Circa 1942, mid-WWII and the same year “Rosie the Riveter” was launched, this newsprint novel seemed certain to explore male anxieties around women arriving in the workplace. Based on the delicious title, I had hopes of fierce female characters trampling upon the pathetic squabbles of men who simply cannot handle co-ed colleagues and bosses. Might this be a lost masterpiece of early feminism?
My expectations were too high, but the story does illustrate the dizzying lengths a 1940s man might go to avoid having a female superior. Sadly she falls for the scheme and, in the end, gives up her entrepreneurial dreams to become a wife. The plot is a nauseating cringe-fest for modern audiences, but that’s not to say the writing is bad or it’s not intriguing from an historical perspective.
Read more “Belle Bruck – Women Work, Men Weep (1942)”
Circa 1965 and written by the mysterious (and possibly pseudonymous) Clara Coleman. Archival resources and Gothic bibliographies delivered no information on the author except that they are responsible for at least two additional novels, The Scent of Sandalwood (1966) and Timbalier (1969).
Timbalier was published under the name “Clayton Coleman” and while it is not 100% clear that Clara and Clayton are the same person, it seems likely. There are no copyright listings for the Clara Coleman novels in the Library of Congress, but Timbalier is credited to Clayton W. Coleman. Perhaps the “W” will be helpful if future researchers become interested in this author.
Read more “Clara Coleman – Nightmare in July (1965)”
Gay afterlife meets John Lennon utopia in this fantastical pulp novel. Murder, vengeful ghosts and tongue-in-cheek religious commentary are thrown in for good measure. As a literary artifact it offers a delightfully campy lens into the fantasies and fears of queer existence during the early 1970s.
The novel opens with Reggie Poppov waking up in the “Gay Wing of Purgatory.” He’s disoriented and wearing a big poofy wedding dress. Leaning over him is a “half nude angel” whose rippling physique makes him “more handsome” than Michelangelo’s David. The angel asks what happened to him. Reggie gradually recalls that he had dressed in wedding drag so he could legally marry his boyfriend, Bob. While posing for pictures on the Golden Gate Bridge, however, Bob pushed him over the edge so he could inherit Reggie’s family fortune.
Read more “Billy Farout – Man, It Must Be Heaven (1972)”
“It was a pleasure to burn” famously wrote Ray Bradbury—but I doubt he was thinking about the kinds of fiery lust found in Pyro-Sex. Seemingly unhinged in its presentation of clearly fictionalized case studies, the book validates itself by arguing that the “sexual root of pyromania has been entirely overlooked by almost all criminologists” (8). With the aid of allegedly real criminal confessions, the book claims it will leave readers with a new understanding of sexuality’s role in the “impulse to pyromania” (166).
In these pages we meet such disturbed characters as Steven, the “runt” whose reduced stature makes him appear significantly younger than he is. Worse yet, his dick is also diminutive. After ridicule in gym class and traumatic dates where girls laugh at his little pecker, he begins to have pyromaniac fantasies.
Read more “Johann Kreig – Pyro-Sex: The Erotic Response to Fire and Flame (1969)”
“Oh—it is so huge—so very big,” she whispered, aghast.
Thus spoken is Adrienne’s deliciously Freudian description of Castle Caudill, home to her cousin Lord Vincent Stanton. Vincent is known as “Lord Satan” among the locals because of his ferocious temper and cruelty. Also he performs black masses in the cellar and is on friendly terms with Lucifer. But Adrienne finds all that out later, after marrying her cousin unwittingly in a demonic ceremony. “Unwittingly” is a bit of an understatement, she was drugged and unconscious at the time.
Adrienne does love Vincent, though, so she’s in a terrible pickle. It’s that classic situation of trying to domesticate your husband’s embarrassingly diabolical behavior—only in this case, he literally is a demon. Can the tender heart of a woman soothe the blackened soul of a fiend, or will Adrienne succumb to temptation and willingly join the satanic rituals?
Read more “Louisa Bronte – Lord Satan (1972)”
Let’s take a moment to admire that title. Wow. I mean, if that doesn’t catch the eye, what will? Of course the cover is less appealing. It has all the ingredients of Gothic standard, but on an eighth-grade art class budget. Nevermind that the novel itself is 0% Gothic.
What we have here is a zany mystery with a little travel writing and a lot of absurdity. Most of the specifics are vague, confusing, too ridiculous to explain or all of the above. What I can say is that there is a brother and sister eager to escape their traumatic past via a guided tour through Spain. Previously, the brother got mixed up in dealing drugs. One day a deal goes wrong and the siblings’ father is killed. The brother blames the sister because she was screwing Lance—he’s either a secret agent or another drug dealer, I honestly never figured it out—when it all went down. Lance could have, somehow, prevented the murder if he hadn’t been so preoccupied.
Read more “Elaine Turner – Garlic, Grapes and a Pinch of Heroin (1977)”
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…
Read more “Dennis Fowler – The Ladies of Holderness (1976)”
When an orphaned heiress suffers a difficult breakup with an older man, she checks herself into a remote group therapy lodge near a mountainous ski resort. The lodge is peopled with psychologists and fellow patients. Rather than feel better about her distress, however, Hallie is thrust into a series of fearful encounters.
Nocturnal visitors enter her bedroom unannounced and strange sounds are heard among the wintry wilderness. She feels perpetually drowsy, faint and forgetful. Have drugs been mixed into her wine? Did someone swap her aspirin with hard sedatives? Is she just paranoid, or is everyone out to get her? After several near-death experiences which are far too calculated to be mere accidents, Hallie pieces together the sinister plot unfurling around her. But can she escape before it’s too late?
Read more “Sarah Nichols – The Very Dead of Winter (1974)”
A dramatic title and foreboding cover set the tone for this multi-faceted, multi-regional Gothic romance. Set in the early 1800s, it begins as a coming-of-age story with Kynthia, our heroine, reaching womanhood in romantic Greece, land of gods and scholars. Her upbringing consists of sailing and sunshine, exquisite food and perhaps “too much” freedom for a young girl. All is pleasant until her mother grows ill and Kynthia discovers she can foresee the future. Her dreams—and nightmares—consistently come true.
Her most fearsome recurring nightmare involves being thrown off Mount Parnassus as an assailant utters the cruel words “Send her bounding down the cliff ledges, let the crags comb out her dainty hair!” These may or may not be the manic words of a villain, however, since they are also passages from the ancient Greek play Ion by Euripides. What does it all mean? Is her murder imminent?
Read more “Jacqueline Marten – Let the Crags Comb Out Her Dainty Hair (1975)”
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Premature Burial” was adapted for film in 1962. Usually this would result in a reprint of the original book with new cover art to promote the movie. In this case, however, another writer—the mysterious “Max Hallan Danne”—was hired to pen a novelization of the screenplay, written by Twilight Zone alumni, Charles Berumont. So this book is actually an adaptation of an adaptation. And it’s way better than it should be. Dare I say, it may be even superior to the original source material.
Read more “Max Hallan Danne – Premature Burial (1962)”