Of all the new-to-me books by Stephen King that I’ve read in the last year, this and the middle Dark Tower books are the ones I’ve re-read the most. I’ve re-read Duma Key three times in the last two years, and I can tell it’s a book I’ll keep coming back to. Here’s the first page:

How to draw a picture


Start with a blank surface. It doesn't have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can't remember.

How do we remember to remember? That's a question I've asked myself often since my time on Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have to mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that re-makes the world is heroic. Or so I’ve come to believe.

Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone, and forgot everything. Not just her name; everything! And then one day she recalled just enough to pick up a pencil and make that first hesitant mark across the white. A horizon-line, sure. But also a slot for blackness to pour through.

Still, imagine that small hand lifting the pencil ... hesitating ... and then marking the white. Imagine the courage of that first effort to re-establish the world by picturing it. I will always love that little girl, in spite of all she has cost me. I must. I have no choice. Pictures are magic, as you know.


On the one hand, this is my favorite prose passage in the book. On the other hand, the entire book has that same atmosphere and themes: the magic of art, the bleakness of loss, the terror of opening a door into darkness, human empathy and connections, and, always, how making a mark on paper is both simple and difficult, the dividing line between nothing and everything.

Unusually for Stephen King, Duma Key is set in on the Florida coast – an incredibly vivid and atmospheric Florida, which becomes enough of a character in its own right to make the book a very satisfying sea-soaked, sunset-lit Gothic.

I am pleased to say that this is one of the least gross King books I’ve read, bar a rotting ghost or two. It’s also one of the scariest, in a very classic “terrify by keeping the scary stuff mostly off-page” manner. The Big Bad is never quite seen directly, and is one of King’s creepiest and most mythically archetypal figures.

It’s also one of King’s most heartbreaking books. Almost all the characters are really likable, and if not likable, than still very human. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon opens with, The world had teeth and it could bite you with them any time it wanted. Duma Key is about the beauty and magic and redemption of the world, but also about the teeth.

It begins with a wealthy self-made man, Edgar Freemantle, getting into an absolutely horrific accident while visiting one of his job sites. He loses an arm and gets some brain damage; he’s barely out of the hospital before his marriage has ended, his life as he knew it has ended, and he’s on the brink of suicide.

After some talks with his psychiatrist, he ends up taking up art, which he’d enjoyed as a boy but never pursued, and moving to a cabin in the Florida Keys. There he meets a chatty guy, Wireman, who’s the caretaker for Elizabeth, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s – both of whom have pasts which slowly, heartbreakingly unfold over the course of the book. Edgar finds that painting is his new passion and genuine talent… but his paintings are odd. Eerie. And they can change things…

The first half of the book follows Edgar as he recovers from his accidents, explores his new talent and gains critical and commercial success, and loses some old friends and gains some new ones. The emotional and physical recovery from the accident and its fallout (which doesn't mean he'll ever be the same as he was before) was incredibly well-done and vivid. I don't know if it was technically correct, but it felt very believable.

In classic Gothic fashion, there’s creepy stuff going on simultaneously, but it’s comparatively subtle. I found this part of the book hugely enjoyable even though tons of scenes are just Edgar painting or eating sandwiches and shooting the breeze with Wireman. On the one hand, it probably could have been shorter. On the other hand, I could have happily gone on reading just that part forever.

And then the creepy stuff gets less subtle. A lot less subtle.

This has an unusual story arc. I’m putting that and other huge spoilers behind a cut, but I’ll also mention that even for King, the book has some very tragic aspects— ones which he’s explored before, but there’s one I’ll rot13.com (feed into the site to reveal) because it’s a specific thing that people may want to avoid. Gur cebgntbavfg’f qnhtugre vf xvyyrq. Fur’f na nqhyg ohg n lbhat bar (n pbyyrtr fghqrag) naq irel yvxnoyr, naq vg’f gur ovttrfg bs frireny thg-chapurf va gur fgbel. Nyfb, n qbt vf uvg ol n pne naq qvrf.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, I suggest not reading the rest of the spoilers because even though if I’d sat down and tried to figure out where the story was going, I probably could have, the experience of reading it feels unpredictable; you can guess the outlines but a lot of the details are unexpected.

Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( May. 27th, 2017 12:22 pm)
How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. Kill is actually "sudden death" - I read a couple paragraphs or pages, then decide to donate or reshelf (or read) based on that. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them. Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments.

