Saturday, January 07, 2012

So Dark a Heritage


This was Weird Tales stalwart Frank Belknap Long's first Gothic Romance novel. It came out in 1966 from Lancer books, publishers of the first Conan paperbacks, oddly enough. While this one has Long's name on the cover, his later books would appear under the pseudonym Lyda Belknap Long, using his wife's first name. The logic, presumably, was that women would be more likely to buy a romance written by a woman.
This is the third of Long's Gothics that I've read and it's the best written so far. The prose is smoother, the plotting more logical and the romance element is present throughout the book. In other words it seems as if Long was trying really hard on this one, perhaps because it was his first. Not that the other two I read were badly written, this one just seems to have had more thought put into it.
In this one, a woman named Louisa Delsarte receives word that her recently married sister, Emmeline, has died in a tragic (and rather gruesome) accident. Louisa sets out for New Orleans where her sister was living with her new husband Charles in Charles's creepy old mansion, Morisot Manor.
The first part of the book is understandably rather sad as Louisa attends her sister's funeral and deals with Emmeline's death. About a third of the way in though, the by now familiar Mood and Creepy factor kicks in as Long gets down to the stuff he knows best. Louisa is in for some ghostly happenings with a touch of voodoo and a little Satanism thrown in. As I noted, long seemed to be taking his time here, and things unfold in a less abrupt manner than in The Witch Tree. That may be bad or good, depending on how you like your Gothics. But the FBL trademark atmosphere is in place and Long gets to exercise some of his horror writer chops here too. All and all, I had fun with So Dark a Heritage. Think I'll wait a bit before I read another, though. I feel the need for something with more swords.

However, a word of advice before I go. Listen, if your sister is the heroine of a Gothic romance, you need to get out of town right now, because from what I've seen, you've got the life expectancy of a Star Trek Red-Shirt. Fathers don't fare well either. Actually, if any female member of your family takes a job as a governess at a creepy manor or castle, move to another country and change your name. I'm just saying.

1 comment:

Keith said...

Fortunately, for the purpose of this discussion, I have no sister, only brothers.

And you can rarely go wrong with swords.