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October 31, 2019 10:01 AM   Subscribe

"A woman with great hair is fleeing a gothic house. This is a signal to the reader that this is one of ‘those’ books – not a historical romance or a ghost story, but a modern gothic. It was one of the most successful genres in pulp, now sadly neglected. Let's change that..." [Twitter thread from @PulpLibrarian] posted by Atom Eyes (13 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The hair I can believe, but their unmuddied, unsnagged nightie hems are un-hemlich.
posted by clew at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

OMG. This is exactly how I have forever described all of my favorite books from 5th-7th grade. "A woman in fabulous negligee is running in terror from a stately home"
posted by thivaia at 11:22 AM on October 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

And to date, I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite Daphne DuMaurier novel.
posted by thivaia at 11:24 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Love these covers, and it's a nice interpretation of the modern gothic aesthetic by way of pulp art tropes.

But I wanted more recommendations!! I've read everything mentioned up to Rebecca (plus as far as more modern goes, Sarah Waters), but am always ears-open for tips on obscure and wonderful gothic old and new.

My hidden gem that I recommend to everyone is J. Sheridan Le Fanu's The Rose and the Key. What's yourn?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:44 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are extensive sections of the Tale of Genji that are a woman with glorious hair who can’t flee her decaying house. Not Gothic, but may appeal in a similar fashion.
posted by clew at 12:12 PM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

I want to know what it was like to be a pulp gothic painter during the heyday of these titles, like what was their day-to-day like? I work from home now, but on somewhat drier stuff. I'm imagining living by the seaside like a romance-novel heroine, starting my new life in a new town and painting under an assumed name... I'm sure the reality was far less romantic than all that, but I could still imagine this being something done to make pocket change by painters who already lived in seaside towns.
posted by limeonaire at 12:15 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a child in the 70s who loved to read, I spent a lot of time in our neighborhood library. My mom signed the card that allowed me, as an elementary student, to check out grown-up books from the popular fiction and science fiction sections.

I spent one summer working my way through the library's collection of 60s and 70s gothic romances. If the cover was blue or green and it looked like the fog was rolling in and heroine looked very pretty, I was all in. There was one in particular with a tower, and maybe wolves (?), that I wish I could remember the name of. I liked that they were a little spooky and old-fashioned but not outright horror. Later in junior high, I scared myself into a few years on insomnia by reading The Amityville Horror, but the gothic romances never disturbed me. Probably gave me very strange ideas about adult relationships, but never scared me.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 2:54 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

My hidden gem that I recommend to everyone is J. Sheridan Le Fanu's The Rose and the Key. What's yourn?

I'm enormously fond of Madeleine Brent's Gothic mysteries, which all involved orphaned young women with non-traditional skillsets. (One was a former circus performer, another was an English girl who grew up in Tibet, another had been a sex worker.) Inevitably the young woman had to break traditional English social mores in order to save herself and others, and of course found love along the way.

... I was more than a little surprised to learn, many years later, that Madeleine Brent was a pseudonym for Peter O'Donnell, who wrote the Modesty Blaise stories. I assume Madeleine Brent the female writer wouldn't have been able to sell her novels, but Peter O'Donnell could.
posted by suelac at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Here's a fun Pinterest board for cover art eye candy - girls running from houses.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 3:04 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I want to know what it was like to be a pulp gothic painter during the heyday of these titles

I can't remember the title or author but many years ago, I read a short (probably) science-fiction story whose narrator was a painter of gothic novel covers. He hated them.
posted by suetanvil at 6:47 PM on October 31, 2019

Victoria Holt! That's a name I haven't encountered for a good long while. I always get alarmed by the idea of ever living in leafy suburbs where one can't see the neighbors' houses from one's backyard, and I suspect that the fear was instilled in me by all those gothic books I went through in college.

Some mefi recommended Mary Steward's "Nine Coaches Waiting" a while back and that turned out to be very enjoyable and left me wanting for more. It's strictly speaking in the romantic mystery genre, but there's hardly any daylight between that and gothic romance. The reissued ebooks have gorgeous covers in the style of golden-age travel posters. (But then I just went looking and Hachette Book Group has switched out most of those covers with something far blander, gah. And the new curvy font they are using makes me suspect that they are trying to blend in with chick-lit. Double-gah.)
posted by of strange foe at 8:46 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite thread!
posted by thivaia at 9:07 PM on October 31, 2019

If your’re still into this sort of thing, but want an update, here’s where I recommend both Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger.
posted by thivaia at 9:16 PM on October 31, 2019

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