Italics taken from the blurbs. Gothics have the best blurbs.

Poll #18418 FMK # 2: Houses Are Terrifying
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 48


Castle Barebane, by Joan Aiken. A series of lurid murders... a roofless ruin with crumbling battlements... nephew and niece callously abandoned in a slum... a man of mysterious origins and enigmatic habits... dark emanations from London's underworld... Mungo, an old sailor...

View Answers

Fling
24 (53.3%)

Marry
14 (31.1%)

Kill
7 (15.6%)

The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken. An imposter has claimed her inheritance... a counterfeit marriage to the principle heir, her cousin... family rivalries festering for generations... a shocking episode of Cartaret family history will be repeated.

View Answers

Fling
27 (61.4%)

Marry
9 (20.5%)

Kill
8 (18.2%)

The Weeping Ash, by Joan Aiken. Sixteen-year-old Fanny Paget, newly married to the odious Captain Paget... in northern India, Scylla and Calormen Paget, twin cousins of the hateful Captain, have begun a seemingly impossible flight for their lives, pursued by a vengeful maharaja... elephant, camel, horse, raft... The writer has used her own two-hundred-year-old house in Sussex, England for the setting.

View Answers

Fling
19 (39.6%)

Marry
14 (29.2%)

Kill
15 (31.2%)

Winterwood, by Dorothy Eden. The moldering elegance of a decaying Venetian palazzo... pursued by memories of the scandalous trial that rocked London society... their daughter, Flora, crippled by a tragic accident... Charlotte's evil scheming... a series of letters in the deceased Lady Tameson's hand

View Answers

Fling
21 (52.5%)

Marry
4 (10.0%)

Kill
15 (37.5%)

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall. A demon-haunted house... two beautiful young sisters... the pain of a recent tragedy... a sinister and hateful force from the past... by the author of Hedgerow.

View Answers

Fling
20 (47.6%)

Marry
7 (16.7%)

Kill
15 (35.7%)

Shadow of the Past, by Daoma Winston. An unseen presence... fled to Devil's Dunes... strange "accidents..." it seemed insane... the threads of the mysterious, menacing net cast over her life... What invisible hand threatened destruction?

View Answers

Fling
13 (34.2%)

Marry
2 (5.3%)

Kill
23 (60.5%)

Completely forgot to review this when I finished it, can now barely remember it. Moderately entertaining but uninspired Gothic in which the heroine spends 90% of the book sorting papers in a spooky attic and searching for her perennially missing dog, with occasional interludes in which someone whomps her over the head, shoots at her, or ties her up.

The concluding explanation of what the hell was going on is less amusingly deranged than one might hope from Holland (author of the deliciously wacky Trelawny, in which twin brothers impersonate each other until she didn't know which was which), but did manage to bring in multiple villains, an exploding car, international intrigue, a completely pasted-on-yay romance, and surprise!secret Israeli agents valiantly uncovering an incomprehensible plot by anti-Semites. Why this was all going on at a lonely British house and involved the heroine and her dog, only Holland knew.
Two Gothics!

The Wizard's Daughter is, I think, the only one of hers which isn’t in first person. It’s in omniscient, with a narrator who wryly comments on the heroine Marianne’s naivete, speculates on what Freud might have to say about Marianne’s dreams of her father, and mentions that no one yet knew the concept of allergies. More than any of Michaels’ Gothics but Someone in the House, it’s almost a Gothic parody.

When innocent and extravagantly beautiful (silver-gilt curls) Marianne is left penniless after her father’s death, she gets caught up in evil nightclubs, séances, and questions about her parentage. She ends up trying to call up her father’s ghost in a house inhabited by assorted peculiar characters, from an insane gardener who lurks in closets to an aunt with hundreds of cats. It’s very funny, down to the explanation of Marianne’s psychic trances and the revelation of the true fate of her father.

Read more... )

The Master of Blacktower, one of Michaels’ earlier novels, starts out more seriously, with Damaris (red-gold curls,) also orphaned after her father’s death, taking a position as secretary to the Master of Blacktower in rural Scotland, where servants and peasants make dire warnings in phonetic dialect. The Master has a scarred face and black silk gloves which he never takes off. At one point Damaris is shoved off a turret, caught, then dropped. To prove that he wasn’t the one who caught and dropped her, the Master inquires whether the person who grabbed her had all his or her fingers, then whips off his gloves, revealing that he’s missing several fingers and the glove fingers are stuffed with cotton!

