Now on sale: Storylandia 19, Who Killed Toby Glovins?

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.


Sample pages

Where to buy: online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

Who Killed Toby Glovins?
Kathryn L. Ramage
ISBN: 978-1-942007-10-4

Freddie Babington has solved two mysteries. When he travels to Norfolk in the autumn of 1923 to attend the wedding of Amelia Marsh and Evelyn Tollarhithe, he doesn’t anticipate a third murder investigation. Then, on the evening before the wedding, a friend of the groom is found stabbed under circumstances that look compromising for Evelyn. Freddie agrees to take the case for Amelia’s sake. As Freddie digs deeper behind the friendship between Evelyn and Toby Glovins, and uncovers old family secrets, he learns that the question of who murdered Toby is more complicated than it first appears. And so, he discovers, are his feelings for the disappointed bride.

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three cats. As well as being the author of numerous short stories, novellas, and essays, she is the author of “Maiden in Light,” “The Wizard’s Son,” and “Sonnedragon,” novels set on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period. All three are part of an intended series of fantasy novels that mostly take place in a dukedom called the Northlands, a part of the Norman Empire that roughly covers the north-eastern U.S. For more information, please visit her website at www.klr.wapshottpress.com.

Also by Kathryn L. Ramage
The Wizard’s Son
Maiden in Light
Sonnedragon
Storylandia 10: Death Among the Marshes
Storylandia 16: The Abrupt Disappearance of Cousin Wilfrid

Where to buy Storylandia 19, Who Killed Toby Glovins? At this online store; also Amazon (eligible for free shipping); and Kindle.

The Wapshott Press, publisher of Storylandia, is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Tax deductible donations can be made here: https://www.paypal.me/TheWapshottPress and thank you so much for your support!

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CD Review: Return to Collinwood

I’m not done with Dark Shadows yet. An extra feature on one of the final DVDs for the television series, after the last episodes, was about an audio play written by Jamison Selby, David Selby’s son; it was performed by some of the show’s actors at fan conventions in the early 2000s, then they went into a studio and recorded it.

I checked for it on Amazon. Still available!

Return to CollinwoodThe story is on 2 discs.  Some of the actors play their old, familiar characters again. Nancy Barrett is Carolyn Stoddard, now owner of Collinwood since her mother Elizabeth has passed on. David Selby is Quentin Collins, 140 years old, but he puts gray streaks in his hair to look like a well-preserved 50ish. Kathryn Leigh Scott is back as Maggie Evans. John Karlen is still Willie Loomis, living at the old Collins house.

I like that Jamison Selby has followed some of the projections for these characters provided by the show’s writer Sam Hall. Carolyn has been working for years as Head of Psychical Research at the University of Maine (sadly, not Miskatonic U). Maggie was married to Joe Haskell and has been widowed for about 1o years. Maggie now works at the nearby Windcliff sanitarium, where another old boyfriend, Sebastian Shaw (Christopher Pennock) is currently a catatonic patient. She and Quentin are an item again, and she meets him at the train station when he returns from a trip to Peru; he’s been traveling all around the world since 1970, and has most recently tried unsuccessfully to locate the long-missing David Collins. David Collins went away after a quarrel with his father Roger and hasn’t been heard from since.

Other actors from the show are present as new characters. Roger Davis, who played Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark, is Ned Stuart, Carolyn’s husband. They’ve been married about a year prior the events of the audio play. Donna Wandrey, who was Roxanne Drew, is the dour Collinwood housekeeper, Mrs. Franklin. Marie Wallace, who played Evil Eve and Mad Jenny, is the not-at-all evil and entirely sensible Jessica Loomis, Willie’s wife.

The Loomises are hoping to stay on at the old house now that Carolyn is in charge. Willie has been renovating the place, putting in electricity and plumbing, as well as a big-screen TV. He’s in the process of installing a hot tub when he discovers a mysterious package hidden within the wall–a package addressed to him.

