A year ago, more or less, I posted about. Valancourt Books which does reissues of gothic novels and some other old books. It’s time again, as you’ll see below.
Their site is worth a look if only to show that wild imagination, dark incidents, and mad passions are nothing new in fiction.
Currently on their front page they have four books.
Curios, first published in 1898. The Amazon description includes the following. "Ranging in tone from horrifying to mysterious to darkly comical, these stories follow Tress and Pugh as they come in contact with an array of strange objects, including a poisoned pipe that seems to come to life when smoked, a 13th century severed hand bent on murder, and a phonograph record on which a murdered woman speaks from beyond the grave. "
Then we have The Midnight Bell.
"Young Alphonsus Cohenburg enters his mother’s bedroom and finds her covered in blood. She tells him his uncle has murdered his father, and orders him to flee Cohenburg castle forever to save his own life! (Hmm, just a hint of Hamlet here, maybe?)
A disconsolate exile, Alphonsus wanders the earth seeking the means of survival, first as a soldier, then a miner, and finally as sacristan of a church, where he meets the beautiful Lauretta. They wed and establish a home together, and everything seems to promise them a happy future. But their domestic tranquillity is shattered, when a band of ruffians kidnaps the unfortunate Lauretta! Alphonsus must solve the mystery of Lauretta’s disappearance and the riddle of his mother’s strange conduct. And when he hears that ghosts inhabit Cohenburg castle, tolling the great bell each night at midnight, the mystery only deepens…."
The Magic Goblet (with a luscious cover)
"Preparations are underway in the Swedish village of Hammarby for the reception of Rudolph Seiler, the young Norwegian architect who is coming to build the new church. But when Alfhild, the provost’s daughter, accidentally shatters an antique goblet with a mysterious history, it seems to be an omen of future misfortune….
Seiler arrives and quickly inspires love in two women: Alfhild and Thelma, the fiancée of the insane and deformed Count Albano. But all is not what it seems. Behind his polished and handsome exterior, Seiler is cold and calculating, and it soon becomes clear that he has come to Hammarby for reasons other than to build the church. His real aim is vengeance, and the fulfilment of a generations-old curse!"
And — trumpets please! — The Demon of Sicily with front page credit to yours truly.
First I have to tell you that this is not a good book. It’s sad, I know, but the cover sort of sums it up, in a bad way. It’s a kind of wild, formless horror with a huge body count and not much structure or resolution.
So how did I come to be writing a foreword to it? The publisher contacted me because I’d mentioned the book in a novel. In An Arranged Marriage which was published back in 1991. The first draft was written about 15 years earlier and I haven’t tried to find out if the reference was there. Probably not, because I don’t think I would have tracked down a real title at that stage of my writing career.
On the right is the original cover, which I like a lot. On the left is the reissue, which is okay, but a "thingie cover" which were popular at one point.
In the book, Eleanor, who had experienced some pretty horrid events herself, (I do believe I was influenced by the gothic novels of the ’70s and ’80s, even though I rarely read them) including a strange marriage, finds her husband’s house contains a shelf of novels. She passes over the intriguing Demon of Sicily for Miraculous Nuptials, which seems more relevant to her situation.
And that was it. That was back before general access to the internet when detailed information was so much harder to find, and that was all I needed for the story.
(Question. Do you think the ready access to so much detail has affected the style of romance novels? Is there sometimes too much for the story?)
I don’t think Valancourt has done Miraculous Nuptials, which I believe was a Minerva novel. They were the a very popular "line" of high-flown romances of the early 19th century. Though it isn’t on this
list of Minerva Press books.
(Another question. Which title here most intrigues you? I’m making it easy for you to comment because Valancourt is going to send one commenter, chosen at random, a copy of The Demon of Sicily. You can display it at Halloween to frighten the kiddies.*G* The winner will be chosen at midnight, Saturday, 28th, pacific time. So get those comments in.)
On Valancourt’s main gothics page intrigued by WHO’S THE MURDERER? OR THE MYSTERY OF THE FOREST. A NOVEL. IN FOUR VOLUMES. BY ELEANOR SLEATH, not only because it sounds like the first(?) whodunnit, but because Sleath is so close to sleuth.
What’s in my foreword? I wasn’t about to attempt a scholarly analysis, so I talked about the popularity of these novels in the Regency period and how I have incorporated them into many of my novels. Those of
you who read To Rescue A Rogue will remember than Mara uses the gothic novel as a way to bring humor into Dare’s life. The Ghastly Ghoul of Castle Cruel doesn’t sound like a laugh, but in irreverent rhyme with puns, it did the job.
Do check out Valancourt’s various offerings because some of them are fun, and many would make great and unusual gifts. I’m tantalized by Love and Horror (1812) Ircastrensis (sic, I assume that’s the author) Edited by Natalie Neill, because castrensis sounds so much like castration, which would certainly be connected with love and horror. Speaking of Abelard, which we weren’t.
Believe it or not, I’ve started another blog. This could be insanity, but I think it makes sense, because I have things I want to share. Not my life, but things around the web and such. It’s quick and easy, and I can also use it to toss copies of brilliance (?) I spin here and there. And some odd pictures from the past, which I like to collect. Find it here. Jo Talk
It’s very new. I’m not sure I even have a feed set up yet. But there is a picture, believe it or not, of me in a conga line at the Harlequin party in Dallas. (Scroll down a bit.) What me, a party crasher? *G* The fan’s nice, though.
Oh, and talking of Harlequin, which I was, I was astonished as the number of Sicily titles in their Presents line. What is it with Sicily? There aren’t as many as when I was writing the forword, but there are still a few.
The Sicilian’s Red Hot Revenge
The Sicilian’s Marriage Arrangement
Do you think the Presents line is a direct descendand of the gothics? If not, any idea what is? Dark fantasy, perhaps?
Did you enjoy gothics when they were the most popular type of romance, especially historical romance?\
Do you like to be pleasurably terrified by a book, and if so, which book has done that for you? I’ve never been a horror reader by choice, but I remember reading as a teenager reading The Ka of Gifford Hilary by Dennis Wheatley when in a room of my own at a conference and getting that effect. I did a quick google search and found "scared shitless" a number of times.
Give me thoughts! I’ll also pick from among comments for a copy of one of my books, which could be Lady Beware, which has done splendidly. Yes, historical romance is on the way back, I think, especially the "heart of romance" sort, which I think I mostly write.
That”s probably a subject for anoher blog.