Sadly, this is not supposed to be hilarious (I think) though as [livejournal.com profile] coraa pointed out you’d think that Damaris would have noticed before that only some of his fingers ever moved. Then there’s a rather random duel, people thought to be dead return, and several characters fall to their deaths in the Very Same Pool that killed the Master’s first wife. It’s ridiculous but not really played for laughs, which in this case makes it less funny than The Wizard’s Daughter.
Two Gothics!

The Wizard's Daughter is, I think, the only one of hers which isn’t in first person. It’s in omniscient, with a narrator who wryly comments on the heroine Marianne’s naivete, speculates on what Freud might have to say about Marianne’s dreams of her father, and mentions that no one yet knew the concept of allergies. More than any of Michaels’ Gothics but Someone in the House, it’s almost a Gothic parody.

When innocent and extravagantly beautiful (silver-gilt curls) Marianne is left penniless after her father’s death, she gets caught up in evil nightclubs, séances, and questions about her parentage. She ends up trying to call up her father’s ghost in a house inhabited by assorted peculiar characters, from an insane gardener who lurks in closets to an aunt with hundreds of cats. It’s very funny, down to the explanation of Marianne’s psychic trances and the revelation of the true fate of her father.

Read more... )

The Master of Blacktower, one of Michaels’ earlier novels, starts out more seriously, with Damaris (red-gold curls,) also orphaned after her father’s death, taking a position as secretary to the Master of Blacktower in rural Scotland, where servants and peasants make dire warnings in phonetic dialect. The Master has a scarred face and black silk gloves which he never takes off. At one point Damaris is shoved off a turret, caught, then dropped. To prove that he wasn’t the one who caught and dropped her, the Master inquires whether the person who grabbed her had all his or her fingers, then whips off his gloves, revealing that he’s missing several fingers and the glove fingers are stuffed with cotton!

Sadly, this is not supposed to be hilarious (I think) though as [livejournal.com profile] coraa pointed out you’d think that Damaris would have noticed before that only some of his fingers ever moved. Then there’s a rather random duel, people thought to be dead return, and several characters fall to their deaths in the Very Same Pool that killed the Master’s first wife. It’s ridiculous but not really played for laughs, which in this case makes it less funny than The Wizard’s Daughter.
An obscure Gothic by the author of one of my very favorite children’s book, the seminal psychic kid novel The Girl With the Silver Eyes (Apple Paperbacks). The latter holds up well to reading as an adult, or at least I still enjoy it.

Return to Darkness is entertaining but forgettable, though enlivened by some memorably ridiculous plot twists. Young RN Brianne Jorgensen takes a job as the private duty nurse to Simon Ruechelle, an old man who has had a stroke, because her mother never speaks about her family, and Brianne suspects that they are the same Ruechelles. The family is weird, Simon can’t speak, and ominous lipsticked messages appear on Brianne’s mirror!

The second-best part is the reveal:
Read more... )
The best part of this book was the ads for other Lancer Gothics. If anyone can locate and mail these to me, I will certainly read and review them:

Inherit the Darkness (also by Roberts): Thomasina must find her missing twin—before they both die!

These lack blurbs but make up for it with the titles alone: Curse of the Island Pool, An Air That Kills, Ghost of Ravenkill Manor, The Ashes of Falconwyk, Gemini in Darkness, Bride of Terror, Jewels of Terror, Castle Terror (the last is by Marion Zimmer Bradley!), Children of the Griffin (sadly, the griffin is almost certainly metaphorical) and best of all, The Love of Lucifer.

Vanish with the Rose.

I am very fond of Barbara Michaels, though I never got into her other series’ as Elizabeth Peters. Her Michaels Gothics and romantic suspense generally have sensible and tough heroines, likable heroes, and clever twists on genre expectations.

When lawyer Diana’s brother disappears after caretaking at a historic estate, Diana decides to impersonate a landscaper to gain access to the property without raising suspicions. As one does. As she frantically tries to keep up with the charming old lady owner’s knowledge of rose history and botany while searching for clues to her brother’s fate, she is haunted by spooky visions, flirted with by the owner’s eccentric son and manly handyman, stalked by a local wife beater, and forced to face her own family dysfunction.