The surviving Collins family has been summoned to Collinwood for the reading of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s will and to try contact her spirit at a specific date and time, since she expressed a desire to speak to them all one last time. The only actual Collinses to make it are Carolyn and Quentin. David wasn’t found. Roger predeceased his sister, and who knows where Barnabas is?

To contact Elizabeth, they’re going to hold a seance. You know that the Collinses love their seances even more than I do and will leap on any old excuse to have one.

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Excerpt from “Who Killed Toby Glovins?”

Toby Glovins cover detailThe bride’s and groom’s friends prepare decorations in the garden the evening before the wedding…

The last chain of flowers was finished as the sun sank out of sight behind the garden wall. Bicky and, at his brother’s insistence, Dotty joined the girls and Felix to help hang the garlands up around the bower frame. Evelyn, who had been working swiftly to finish before sunset, put down the knife he’d been using to trim the flower-stems, washed the green stains from his hands in the water from one of the tubs, and hastily left. Phillip went over to Kell and the two began to talk quietly.

Freddie lay back on the grass and stared at the sky overhead as twilight settled in. The color had waned from bright, cloudless blue to a dusky lavender and was beginning to deepen. It was a beautiful evening, still, clear, and quiet. He could hear Kell and Phillip whispering together, and the smell of Kell’s cigarette in the cooling air made him wish he had one of his own.

There was some animated discussion at the bower, then Felix, Piggy, and Perdita came to stand over him.

“The girls,” announced Felix with a grin, “have a proposal.”

“A dance!” cried Perdita. “There’ll be lots of dancing tomorrow. We need to practice.”

“We need boys. We can’t all dance with Felix,” Alma said with her customary giggle, but she managed to claim Felix for her partner just the same.

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The Ghost of a Tower

Or, the story behind a cover photo.

The photograph for the cover of Who Killed Toby Glovins? was taken at a place called Layer Marney, which is about 1/2 an hour’s drive outside Colchester in the UK. I went there at the end of the same day I wandered around the lanes of the Suffolk countryside in search of Abbotshill; after I visited Lavenham, I drove south again down around the other side of the city. This was my last stop of the day.

Let’s call this part of the journey “Looking for Foxgrove.”

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DVD Review: The Uninvited

I first saw this film in the early hours of a New Year’s day, when I was about 12. After spending the week after Christmas at my grandmother’s house, my family drove home on a snowy New Year’s Eve and got in in time to watch the usual Times Square midnight countdown on TV.

Mom and Dad went to bed right afterwards, but before my little sister and I could pack up the big Christmas box of Legos, the same TV station began to show a movie; its opening caught our attention.

We stayed up to watch the whole thing, and didn’t get much sleep afterwards.

The opening scene? A black and white shot of waves crashing on a ragged, rocky coastline, and Ray Milland’s voice saying:

“They call them the haunted shores, these stretches of Devonshire and Cornwall and Ireland which rear up against the westward ocean. Mists gather here, and sea fog, and eerie stories.  That’s not because there are most ghosts here than in other places, mind you–it’s just that people who live here are strangely aware of them. You see, day and night, year in, year out, they listen to the pound and stir of the waves. There’s life and death in that restless sound, and eternity too.  If you listen to it long enough, all your senses are sharpened. You come by strange instincts. You get to recognize the peculiar cold that’s the first warning, a cold which is no mere matter of degrees Fahrenheit, but a draining of warmth from the vital centers of the living.

The Uninvited ghost“Local people tell me they would’ve felt it, even outside that locked door. We didn’t. They can’t understand why we didn’t know what it meant when our dog wouldn’t go up those stairs. Animals see the blasted things, it appears.

“Well, my sister Pamela and I knew nothing about such matters. Not then, we didn’t…”

 

It takes stronger wills or much more sleepy heads than two little girls possessed that night to turn the TV off after such a tantalizing beginning.

