Dennis Fowler – The Ladies of Holderness (1976)

Review by Justin Tate

Carol wanted to cry, but couldn’t. She was going to be slaughtered like a helpless animal, butchered and drained for their demonic rites, and then cremated and scattered over the potatoes.

Indeed, Carol gets herself into quite the pickle (or potato) when she takes up a housekeeping job at the mysterious Holderness Farm. Orphaned and penniless after escaping a manipulative relationship, she doesn’t question the peculiarity of being hired by a household of thirteen elderly women. They don’t ask for references or prior experience. It’s as if they’re only interested in her youthful vitality…

Carol’s single acquaintance outside of the old women is Steve, a handsome lawyer who lives a few miles away from the farm. He seems nice, but after a traumatic breakup she can’t shake the impression that he too is driven by obscene male desires. To make matters worse, everyone else in town gives her the cold shoulder. As soon as they find out she works at Holderness, they avoid her like the plague. Why should anyone care that she works for a bunch of sweet old ladies? What’s the big deal?

Eventually the warning signs are too much to brush off and Carol realizes she’s in the midst of a demonic plot. Will she escape or will she become potato fertilizer?!

The story serves its purpose as a gothic romance page-turner without ever becoming too romantic, too scary, or too memorable. It follows the successful formula of impending doom with each chapter serving as a warning sign of the inevitable. All builds up to a chilling climax that satisfies the price of admission. Or at least $1.25, the original paperback price. At this moment there’s only one copy available online and it’s $50. It’s definitely not worth $50, even with that gorgeous cover art and a story that’s pretty good.

Fowler’s writing is not too showy and almost always to the point. Beyond the satanic possibilities, he amuses with segments of bizarrity and old lady humor. At one point Carol is simultaneously berated for speaking too quietly by a hard-of-hearing lady and accused of shouting by another. In another section, Carol has a lengthy conversation with a fish.

In the end, there are plenty of opportunities to critique—but anytime I gobble up 184 pages without a fuss, it’s a sign something went right.


Good question! I did some digging and found out he published a book as recently as 2019 titled Earth Song. His author profile states that he’s been a freelance writer for over 40 years and wrote a variety of stories, romances and erotica under pen names. One of the pseudonyms he confessed to is “Lauren Fox”.

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