All these threads come together in a surprising yet satisfying manner. I especially liked the resolution of the romance and the lesson that there is much more to fluttery old ladies than meets the eye. The ghost is creepy, the characters are appropriately likable or hissable, the history and rose lore is interesting, there are some very funny bits, and the whole story is much more thematically coherent than I had expected. If you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. I have more Michaels reviews under her author tag.
An obscure Gothic by the author of one of my very favorite children’s book, the seminal psychic kid novel The Girl With the Silver Eyes (Apple Paperbacks). The latter holds up well to reading as an adult, or at least I still enjoy it.

Return to Darkness is entertaining but forgettable, though enlivened by some memorably ridiculous plot twists. Young RN Brianne Jorgensen takes a job as the private duty nurse to Simon Ruechelle, an old man who has had a stroke, because her mother never speaks about her family, and Brianne suspects that they are the same Ruechelles. The family is weird, Simon can’t speak, and ominous lipsticked messages appear on Brianne’s mirror!

The second-best part is the reveal:
Read more... )
The best part of this book was the ads for other Lancer Gothics. If anyone can locate and mail these to me, I will certainly read and review them:

Inherit the Darkness (also by Roberts): Thomasina must find her missing twin—before they both die!

These lack blurbs but make up for it with the titles alone: Curse of the Island Pool, An Air That Kills, Ghost of Ravenkill Manor, The Ashes of Falconwyk, Gemini in Darkness, Bride of Terror, Jewels of Terror, Castle Terror (the last is by Marion Zimmer Bradley!), Children of the Griffin (sadly, the griffin is almost certainly metaphorical) and best of all, The Love of Lucifer.

Vanish with the Rose.

I am very fond of Barbara Michaels, though I never got into her other series’ as Elizabeth Peters. Her Michaels Gothics and romantic suspense generally have sensible and tough heroines, likable heroes, and clever twists on genre expectations.

When lawyer Diana’s brother disappears after caretaking at a historic estate, Diana decides to impersonate a landscaper to gain access to the property without raising suspicions. As one does. As she frantically tries to keep up with the charming old lady owner’s knowledge of rose history and botany while searching for clues to her brother’s fate, she is haunted by spooky visions, flirted with by the owner’s eccentric son and manly handyman, stalked by a local wife beater, and forced to face her own family dysfunction.

All these threads come together in a surprising yet satisfying manner. I especially liked the resolution of the romance and the lesson that there is much more to fluttery old ladies than meets the eye. The ghost is creepy, the characters are appropriately likable or hissable, the history and rose lore is interesting, there are some very funny bits, and the whole story is much more thematically coherent than I had expected. If you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. I have more Michaels reviews under her author tag.
When Jennifer goes to France to meet her cousin, she finds that the cousin has died mysteriously at a convent without ever mentioning that she had relatives… and after admiring blue flowers when she has that rare condition, blue-yellow colorblindness!

This starts off with great fun and energy, then dissolves into uninteresting running and fighting with interludes of objectionable gender issues. I was put off by Stephen, a veteran and genius composer. The more the author praises him, the less the reader, or at least this reader, likes him.

He condescends to Jennifer and is totally useless and actively unhelpful in her quest to help her learn the truth about her cousin. When she desperately begs him for help, he agrees and then gets beaten up by the bad guy—which makes Jennifer realize that he is a supremely civilized man to whom violence is repugnant and that makes him totally awesome, and she was a stupid little girl to imagine that he could save her cousin by means of bad-assery because knights are imaginary and this is the real world. He proceeds to save the day. Oh, and a rapist (not Stephen) turns out to be kind of a cool guy.

I think this is the only one of Stewart's Gothics that's in third person rather than first. Despite the presence of potentially amusingly over the top elements like evil nuns, there's a general sense of going through the motions.

Not recommended. Thunder on the Right

Click the author tag to find my reviews of better books by Mary Stewart. These are my favorites, which I am pleased to see are all still in print:

Madam, Will You Talk?. The hero is a jerk, but the writing is wonderfully witty and distinctive. The plot is a farrago of exciting chases through beautifully described countryside, interspersed with banter.

The Ivy Tree. One of my very favorite tales of impersonation, which is a favorite trope of mine.

Nine Coaches Waiting. A perfectly Gothic Gothic, well-written and pleasing.

