe  has recently forwarded me a link to a booklist he has compiled on cover art by George Ziel, a concentration camp survivor born Jerzy Zielezinski  in Poland 1914, who died in Connecticut USA in 1982.

Fans of the Paperback Library Gothics, as well as the Dell Mary Roberts Rhinehart covers, will instantly recognise George Ziel’s hauntingly beautiful artwork. Very few of George Ziel’s covers were credited on the published books but Lynn has done some exhaustive research, creating a checklist with an amazing collection of covers by this artist.

The booklist of George Ziel covers can be found here: 

http://lynn-munroe-books.com/list62/George_Ziel-home/Ziel_checklist-home.htm

And a fascinating biog of the artist, including some great background information on Paperback Library gothic cover art, can be found here:

http://lynn-munroe-books.com/list62/GEORGE_ZIEL2.htm

Thanks Lynn!

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The Vampyre of Moura

A TIMELESS EVIL WILL NOT REST UNTIL ANNE WICKLOW AND ALL SHE LOVES ARE DESTROYED.

When Anne Wicklow returns to Moura, the home she had shared with her late husband, it is as housekeeper for the mysterious Maitre Stavko and his daughter, Tyra. They have turned Moura into an academy for young ladies, girls innocent of the strange and terrifying events going on about them.

Despite her constant battle with the memory of her love, Anne soon realizes what the school girls do not: that Moura is pervaded by an evil so powerful, so dedicated to destruction that survival seems impossible. At the heart of this terror Anne suspects Stavko, a man she is drawn to and repulsed by; a man she fears and yet is intrigued by. And she knows she must decide which feelings are right… or risk being claimed by the deadly danger which relentlessly pursues her.

A spellbinding story of romantic suspense in the thrilling MOURA series.

An Ace Book. Copyright 1970 by Virginia Coffman.

Born 1914 in San Francisco, Virginia Coffman worked as a secretary in fan mail and publicity departments for a variety of Hollywood studios during the 40’s and 50’s before becoming a full time writer in 1965.

Her first novel, Moura, was published in 1959 and features Ann Wicklow, a feisty Irish housekeeper at a girls school who journeys to France to see what has become of one of the former students. Her destination is Chateau Moura – an isolated, wolf infested estate run by the tall, dark and brooding Master Edmond.  

On arriving at Moura, Anne soon finds herself immersed within a nightmarish adventure where all sorts of spookiness threatens to drive her to the brink of madness and beyond. Thankfully she’s tough enough to solve the curse of the Combing Lady and though there is a certain Radcliffean rationality behind all the ghostliness, the back-story is chilling enough not to leave you disappointed.

 In The Vampire of Moura we revisit the creepy mansion, now owned by the mysterious Maitre Stavko. He has converted Moura’s ruinous rooms and dark cellars into an Academy for Young Females of Quality. And not only are these young ladies rich, they are also all orphaned – conveniently unencumbered by overtly prying, curious family members. The curriculum does not seem to be agreeing with them however and it’s not long before a strange wasting disease starts afflicting Moura’s innocent young tenants.

So Anne Wicklow, now six years older and a widow living in Ireland, decides to return to her old home after receiving some disturbing letters about these strange goings on from her cousin Kate.  Keeping her past connection to Moura a secret, Anne arrives pretending to be the new housekeeper and once again finds herself pitting her wits against an unidentified evil, more than ready to claim her as its next victim….

Those who like their vampires spelt with a ‘y’ and dripping in menace as well as blood, could do a lot worse than Vampyre of Moura. Virginia Coffman can turn on the creepy and really understands how to weave a gothic web of suspense from out of the strange and the sinister. For myself, Chateaux Moura’s  dank, dripping walls and snow-shrouded woods are so vividly depicted in this series that it’s like a second homecoming reading these books  – and what a fantastically evocative place to get lost in once in a while. 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.

 

 

 

On the Night of the Seventh Moon

Forest of Doubt….

Helena Trant has always felt a special fascination for the myths and legends of Southern Germany, where she is living. So, lost in the forest one day, she feels little surprise when a handsome stranger appears and leads her to safety – there is a Prince Charming in all good fairy stories.

But this idyll suddenly becomes a nightmare. The passionate love that grows between Helena and her rescuer seems destined to inspire hatred, treachery, even murder in others. And as Helena draws near to the source of the evil that nurses them, she begins to feel that there will be no happy ending to her story.

Written by Victoria Holt. First published in the UK by Wm. Collins 1973. This edition Fontana Books 1974.

My mum was a big fan of Historical Romances by writers like Anna Seyton and Victoria Holt so even today I get a ‘grown up’ feeling reading these books. I saw this in our local secondhand book store and couldn’t resist the cover so thought I’d give it a go.

The scene is set when our teenage heroine wanders off from her convent school picnic and finds herself lost in the  deep dark woods of Southern Germany. From out of nowhere a tall, handsome stranger appears to carry her away into the ‘safety’ of his hunting lodge. What follows is a night of romance and intrigue where our innocent Helena very nearly loses more than her heart. But, thanks to the quick thinking and eagle eye of the trusty old servant  Hildegarde, her honour is kept intact and the very next day she is delivered safe and sound back into the arms of the worried nuns entrusted to look after her.

Of course she cannot get her handsome stranger, who calls himself Siegfried,  out of her mind, so imagine her delight when once again they meet up during a mid-summer festival of madness known locally as the Night of the Seventh Moon. This time our couple  are determined to consummate their love, so, within just a couple of days, they are married; ready, willing and able to embark on a honeymoon blissfully ensconced in the very same lodge they spent that fateful first night together.

