I’d like to start this continuation of the Dark Shadows discussion from the old board with a look at some of the new and upcoming Dark Shadows audio stories from Big Finish Productions. There aren’t nearly as many Dark Shadows audio adventures as there are Doctor Who ones, but the Doctor Who series has been around longer. The Dark Shadows audios are a mixed bag. The first release was a full-cast sequel titled “Return to Collinwood”. Later they began to release a series of interconnected sequential stories grouped in short “seasons”. More recently they’ve been going back to the timeline of the original television show and telling interstitial one-shots. As the Dark Shadows series seems to be catching on, Big Finish seems to be ramping up their production schedule. “Curse of the Pharaoh” was released in September, and the next four are set for monthly release beginning in January at a special subscription rate.

CURSE OF THE PHARAOH:

“Curse of the Pharaoh” stars Nancy Barrett (reprising her role as Carolyn Stoddard) and Marie Wallace (perhaps best known as “Eve” on the TV show) in a new role, famed Egyptologist Dr. Gretchen Warwick. The story doesn’t specify, but I assume it takes place shortly after the end of the series original TV series, circa 1970 or so. Both actresses are kind of rusty and sound as old as they are, not as young as they (Caroline, anyway) are supposed to be. Barrett was always a better actress than Wallace, and that remains true. Wallace’s shortcomings are spotlighted in this “dramatic reading” in which she plays other bit parts, most of the male (Bob the bartender at The Blue Whale, Eliot Stokes on the telephone, Carolyn’s father in flashback), which she performs in a gruff kind of storybook voice as if reading aloud to a child. The story itself is a sequel to the unpopular “Leviathan” television storyline. If you’ve never heard a Dark Shadows audio and thinking of trying one out, there are better ones to start with than this.

KEY: OB = Old Board; UR = Un-Reviewed

Return to Collinwood - 169

SEASON ONE:
S1.1 The House of Despair - 1
S1.2 The Book of Temptation - OB
S1.3 The Christmas Presence - OB
S1.4 The Rage Beneath - 7

SEASON TWO: Kingdom of the Dead - 7

DRAMATIC READINGS:

1. Angelique’s Descent-Pt. 1 - OB
2. Angelique’s Descent-Pt. 2 - OB
3. Clothes of Sand - OB
4. The Ghost Walker - OB
5. The Skin Walkers - OB
6. The Path of Fate - OB
7. The Wicked & the Dead - OB
8. Echoes of Insanity - OB
9. Curse of the Pharaoh - 1
10. Final Judgment - 1
11. Blood Dance - 1
12. The Night Whispers - 1
13. London’s Burning - 2
14. The Doll House - 30
15. The Blind Painter - 87
16. The Death Mask - 88
17. The Creeping Fog - 89
18. The Carrion Queen - 89
19. The Poisoned Soul - 96
20. The Lost Girl - 96
21. The Crimson Pearl - 114
22. The Voodoo Amulet - 129
23. The House by the Sea - 170
24. Dress Me in Dark Dreams - 154
25. The Eternal Actress - 162
26. The Fall of House Trask - 163
27. Operation: Victor - 166
28. Speak No Evil - 166
29. The Last Stop - 166
30. Dreaming of the Water - 167
31. The Haunted Refrain - 167
32. A Collinwood Christmas - 167
33. The Phantom Bride - 167
34. Beneath the Veil - 167
35. The Enemy Within - 167
36. The Lucifer Gambit - 167
37. The Flip Side - 167
38. Beyond the Grave - 168
39. Curtain Call - 168
40. The Harvest of Souls - 170
41. The Happier Dead - 168
42. The Carriage Damned - 168
43. The Devil Cat - 168
44. The Darkest Shadow - 173

SEASON THREE: Bloodlust - 170-172, 181

45. Panic - 173
46. The Curse of Shurafa - 173
47. In the Twinkling of an Eye - 173
48. Deliver Us from Evil - 173
49. Tainted Love - 173
50. ...And Red All Over - 175