And, of course, there's her Arthurian novels, beginning with The Crystal Cave (The Arthurian Saga, Book 1)

Speak to me of your favorite (and least favorite) Stewart novels. I think the ones I haven't read yet are Wildfire at Midnight, This Rough Magic, The Wind off the Small Isles, Stormy Petrel, Rose Cottage, and her children's books.
When Jennifer goes to France to meet her cousin, she finds that the cousin has died mysteriously at a convent without ever mentioning that she had relatives… and after admiring blue flowers when she has that rare condition, blue-yellow colorblindness!

This starts off with great fun and energy, then dissolves into uninteresting running and fighting with interludes of objectionable gender issues. I was put off by Stephen, a veteran and genius composer. The more the author praises him, the less the reader, or at least this reader, likes him.

He condescends to Jennifer and is totally useless and actively unhelpful in her quest to help her learn the truth about her cousin. When she desperately begs him for help, he agrees and then gets beaten up by the bad guy—which makes Jennifer realize that he is a supremely civilized man to whom violence is repugnant and that makes him totally awesome, and she was a stupid little girl to imagine that he could save her cousin by means of bad-assery because knights are imaginary and this is the real world. He proceeds to save the day. Oh, and a rapist (not Stephen) turns out to be kind of a cool guy.

I think this is the only one of Stewart's Gothics that's in third person rather than first. Despite the presence of potentially amusingly over the top elements like evil nuns, there's a general sense of going through the motions.

Not recommended. Thunder on the Right

Click the author tag to find my reviews of better books by Mary Stewart. These are my favorites, which I am pleased to see are all still in print:

Madam, Will You Talk?. The hero is a jerk, but the writing is wonderfully witty and distinctive. The plot is a farrago of exciting chases through beautifully described countryside, interspersed with banter.

The Ivy Tree. One of my very favorite tales of impersonation, which is a favorite trope of mine.

Nine Coaches Waiting. A perfectly Gothic Gothic, well-written and pleasing.

And, of course, there's her Arthurian novels, beginning with The Crystal Cave (The Arthurian Saga, Book 1)

Speak to me of your favorite (and least favorite) Stewart novels. I think the ones I haven't read yet are Wildfire at Midnight, This Rough Magic, The Wind off the Small Isles, Stormy Petrel, Rose Cottage, and her children's books.
The bookshop had a Gothic section! Complete with a series with titles like Alice, the Desperate and Ilene, the Superstitious. There was a complete list on the inside cover, but sadly the shop did not have Rachel, the Possessed.

Every single Gothic had a cover with a girl and a house. Some variations included a nurse, a doctor, and a house; a girl, a zombie Abraham Lincoln-esque figure, and a house; and, in the exoticized ethnicity category, a girl and the Taj Mahal, and a girl and a casa (according to the back cover.)

I now own...

The Satan Stone, by Louise Osborne. The great isolated mansion of Penetralia loomed bizarre and forbidding...

(There's no way that isn't deliberate, right? Right?)

Return to Darkness, by Willo David Roberts, author of many charming children's books including the seminal psychic kids novel The Girl With The Silver Eyes. Her Gothic heroine is a private duty nurse.

The Veil of Night by Lydia Joyce. Recced by Oyce as a sweet revisionist Gothic. Some desires flourish only in darkness...

Seimaden # 1 by Higuri You. What becomes of a man who spends his life in the underworld for a love that lasts beyond the grave?? This sounds Gothic, but it's actually manga, and very '80s-looking manga at that.

Two children's books, The Battle for Castle Cockatrice by Gerald Durrell and The Tiger's Apprentice by Laurence Yep.

Anyone ever read any of these?
The bookshop had a Gothic section! Complete with a series with titles like Alice, the Desperate and Ilene, the Superstitious. There was a complete list on the inside cover, but sadly the shop did not have Rachel, the Possessed.

Every single Gothic had a cover with a girl and a house. Some variations included a nurse, a doctor, and a house; a girl, a zombie Abraham Lincoln-esque figure, and a house; and, in the exoticized ethnicity category, a girl and the Taj Mahal, and a girl and a casa (according to the back cover.)

I now own...

The Satan Stone, by Louise Osborne. The great isolated mansion of Penetralia loomed bizarre and forbidding...

(There's no way that isn't deliberate, right? Right?)

Return to Darkness, by Willo David Roberts, author of many charming children's books including the seminal psychic kids novel The Girl With The Silver Eyes. Her Gothic heroine is a private duty nurse.