I’m glad I had the chance to see it then; it’s not a movie that’s been widely shown. Before it came out on DVD a couple of years ago, I don’t think I’d seen it more than twice in the 40 years since that initial viewing. Unlike a lot of spooky movies I enjoyed in childhood, this one lives up to my first impression. It’s still a great ghost story with a ghost that still looks very good.

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DVD Review: Night/Curse of the Demon

This 1957 film is loosely based on M.R. James’s 1911 short story, Casting the Runes–a story about a warlock who sics a demon on his enemies by secretly passing them a slip of paper with a runic curse on it. The only way his victims can escape a horrible fate is by giving the runes back to him without him knowing it, so that the curse rebounds back on the caster. Although the plot and characters are altered from those in James’s story, this version is generally considered one of the best films adapted from his work, and one of the best horror films of its era.

It’s a British film with a mostly British cast, but with an American star to draw a U.S. audience, which was a common practice at the time. It was released in the UK under the title Night of the Demon and in the US as Curse of the Demon.

The DVD has both versions of this film on it: the 95-minute original UK version and the US release, which is about 10 minutes shorter. The order of the scenes are slightly rearranged in the US version, and two full scenes plus some other little bits here and there are removed.

Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes...Both versions of the film begin with shots of Stonehenge back when it stood alone on Salisbury Plain and wasn’t surrounded by wire fences, visitor parking lots, and gift shops. A solemn narrator tells the viewer:

“It has been written since the beginning of time, even unto these ancient stones, that evil, supernatural creatures exist in a world of darkness. It is also said that Man, using the magic power of the ancient runic symbols, can call forth these powers of darkness–the demons of Hell.”

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DVD Review: The Night Strangler

Murder in Pioneer Square area

Both this movie and The Night Stalker are on the same DVD. I was originally planning to do both as one review, then cut it into two pieces at the last minute.

After the enormous success of The Night Stalker, a sequel was inevitable. This second movie aired on ABC in 1973, about a year after the first. The plot follows the same general outline as its predecessor: newshound Carl Kolchak investigates the bizarre murders of a number of women and discovers that the killer is a man with supernatural powers, but Carl has trouble getting the truth published due to the efforts of the city’s officials and his own newspaper’s management. But there are several differences that make me prefer this sequel to the original. First, the city where this second series of murders occurs is Seattle instead of Las Vegas, and the story makes use of an interesting historical attraction. And while I like movies about vampires and werewolves, I like it more when the monster is something a little more out of the usual.

In addition, the tone of this sequel is lighter, less cynical and more comical, and the story  sets up tropes that will be part of the television series that eventually followed.

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DVD Review: The Night Stalker

Now that I’m finished with Dark Shadows, I’ve decided to go on to another short-lived but influential series that began life as a Dan Curtis production and the movie that started it off.

The Night Stalker, screenplay by Richard Matheson, aired on ABC in 1972. According to the interview with Dan Curtis on this DVD, it was a huge success, hitting the highest ratings for any made-for-TV movie up that point. Different from Curtis’s previous work with its gothic settings and trappings, this was a thoroughly modern and cynical horror movie that let a vampire loose to hunt in a big and brash city, and introduced a vampire hunter who was nothing like Van Helsing.

We first see Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), not in what would become his trademark seersuckerCarl Kolchak suit and battered straw hat, but as a guy in a T-shirt in a small and shabby apartment.  He pushes the Play button on his pocket tape-recorder, then gets a beer from a tiny fridge, and wanders around in the background before settling down on the bed to listen to his own recorded voice saying:

“This is the story behind one of the greatest manhunts in history. Maybe you read about  it–what they let you read about it, probably some item on a back page. However, what happened in that city between May 16 and May 28 of this year was so incredible that to this day the facts have been suppressed to save certain political careers from disaster and law enforcement officials from embarrassment.