Echoes of the Past - 176

Blood & Fire - 176

Haunting Memories - 177

Phantom Melodies - 178

Dreams of Long Ago - 178

THE TONY & CASSANDRA MYSTERIES:
The Mystery at Crucifix Heights - 179
The Mystery of La Danse Macabre - 179
The Mystery of Flight 493 - 180
The Mystery of Karmina Sonata - 180

SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT:
Trio - 180
Honeymoon from Hell - 180
Retreat -180
1:53 AM - 180

MAGGIE & QUENTIN - THE LOVERS' REFRAIN:
The Girl Beneath the Water - 180
The Sand That Speaks HIs Name - 180
The Hollow Winds That Beckon
The Paper to the Flame
  

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DARK SHADOWS - #1 in a series

“Victoria Winters arrives at Collins House (called Collinwood in later volumes) to serve as governess to young David Collins. Visiting the house is Ernest Collins, who is grieving for his wife. [Elizabeth and Roger's cousin Ernest was not a character on the TV show.] In no time, Victoria finds herself falling in love with Ernest, though she is the focus of a number of mysterious attacks and wonders just how Ernest became a widower.”

COMMENTARY: The last time I read through these books I was deep into a re-watch of the series itself. I tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to integrate the paperbacks and the television show into the same continuity but it just doesn’t work. The Dan “Marilyn” Ross universe is its own thing.

There are a few minor differences between the books and the tv show. As mentioned above, the mansion is at first called “Collins House” rather than “Collinwood”; it was built in 1830, not 1795; Maggie Evans appears in only one scene (near the beginning), as does Burke Devlin (near the end). Victoria has two love interests. One is Will Grant, a young lawyer who works for the firm representing the Collins’ family interest. The other is Ernest Collins, a cousin who lives on the estate when not touring the country as a concert violinist.

Ernest has a somewhat troubled past. He used to live in California until his wife, Elaine, who he loved very much, was killed in a car accident. After that, he came to live on another house on the estate. After a year or so, he moved to a set of apartments within a closed off portion of Collins House itself. (These apartments will play a role in future stories as well.) After several months, Ernest became friendly with an artist named Stella who was renting another house on the Collins estate at the time. Stella died under mysterious circumstance: she either jumped or was pushed off Widows’ Hill.

Evidence (all circumstantial), points to Ernest, and it is rumored in town that he killed her. Strange things begin to happen around the estate, and Vicki sees what she believes to be a ghost, but whether it’s Elaine’s or Stella’s she does not know. A little digging reveals that another lady friend of Ernest’s was attacked (with a chain across the face) was attacked in California just before he moved back to Maine. Having read this story before, I knew what was really going on, but there are a lot of suspects (Matthew Morgan, Roger Collins, et al) and there are a lot of red herrings as well, but the mystery holds together quite well.

COLLINS FAMILY TREE: Isaac Collins is the town’s founder. Jeremiah is Elizabeth and Roger’s great grandfather. Jeremiah’s French wife, Josette, fell, jumped or was pushed to her death from atop Widows’ Hill. All of this jibes, more or less, with the history of the Collins family on television, but it will become more convoluted, IIRC, as the series progresses.

VICTORIA WINTERS - #2 in a series

“While violinist Ernest in away on tour, his mansion near Collinwood is rented to Henry Francis and Henry's two daughters. When cruel attacks on her begin, Victoria wonders if Francis might be a murderer. She wants to put her trust in the handsome artist Paul Caine but fears that he too is a suspect.”

COMMENTARY: The first book took place in October (of 1966, let us say). By the time the second one opens, several months have passed and David and Carolyn are away on a month-long holiday in the Adirondacks, so let us assume spring break. While David is away Victoria stays on as Elizabeth’s paid companion (as she will during the summer months as well). Ernest is away on a year-long tour. They have decided that they are in love, but thought some time away from each other would be good in order to see if they still feel the same way about each other after his return.

