Showing posts with label Dark Shadows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dark Shadows. Show all posts

Monday, July 1, 2024

Dark Shadows #02 - Victoria Winters

I’ve been making my way through the literary work of William Ross, evident with seven of the author’s novels reviewed right here on the blog. Ross used a myriad of pseudonyms throughout his career to become the most popular and prolific scribe of gothic paperbacks through the 1960s and 1970s. His body of work also contains 33 paperbacks that serve as television tie-ins to the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. I read and reviewed the first installment, Dark Shadows, and wanted to revisit the series in hopes of a better experience. I plunged into the foggy seaside village of Collinsport for the series second installment, Victoria Winters (1967).

As I mentioned in my Dark Shadows review, these stories have their own continuity and feature ideas and characters that don’t appear in the television show. For example, Collins House features Roger Collins, a middle-aged man who doesn’t appear in the television show. In the first novel, young Victoria Winters takes a job at Collins House as a governess to Elizabeth’s nephew David. In Victoria Winters, Victoria has a few weeks off from work due to David and his cousin being away from Collins House on holiday. This sets up the book’s premise for Victoria to be tormented again by ghosts and human foes.

Elizabeth agrees to allow a businessman named Henry and his two daughters a temporary residence at Collins House. Henry’s daughter Dorothy is recuperating from a brain surgery and will need her older sister Rachel and the quiet salty air of Maine’s coast to rehabilitate.

Victoria soon begins seeing a mysterious woman in Collins House that resembles a dead woman named Stella Hastings. How can she be alive after plunging from a cliff to her death? To complicate things more, Vicki sees a figure lurking around Roger Collins’ boat. There’s also a mysterious man named Paul Caine who professes to be an artist, yet knows nothing about art. Like most of Ross’s novels, and the novel before this one, Victoria is attacked numerous times and the list of suspects ranges from the groundskeeper to Henry himself. When attacks aren’t happening, the author sprinkles in Victoria’s nightmares to pad out the pages (a common trait with Ross).

Victoria Winters is actually a pretty good crime-fiction mystery. If you take away the fact that this is a Dark Shadows novel, and strictly read it as a stand-alone mystery, then I think you’ll be more appreciative of the slow formula. There is a great deal of dialogue, like Dark Shadows, but the development is quick, and the overall mystery is compelling. The suspect list is a diverse one and I must admit that the abandoned wing of Collins House is creepy even without vampires and werewolves stalking the corridors. If you enjoy Ross’s gothics, or just like a confined mystery, then Victoria Winters is a fine choice. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, February 6, 2023

Dark Shadows #01 - Dark Shadows

Paperback Library published 33 Dark Shadows novels from 1966 through 1972. These gothic paperbacks were based on the American soap opera that ran on ABC television from 1966 until 1971. The paperbacks were authored by popular gothic author William Edward Daniel Ross under his pseudonym Marilyn Ross. Thankfully, these novels make up a stand-alone series that can be read independently of the television show. They re-create the show, evident with this first paperback, the eponymous Dark Shadows, capturing most of what occurs in the Dark Shadows debut episode. But, the paperback series changes some of the characters and even adds new ones that aren't featured on the television version. Thus, it creates its own universe and continuity. If you want to avoid sappy daytime television reruns, then this paperback series is exactly what you need. Plus, it is completely affordable as audio books on CD or on your favorite streaming service like Hoopla or Audible. 

In Ross's series debut, young Victoria Winters arrives in the fictional Maine seaside village of Collinsport. Readers learn that she was orphaned as a baby and she never learned who her parents were. Money was mysteriously supplied to her throughout her upbringing in the form of a mailed check. Now, she is ready for her next job as a governess to a young boy at Collins House, an enormous mansion that houses over 40 rooms. 

Meeting the family, she discovers that Elizabeth Collins Stoddard hasn't left the house in nearly 20 years. Her brother, Roger Collins, is a single guy that possesses a rather dull outlook on life in between his routine cocktails. There's also Carolyn, a rambunctious, spunky young adult that finds relief from the boredom at a local bar. But, the most interesting character is that of Ernest Collins, a symphony violinist that experienced the death of two loves. The first was his wife Elaine, who supposedly died in a car accident. The second was a lover that threw herself from Widow's Hill, a place far above the rocky shore where women apparently jump to their deaths. 

Throughout the narrative, Victoria is tormented by an unseen stalker that plays tricks on her. At night she can hear heavy breathing and footsteps outside of her room. She finds a creepy mask hanging from her ceiling and is attacked in the dark cellar. The scariest moment for Victoria is when her car suddenly loses control and crashes. Of course, Elizabeth and others refuse to believe that anyone is stalking Victoria. But, the mystery points to Ernest as a possible suspect.

Unfortunately, this debut Dark Shadows paperback is a dull, uninspiring read. Ross utilizes long, drawn out dialogue to pad the book's length, leaving readers lulled into a bored mood with the pointless conversations. The attempts to scare or harm Victoria are few and far between, leaving very little activities to keep readers enthralled. Further, the atmosphere is described as sunny and warm, which left me disconnected from the television visuals of the old seaside mansion draped in fog. If I didn't read the title or the “Victoria Winters” name, I never could have guessed this was a Dark Shadows book. In addition, both Elizabeth, Ernest, and his lovers are not included in the television show.

Perhaps the series will improve with more of a supernatural element. Barnabas Collins, despite appearing on the cover of at least one printing of this specific paperback, doesn't appear in the series until the fifth installment. In the meantime, steer well clear of this dud.