The Veil of Night by Lydia Joyce. Recced by Oyce as a sweet revisionist Gothic. Some desires flourish only in darkness...

Seimaden # 1 by Higuri You. What becomes of a man who spends his life in the underworld for a love that lasts beyond the grave?? This sounds Gothic, but it's actually manga, and very '80s-looking manga at that.

Two children's books, The Battle for Castle Cockatrice by Gerald Durrell and The Tiger's Apprentice by Laurence Yep.

Anyone ever read any of these?
In 1881, meek Hester Marsh inherits her great-uncle Diablo the Great’s riverboat magic show, after he accidentally decapitated his wife onstage while performing a magic trick and then shot himself.

It’s a fest of stereotypes as she meets Gypsy Mara, superstitious black boatmen, and “the embittered dwarf, Quantimo.” And yet, so entertaining! Shadowy figures try to push Hester overboard, spooky women lurk at her bedside, Gypsy Mara croaks dire warnings, handsome men gallop about on stallions, the ghost of decapitated Mary haunts the riverboat, and (since they’re still using it in the act) the guillotine claims another victim!

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Gypsy Mara explaining what she wants to save Hester from: “From the deep night and the spider’s web. From the crawling things that tunnel in the earth and feed on festering mortals.”

Which I guess is better than festering balls. Though if I understand her correctly, she’s saying that Hester needs to be saved from earthworms.

The only thing this story lacks is a monkey, so I have provided one in my icon.
In 1881, meek Hester Marsh inherits her great-uncle Diablo the Great’s riverboat magic show, after he accidentally decapitated his wife onstage while performing a magic trick and then shot himself.

It’s a fest of stereotypes as she meets Gypsy Mara, superstitious black boatmen, and “the embittered dwarf, Quantimo.” And yet, so entertaining! Shadowy figures try to push Hester overboard, spooky women lurk at her bedside, Gypsy Mara croaks dire warnings, handsome men gallop about on stallions, the ghost of decapitated Mary haunts the riverboat, and (since they’re still using it in the act) the guillotine claims another victim!

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Gypsy Mara explaining what she wants to save Hester from: “From the deep night and the spider’s web. From the crawling things that tunnel in the earth and feed on festering mortals.”

Which I guess is better than festering balls. Though if I understand her correctly, she’s saying that Hester needs to be saved from earthworms.

The only thing this story lacks is a monkey, so I have provided one in my icon.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( May. 31st, 2009 09:54 am)
I picked up four Gothics at a garage sale yesterday. Never read or heard of any of the authors before.

The Golden Unicorn, by Phyllis A. Whitney. On the cover, a unicorn looms over a guy with his hands over his crotch and a maiden draping herself over him, with the obligatory house in the background.

Back cover (reproduced exactly):

They say that the shadow
of the unicorn
will fall over the face
of the moon
and that someone in that
house
will die....

Courtney had been the perfect adopted child. But around her neck hung a time bomb on a chain-- a tiny gold unicorn that brought her face to face with the most violent intrigues of the past-- and the murderer her real mother had not escaped....


Damn, not a real unicorn.

From the inside cover: "Don't try to find out who you are Courtney. You may find horrors you're better off not knowing. Let the door stay closed."

Desperate Heiress, by Marilyn Ross.

Trapped on a haunted showboat, Hester is stalked by an eerie menace who is neither dead nor alive!

According to the back and inside covers, she inherited the showboat from her great-uncle, Diablo the Great, who accidentally beheaded his wife in his "gruesome magic act." She has now inherited the "floating theatre," complete with "the embittered dwarf, Quantimo."

A peek inside shows that this one's racial sensitivity matches its ablism sensitivity. It goes on about some random guy's "white eyeballs in his broad black face" on page one. This does not bode well.

The cover shows the disturbingly pointy-breasted heroine lurking near her evil steamboat.

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall.

On the cover, a surprisingly practically-dressed heroine walks through the moor, ominous house behinf her.

Against the eerie backdrop of a demon-haunted house... two sisters apparently suffer creepy identity confusion.

The Deadly Climate, by Ursula Curtiss.

On the cover, a heroine flees with her arms stuck out from a lurching figure. In the background... wait for it... a house!

I opened this one randomly. I think it'll be the best yet! For context, a man is searching the bedroom of a murdered woman for clues, and finds her robe.

