Friday, August 09, 2013

Through the Dark Curtain


THROUGH THE DARK CURTAIN, an adventure of The Guardians, fits into the sub genre of the British Village Horror story. Like The Wicker Man or Village of the Damned or Manly Wade Wellman's What Dreams May Come.
   This one begins with a man and his wife lost in the British countryside during a heavy rainstorm. Their car runs out of gas just as they reach a signpost and the man hikes the mile or so into town while the wife waits in the car. Always a bad idea in these stories. The man returns to find his wife wide-eyed and screaming, curled up in a fetal position in the hedges that line the road. From there she sinks into a non-responsive catatonic state.
   Turns out the husband's father is a Lord and he seeks out The Guardians in their swinging London headquarters. The Lord tells Steven Kane, the leader of the Guardians, that his daughter-in-law was literally frightened out of her wits because she "saw the devil."
   Kane and his colleague, Father John Dyball, head out to the country to do battle with the forces of evil. As usually happenes in this sort of story, they are met by suspicion and outright hostility by the clannish villagers. The one fellow who does open up to the guys ends up dead in short order. Soon Kane and Dyball find themselves pitted against a dark cult centered on the old religions from the days of the Druids. Reincarnation, possession, and malignant spirits are just some of the ingredients of this occult thriller.
   As I mentioned in previous posts, Peter Saxon, the 'author' of the Guardians series was actually a house name, also used for Sexton Blake stories and a bunch of stand-alone thrillers and horror novels. For Curtain, the writer behind the Saxon name was Ross Richards, about whom I know absolutely nothing. I will note that of the Guardian books I've read recently, Richards has the smoothest, most 'modern' prose. If you slapped a new cover on this book, you could sell it to the same folks who are buying the numerous paranormal suspense series available today and I don't think any of them would blink and eye.
   I enjoyed this one quite a bit, but I'm a sucker for this sort of rural horror tale with its quaint pubs and inns and rustic villagers all hiding some horrible menace.
   This appears to be the only one of the Guardian books that didn't get a Jeff Jones cover when it was reprinted in the US. The art reminded me of Gray Morrow, but Martin OHearn tells me that the painting was done by Joseph Lombardero.
   Anyway, a fun entry in the series.

10 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...

Nothing like a creepy English village story.

Keith West said...

Uh, didn't Richard Matheson write What Dreams May Come?

Paul R. McNamee said...

Same title - two different books.

Wellman's was a John Thunstone novel.

Keith West said...

Ah, that's right. I was thinking John the Balladeer. Need more coffee. And to move the John Thunstone omnibus up in the TBR pile.

On a related note, a couple of days ago I received a review copy of Saxon's Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion which is in this subgenre. It looks really promising.

Keith West said...

Clarification: (I really need more coffee) I was thinking of the titles of John the Balladeer novels is what I meant.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'm glad you guys cleared this up before I got home. heh!

Kelly Robinson said...

This sounds kinda neat. And you can't beat the cover art, as semi-nude snake-conjuring women go.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

The Guardian books are a lot of fun, Kelly. And yes, nifty cover painting. I hope those snakes are well trained.

Martin OHearn said...

The artist is Joseph Lombardero, who did a long run of the Longarm adult Western series' covers. He used another reference photo of this model on a cover he signed with his initials:
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/frank-lauria/lady-sativa.htm

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Martin, thank you! I'll update the post.