This will be the last time I will ever discuss these events with anyone. So when you’ve finished this bizarre account, judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here…”

 

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CD Review: Dreams in the Witch House

Brown Jenkin has always creeped me out more than any of the betentacled, rugose, crinoid, or even squamose eldritch monstrosities that feature in Lovecraft’s other stories. It’s not Brown Jenkin’s rattiness that disturbs me, but his little human face and tiny human hands and feet, and his nasty way of chittering. Not to mention the gruesome death of the protagonist at the end of this story.

Dreams in the Witch House scrapbookThe first time I played this CD, it was during an evening hour with the light slowly fading as the sun went down. The Calico Horrors Part 2 and 3 were having one of their wrestling matches, so the sounds of squeaks and soft, furry thumps in the shadowy recesses beneath the living- room furniture, plus the occasional skitter of little claws on the floorboards augmented my listening experience of this audio drama about a malignant, mathematical witch and her rat-like familiar.

The Lovecraft story is online at http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/dwh.aspx.

The Dark Adventure Radio Theatre’s version of Dreams in the Witch House is narrated from the point of view of a character who barely features in Lovecraft’s tale, a young man named Frank Elwood (Sean Branney). He’s the only other Miskatonic University student who has a room in the same ancient Arkham house as the hapless Walter Gilman (Andrew Leman); the other inhabitants of the house are all immigrants, mostly Poles. After the horrific events of the original story have concluded, Elwood goes to see a priest–not for confession, but for guidance and some spiritual comfort in light of the terrifying things he’s witnessed. He tells Father Ivanicki about his friendship with Gilman, beginning with the day of their meeting and ending with Gilman’s ugly death.

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DVD Review: The Dunwich Horror

In some ways, this is a rather silly film as well as a loose adaptation of the original short story, but I can’t be too hard on it. It was, after all, my childhood introduction to the works of H.P. Lovecraft; if I hadn’t watched this movie and noted that it had some unusual elements that I hadn’t seen in other horror movies, and then seen the same title on the spine of a library book a few years later, who knows where I’d be today?

This was on television more than once in the early ’70s, and for years I was under the impression that it was one of those scary made-for-TV movies that aired during that time period and traumatized so many of my generation with images of little goblins dragging Kim Darby into the chimney or a Zuni fetish doll chasing Karen Black. Now that I see it on DVD, I realize that it was an AIP theatrical release. It’s actually one of the early examples of sexed-up Lovecraft–see also Dagon and From Beyond. The bowdlerized version I grew up with didn’t have visions of naked orgies, nor did the tentacled horror locked up on the top floor strip the clothes off one of its victims.

Wilbur Whately's idea of a dateWhat we did see, even on ’70s television, was that Wilbur Whately gets a girlfriend so he can try to repeat his mother’s experience with human / Old One hybrids.

This version of The Dunwich Horror begins with a prologue at the Whately house, which is much larger, fancier, and in better condition than the dilapidated farmhouse of Lovecraft’s story. When we get a better look around the place later on, we can observe that the interior has the same sort of decayed opulence as the Usher house… and will meet with a similar fate.

Old Man Whately (Sam Jaffe), who bears a staff with a Thunderbird-looking symbol atop it, stands with two albino women at the bedside of his heavily pregnant daughter Lavinia, who is not an albino. Lavinia writhes and moans to indicate the pains of labor–but after binge-watching all 5 series of Call the Midwife, I find it a tad unconvincing. Her father helps her up off the bed.

Cut to the animated credits, which impressed me very powerfully in childhood. A couple of robed figures in silhouette make a perilous journey through an ever-shifting landscape of trees and towers and jagged rocks.

Giant in the opening creditsAt one point, the hill they’re climbing up becomes a giant demon who devours them–but then the giant’s hand morphs into a snake’s head and the travelers emerge on its forked tongue, so no harm done. Eventually, they reach their destination, a large stone table, and one of the pair, who turns out to be a woman, lies down and gives birth.

It only now occurs to me that this is a symbolic representation of the Whatelys’ journey to the old stone temple where Wilbur was born. At least, I assume it’s symbolic and not what the Massachusetts coastline is actually like.

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