Because there it hung in the shaft of entering light, shell-pink, alarmingly sheer, as random as a butterfly in a filing cabinet.

Was it even a robe? Carmichael suspected that it had borne some far prouder name in the department store where it had been bought.


(Carmichael examines the robe in minute detail for another paragraph.)

Whatever it was, it had a pocket. Not a utilitarian square wuth a slitted mouth, but a coy little cup of pale pink, capped with lace. Because it was the only pocket he had so far encountered in this room, and therefore the only place conceivably unsearched, Carmichael slid two fingers automatically inside.

I need a cigarette!
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( May. 31st, 2009 09:54 am)
I picked up four Gothics at a garage sale yesterday. Never read or heard of any of the authors before.

The Golden Unicorn, by Phyllis A. Whitney. On the cover, a unicorn looms over a guy with his hands over his crotch and a maiden draping herself over him, with the obligatory house in the background.

Back cover (reproduced exactly):

They say that the shadow
of the unicorn
will fall over the face
of the moon
and that someone in that
house
will die....

Courtney had been the perfect adopted child. But around her neck hung a time bomb on a chain-- a tiny gold unicorn that brought her face to face with the most violent intrigues of the past-- and the murderer her real mother had not escaped....


Damn, not a real unicorn.

From the inside cover: "Don't try to find out who you are Courtney. You may find horrors you're better off not knowing. Let the door stay closed."

Desperate Heiress, by Marilyn Ross.

Trapped on a haunted showboat, Hester is stalked by an eerie menace who is neither dead nor alive!

According to the back and inside covers, she inherited the showboat from her great-uncle, Diablo the Great, who accidentally beheaded his wife in his "gruesome magic act." She has now inherited the "floating theatre," complete with "the embittered dwarf, Quantimo."

A peek inside shows that this one's racial sensitivity matches its ablism sensitivity. It goes on about some random guy's "white eyeballs in his broad black face" on page one. This does not bode well.

The cover shows the disturbingly pointy-breasted heroine lurking near her evil steamboat.

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall.

On the cover, a surprisingly practically-dressed heroine walks through the moor, ominous house behinf her.

Against the eerie backdrop of a demon-haunted house... two sisters apparently suffer creepy identity confusion.

The Deadly Climate, by Ursula Curtiss.

On the cover, a heroine flees with her arms stuck out from a lurching figure. In the background... wait for it... a house!

I opened this one randomly. I think it'll be the best yet! For context, a man is searching the bedroom of a murdered woman for clues, and finds her robe.

Because there it hung in the shaft of entering light, shell-pink, alarmingly sheer, as random as a butterfly in a filing cabinet.

Was it even a robe? Carmichael suspected that it had borne some far prouder name in the department store where it had been bought.


(Carmichael examines the robe in minute detail for another paragraph.)

Whatever it was, it had a pocket. Not a utilitarian square wuth a slitted mouth, but a coy little cup of pale pink, capped with lace. Because it was the only pocket he had so far encountered in this room, and therefore the only place conceivably unsearched, Carmichael slid two fingers automatically inside.

I need a cigarette!
Welcome back to insane cracktastic Gothic land!

In a moment of synchronicity, last Friday I was invited to share some Belgian chocolates labeled individually by province. Unfortunately, the font's capital I looked much like a small l, and so when asked to choose, I said, "I'll take the leper!"

I do not often come across books containing leprosy, though when I read Darcourt I immediately regretted forgetting about the YA novel in which the heroine develops leprosy, watches her mother agonizingly die of rot, is shipped off to a leper colony, and dies, the end -- I would have certainly included it in my YA agony award nominations if I had. (The Dark Light.) I was also reminded of Thomas Covenant. Normally I don't find characters whiny if they have something to whine about. But Covenant managed to be so whiny that I thought, "Oh, get over your leprosy already!"

Young journalist Sally Wainwright impersonates a friend of hers in order to get hired as governess for a wealthy teenager on Darcourt Island. The island is owned by reclusive billionaire Tristram Darcourt. Sally is ostensibly doing this to write an expose on him, but really because her mother was jilted by him and she wants to find out what happened. (She can't ask because both her parents are now dead.)