And then, just a few days later, Helena wakes up. In her cousins house. To be told she has been delirious since returning from the woods on the night of the festival, a ravaged wreck, driven half insane by the terrible crimes inflicted on her. No one will listen to her fantastic story of  marriage to the love of her life and their fateful few days together. Plied with drugs and surrounded by disbelieving well-wishers, soon even Helena begins to doubt her own sanity. She returns to her home town of Oxford to recuperate, a shadow of her former self.

Some years later she returns to Germany, hired as a governess teaching English to the children of Count Ludwig of Lokenburg. Back in the land of haunted forests and midsummer madness, the castle’s household start preparations for the return of their Prince and when Helena finally meets him, she can’t believe her eyes or her luck. But little does she realise, her problems are only just beginning.

Seventh Moon started off great – I loved the atmosphere created by the tension in the relationship between the central characters – Helena’s almost obsessive love for this shadowy figure, to whom she is irrestitibly drawn but who you just don’t know whether to trust or not. Ultimately the  book was let down by the too pat, too happy ending- though overall the writing was very good and the story wonderfully twisted. A dark, brooding tale of longing and passion –  peppered with dark forests, haunted castles and Germanic folklore. Four out of five stars.


A Gathering of Evil

a gathering of evil“Was a noose tightening around a horrified Deborah Foster?

It was the night of evil ritual. The worshippers of the devil danced around the ruined abbey, now transformed into a temple of terror. Deborah had come there hoping to unmask her sister’s killer.

Suddenly against her will, Deborah felt herself succumbing to the unholy spell woven by the frenzied witches. Relentlessly they began to encircle her. Panic gripped her for she knew they had chosen her as their next victim.”

Written by Marilyn Ross and first published in 1966 by Paperback Library Gothic.

Marilyn Ross was one of the pseudonyms used by Canadian author William Edward Daniel Ross who is well known for his popular novels based on the Dark Shadows television series.

gatheringevilA Gathering of Evil is set in 1872 and tells the tale of a young woman called Deborah struggling to find out the circumstances of her late sister’s death. Against all advice she travels to the estate of her sister’s widower where she finds herself pitted aganst all manner of evil things, including phantoms, werewolves, hunchbacked gypsies and transmigrating souls – and she even manages to attend the odd satanic mass or two. Nothing is as it seems in this haunted mansion of dark cellars and secret passageways as friends become enemies and enemies turn out to be – well not quite as nasty as they first appeared.

This is a nice supernatural thriller choc full of gothic goings on, but the ending comes on a little sudden and I didn’t feel all the earlier spookiness was adequately accounted for. The heroine, Deborah, was actually very brave and dealt with whatever was thrown at her quite well (better than I would anyway) – though I had to question why she kept turning up at those Black Masses when she was so obviously repulsed by those pesky Satanists – that was just asking for trouble. Extra points awarded for the fantastically named leading man – Roderick Vroom. Four out of five stars.

My Love-Haunted Heart

longlivingshadow

Everyone should have a few guilty pleasures and one of mine is the romantic gothic fiction that was so popular in the 60’s and 70’s. Long out of print, to only be found tucked away in the dark corners of charity shops, ebay and car boot sales, I find their bewitching covers and the terrible deeds hinted at within impossible to resist.

dyingemberscoverSo what is it about these small, usually unappealingly mouldy smelling paperbacks I find so attractive? Maybe it  was too much time spent watching Dark Shadows growing up or a gradual disenchantment with an over hyped, over priced market in modern horror, but time and time again, like the proverbial moth to a flame, I find myself irresistibly drawn to these haunting tales of romantic suspense and supernatural horror.

Of course with all great loves there are a few fatal flaws. The obligatory happy endings for one. One could, and should, argue that love can only truly be called gothic if it is unrequited, doomed, tortured, twisted or taboo – think Poe’s  Madeline and  Roderick or Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff.

But I guess  for this particular genre, market forces dictated that the hapless heroine survive long enough to be swept off her feet by a real thecatspreylive hunk of (mostly) human love. To be fair, I’m sure many readers bought these books specifically for the ‘riding off into the sunset’ happy endings, but for those of us who prefer intrigue over romance, there are usually more than enough plot twists, villains, and unhappy skeletons in the closet to keep us coming back for more.

Another criticism levelled at this type of fiction is the overall quality of writing. It is true that in the wrong hands these stories can come out cliched and cheesy, with stereotyped characters, predictable plot twists and those “oh come on! give me a break!” moments that jar the reader out of the story. The subject matter and sheer numbers of these titles that were mass produced no doubt makes gothic romance an easy target.

raxlvoodooBut  I do not think this genre is any more guilty of “hack” writing than any other and in the right hands many of these books contain absorbing, evocative stories, full of the kind over dramatic gothic melodrama that’s so fun to lose yourself in occasionally, and they are a credit to their authors – particularly when you consider the very restrictive guidelines they  must of conformed to just to get published. In any event, literary snobbery aside, any book that gets people reading is a great book and there is no doubt the gothic romance genre has a loyal and avid readership.

So this blog is a collection of excerpts, cover art and reviews on some of my without a gravefavourite reads in vintage romantic gothic ficton. In their hey day during the 60’s and 70’s there must have been thousands of these books published  but these days they are becoming harder to come by and, just like the haunted houses they  depict, many of them are falling into ever increasing states of decrepitude.  I can only live in hope that someone, someday resurrects this forgotten genre and starts reprinting some of these titles, complete with their original gorgeous artwork, soon.

sightunseen