Ross manages to recap the events of the first book without managing to spoil it for those who have not read it. Roger’s new cabin cruiser is his latest passion. With Ernest temporarily out of the picture, Vicki is free to go on dates with the young lawyer Will Grant. She also has a new confidant close to her own age, Will’s cousin Nora. (Odd that it’s not Maggie Evans.) Victoria also meets a young painter there fr the season, Paul Caine, and begins dating him as well.

Amidst this backdrop, Elizabeth’s old friend Henry Francis arrives with his two daughters to rent Ernest’s empty house for the summer. When Elizabeth learns of his plans, she insists that the three of them stay in Ernest’s apartments within Collins House itself. Henry’s younger daughter, Dorothy, is recovering from an operation in which she had a brain tumor removed. She is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. His older daughter, Rachel, is a nurse who takes care of Dorothy, but she doesn’t do a very good job. She spends most of her time drinking with the womanizing Roger, either at the Blue whale or on his boat.

After Vicki is attacked she begins to see an apparition of what she believes if the ghost of Stella Hastings, Ernest’s friend who died on Widow’s Hill. Henry Francis also tells Vicki that Paul Caine is someone who used to bather Rachel and who has followed them to Collinsport from Philadelphia. As with the first book, there are lots of suspects and lots of red herrings. I’ve posted thoughts on the first two paperbacks in the series, but I’ve avoided spoilers. Is that really necessary? (I don’t even know if anyone’s reading these posts.)

If anyone would like to know how these mysteries are resolved, let me know and I will add SPOILERS.

This discussion has been getting only three views per post. I’m pretty sure I know who my audience is, but since no one has responded one way or the other to my question about spoilers, I’m going to go ahead and add them as a record for myself. I will clearly mark them going forward, so if you’re reading these posts, think you might want to read the paperbacks one day and don’t want them poiled, you have been warned!

#1 SPOILER: The culprit all along was Ernest’s supposedly dead wife Elaine. Turns out she was not killed in the car accident in California, but her mind was scarred as much as her body. It was after she attacked a woman with a chain in a fit of jealous rage that Ernest decided to move with her to the cottage on the Collins estate. Then, when she was implicated in the death of Stella Hastings, he decided to have her committed. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it himself, so he left it to Elizabeth to handle while he was on tour. Elizabeth had a change of heart and secretly moved Elaine into the basement of Collins House. When Ernest returned from the tour, he moved from his cottage into the set of apartments in the house, but unknown to him, Elaine would get out of her room from time to time.

#2 SPOILER: Henry Francis and Rachel are not father and daughter, but husband and wife, and “Dorothy” is their kidnap victim. She is actually a famous stage actress being held for ransom, but they keep her bundled in an over coat and disguise her features with a scarf, a wig and sunglasses. They keep her drugged most of the time, but sometimes she comes to and wanders the halls or the grounds. It is her, without her wig, who Victoria mistakes for the ghost of Stella Hastings.

"Elizabeth had a change of heart and secretly moved Elaine into the basement of Collins House."

Yeah, 'cause that's a thing sane people do,

This is the woman who hasn't left her house for 18 years, remember.

And who would those three be...

No problem with spoilers, Jeff. I have read several books from the original Dark Shadows paperback series, including the three you sent me a few years back, but don't know if or when I will read more. I'm good with reading your synopsis'.


Jeff of Earth-J said:

This discussion has been getting only three views per post. I’m pretty sure I know who my audience is,

I always appreciate the feedback!

I'm finished with the third (hoping for some time to post some thoughts) and almost finished with the fourth.

STRANGERS AT COLLINS HOUSE - #3 in a series

“When Uncle Henry Collins arrives to spend the summer in a mysterious ‘secret room’ at Collinwood, Victoria thinks she may finally have a clue to her identity. Henry presents Victoria with jewels that once belonged to a woman she strongly resembles. Then Victoria becomes the target of a series of strange accidents that threaten her life.”

