Die, Jessica, Die is a 1972 novel from the “Queen-Size Gothic” series. The series promotes itself as “greater in length and drama, richer in reading pleasure.” Presumably this appeals to readers who found mass-market gothic novellas of the 1960s and ‘70s too short and simplistic. In reality, the most “queen-size” thing about the series is thicker pulp paper (which makes 285 pages look more like 400) and a large font. Sometimes the plots are juicier than typical, but often they are as basic as any gothic romance paperback.
No exceptions here. Despite its alluring title and a narrator who promises much diabolical intrigue, there are no unconventional surprises.
As Jessica returns home after four long years at college, she finds her father’s mansion much-changed. There’s a new housekeeper she’s never met before, an attractive handyman roaming about, a strange doctor who administers tranquilizers at the first sign of distress, and a “burly” lawyer who may or may not be seducing Jessica for his own gain.
Read more “Jean-Anne de Pré – Die, Jessica, Die (1972)”
The Craghold quartet is highlighted primarily by its first volume, The Craghold Legacy, which delivers an unwavering deluge of bizarre. Undeterred by the novella format, Edwina Noone (aka Michael Avallone) manages to incorporate every Gothic item imaginable in a single narrative. Somehow, miraculously, he succeeds. The follow-up entries are less mesmerizing because the world is already so richly established. Lacking initiative to expand its potential is disappointing, and yet there is also a familiar pleasure with having the same events reoccur over changed seasons, and with fresh victims at the mercy of the same haunted hotel.
Connections between the four books are minimal at best. They can be read in any order without missing critical information. The series should begin with the first, however, only to best lose one’s virginity to all the uncanny characters and otherworldly happenings. Here are my reviews of each individual novel:
Read more “Edwina Noone – The Craghold Legacy (Complete Series) (1972-73)”
A collection of gothic short stories “from the world’s leading ladies of terror.” The editor, Edwina Noone, goes on for some time celebrating the triumphant female takeover from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Hugh Walpole, Henry James and other male gothic icons. “Who is better equipped to write of a female in trouble than a talented lady author?” muses Noone in the introduction, declaring the included “authoresses” are among “the most gifted in the genre.”
This is all a bit cheeky, since Edwina Noone is actually the femnine pseudonym of writer Michael Avallone. Avallone self-satisfyingly includes two of his own stories in this anthology, one under the moniker “Edwina Noone” and another under his other pseudonym “Priscilla Dalton.”
Read more “Edwina Noone (ed.) – Edwina Noone’s Gothic Sampler (1966)”
A collection of 26 eerie vignettes. They were written by Michael Avallone specifically for Boris Karloff to narrate. However, only 13 stories were chosen for Karloff’s “Tales of the Frightened” LP (between volumes 1 and 2). Karloff, along with Vincent Price and Thurl Ravenscroft, is one of the most iconic horror voices in history and his vocal talents add generous depth to what otherwise might be ho-hum flash fiction.
Read more “Michael Avallone – Tales of the Frightened (1963)”
Listening to his narration along with the book, my mind frequently drifted away from plot and became more focused on Karloff’s vocal mastery. He increases speed when tension is high, slows down to brood over mystery, and generally makes everything creepier. The text is meant to have a by-the-fire chatty feel, but he finds numerous opportunity to increase the casual tone through vocal inflection when I might not have read it that way.