Teenage Alix is wild and has a Mysterious Skin Condition for which she takes Mysterious Meds. Darcourt is high-handed and arrogant. He is also said to have let his brother die in the super-quick quicksand which is featured in the Mysterious Marsh surrounding the house, into which Sally is forbidden to go. Sally is promply menaced by snakes and scorpions released in her room, plus Mysterious Figures, and people shooting at her, whomping her over the head, and trying to kill her dog.

Could it be the Mysterious Mrs. Darcourt, alternately said to be in the south of France and lurking in Mysterious Marsh?! Or the off-stage Mysterious Middle Eastern Group which is the subject of a code-named Pentagon study? Or Andre, who is a cousin or something? Or some blonde kid with a cowlick?

LEPER OUTCAST UNCLEAN!!!!! )
Welcome back to insane cracktastic Gothic land!

In a moment of synchronicity, last Friday I was invited to share some Belgian chocolates labeled individually by province. Unfortunately, the font's capital I looked much like a small l, and so when asked to choose, I said, "I'll take the leper!"

I do not often come across books containing leprosy, though when I read Darcourt I immediately regretted forgetting about the YA novel in which the heroine develops leprosy, watches her mother agonizingly die of rot, is shipped off to a leper colony, and dies, the end -- I would have certainly included it in my YA agony award nominations if I had. I was also reminded of Thomas Covenant. Normally I don't find characters whiny if they have something to whine about. But Covenant managed to be so whiny that I thought, "Oh, get over your leprosy already!"

Young journalist Sally Wainwright impersonates a friend of hers in order to get hired as governess for a wealthy teenager on Darcourt Island. The island is owned by reclusive billionaire Tristram Darcourt. Sally is ostensibly doing this to write an expose on him, but really because her mother was jilted by him and she wants to find out what happened. (She can't ask because both her parents are now dead.)

Teenage Alix is wild and has a Mysterious Skin Condition for which she takes Mysterious Meds. Darcourt is high-handed and arrogant. He is also said to have let his brother die in the super-quick quicksand which is featured in the Mysterious Marsh surrounding the house, into which Sally is forbidden to go. Sally is promply menaced by snakes and scorpions released in her room, plus Mysterious Figures, and people shooting at her, whomping her over the head, and trying to kill her dog.

Could it be the Mysterious Mrs. Darcourt, alternately said to be in the south of France and lurking in Mysterious Marsh?! Or the off-stage Mysterious Middle Eastern Group which is the subject of a code-named Pentagon study? Or Andre, who is a cousin or something? Or some blonde kid with a cowlick?

LEPER OUTCAST UNCLEAN!!!!! )
While it apparently can’t compete with gems from the 1700s and 1800s, featuring mad monks, demon dwarfs, and attempted rapes in hot air balloons, Trelawny is an excellent specimen of the modern Gothic which fulfilled every bit of the promise of its back cover copy, except that sadly both mammoths and tentacles were inventions of the back cover copy author and do not appear in the book. The final six pages alone contain at least nine hilariously head-spinning plot twists, and such intricate interwoven impersonations that I am still not one hundred percent sure who several characters actually are.

The huge, ghastly mansion Trelawny Fell has been held by the snooty Trelawny family since Nicholas Trelawny left his identical twin brother Giles behind in Cornwall and moved to Boston just in time for the American Revolution. But Giles was hanged as a highwayman and Nicholas hanged himself from a beam in one of the tentacle-like attics in Trelawny Fell. And ever since, every fifty years, a Trelawny has hung him or herself from that very beam!

Kit Trelawny was the product of a Trelawny father (missing; legally dead) and a country mother (definitely dead) from Wyoming. She was traumatized as a child when her dying mother attempted to foist her on the snooty Trelawnys, and they were both ridiculed and snubbed. Kit crushed on the handsome identical Trelawny twins, named Nicholas and Giles as is traditional for Trelawny twins-- and twins, like insanity and snootiness, run in the family. Mean Nicholas almost drowned her, and sullen Giles rescued her from a runaway horse. Kit and Mom left.

Now Kit is an adult, and has inherited Trelawny Fell, since Nicholas and Giles are both MIA in the Vietnam war and presumed dead. (Yeah, right.) She decides to turn it into an artist’s colony, and invites an assortment of counterculture artists. She gets lost and locked up inside the labyrinthine attics, hears spectral footsteps, and sees ghostly figures. There is poisoned stew, rabid rats, and exactly halfway through, the plot really gets cooking.

Unless you're definitely planning to read the novel, you will regret not clicking )
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