COMMENTARY: Roger and Elizabeth’s uncle comes to Collinwood for a visit, perhaps to die. When he’s there, he stays in a secret room, one that was tranfered brick by brick and fixture by fixture from New York City’s Ritz Hampton Hotel before it was torn down. (There’s a lot in this book about what life was like in 1916 New York.) The room was kind of “tacked on” to Collins House, and the entrance to it is at the back of a hall closet. Uncle Henry has arrived with his life-long companion, Benjamin Willard, and Benjamin’s son Jack (who serves as chauffeur) and Jack’s wife Molly (who serves as cook and housekeeper).

It is now summer and, as a lark, Carolyn has taken a summer job in the nearby town of Ellsworth and has taken David with her. Victoria has stayed on as Elizabeth’s paid companion.

Henry’s room at the Ritz Hampton hotel was very significant to his life. Soon after he was married, his wife was stricken with tuberculosis. During the time of her illness, Henry became involved with an entertainer named Winifred Ray, but he kept the affair secret in honor of his wife. On Hallowe’en night, Winifred left the hotel and was never seen alive again. Benjamin escorted her out to catch a hansom cab, and the cab driver (who was killed in a streetcar accident later that same night) was eventually blamed for her murder. Winifred’s body was discovered in a vacant lot about a month later. Ironically, soon after Winifred’s disappearance, Henry’s wife died.

Victoria bears an uncanny resemblance to Winifred, who image he keeps in a locket. Henry dotes on Victoria, and she comes to suspect that she is the daughter of the illegitimate child of Henry and Winifred. (Winifred had been pregnant at one point, but her baby was said to have died during childbirth.) At one point, Henry gives a very expensive set of emerald jewelry, earrings, necklace and bracelet, to Victoria, admonishing her to say nothing about the gift and that soon all would be made clear. Shortly after receiving the gift, which supposedly no one knew about, Victoria’s room was ransacked. Then she began seeing and being accosted by a ghost.

While out of town on business, Roger shoots his mouth off in a bar and ends up engaging the services of one Rupert Harvey, a “psychometrist” (a psychic paranormal investigator). All the while, the ghost sightings and attacks on Victoria continue, and her room is searched again. There are plenty of suspects to choose from, but Henry won’t reveal the truth until, eventually, he dies.

SPOILERS: It is eventually revealed that, far from being the love of his life, Winifred Ray was blackmailing him. When she disappeared on that Hallowe’en night in 1916, it was actually Henry who killed her, and Benjamin helped him dispose of the body. Benjamin knew about the emeralds, and he and his family were trying to get them from Victoria. (It was Molly who played the ghost.) He was sweet on Victoria because of what might have been with Winifred. Ironically, the emeralds were about all that was left of his wealth. Victoria gave the necklace and bracelet to Elizabeth to settle the old man’s debts, keeping only the earrings for herself.

COLLINS FAMILY TREE: Henry Collins is Roger and Elizabeth’s father’s older brother. Jeremiah Collins was involved in the slave trade.

No Auntie Em Collins?

Not yet.

But one of the reasons I started this reading project over from scratch rather than picking up where I left off last time is so that I could construct a Collins Family Tree & Timeline for the book series.

I'm still on the fence about buying the novels.  They may appeal to me more as a completist than as a reader.

2020 Re-Watch Quote of the Day: "You no longer have friends, Julia."

“I'm still on the fence about buying the novels. They may appeal to me more as a completist than as a reader.”

When I was in high school, I took a course called Contemporary Literature, designed by the teacher, the head of the English department. One of the forms we studied was romance novels. I think she was a fan herself, because one day she brought a paper grocery bag full of them to class. (She had enough for everyone in the class.) We were each to take one home and read just the first and the last chapters. The Dark Shadows paperbacks (I hesitate to refer to them as “novels”) are like that. Virtually all of the notes I take are from the first and last chapters.

Although they are formulaic in that sense (they have not only the same number of chapters, but also the same number of pages), I do consider them to be well-written. The middle chapters tend to string the plot along, but they are pleasant to read. They aren’t romance books per se (they would probably be classified as gothic romance), I imagine this is what they are like, even though I’ve never read more of that genre than those two chapters 40 years ago.

SIDENOTE: I kept my notes from high school and later taught a class using them when I became a teacher myself, but I substituted comic books for romance naovels.

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