Friday, August 10, 2018

Won't Forget to Put Roses on Your Grave: The Gloomy Gothics of Victor Banis

The esteemed Jeffrey Catherine Jones painted this, one of my favorite-ever covers, of a delightfully ghoulish lass writhing upon a coffin attended to by fluttering batwings. I mean, I think it is just spectacular. My expectations weren't high for the actual novel, but even so they were dashed as I began to read, for The Vampire Women (Popular Library, 1973) is a dreary rip-off of the original opening chapters of Dracula, right down to its epistolary narrative. Victor Samuels—or should I say "Victor Samuels" for reasons that will become clear in a moment—has produced a work of pure pulp hackery. Updated to 1969, it's the tale of a man, a woman, and her younger sister traveling to Castle Drakula. Yes, Drakula, so see, as their guide through the Carpathians informs them, it's not the same Dracula as from the books and movies! Whew, glad we cleared that up.

I tried to approach the story as a cheap Dracula flick, a lesser Hammer or a Naschy or something, but even that didn't work thanks to "Samuels"'s simplistic prose and bone-headed journal entries:

What was the name of the castle again?
Drakula. Do you know of it?
I recognize that name. It's been used in books and movies. Not very pleasant ones.... He was a werewolf or something like that.

It is those silly legends about that Wallachian—Drakula, I think the name was. I gather he was the subject of some books and movies. I never had time for things like that.

We can't afford to get mixed up with Count Drakula and his government or his politics.

Carolyn giggled. "I'm going to marry Count Drakula," she chirped. She looked cocky and defiant.

1976 German edition

Of course I trudged and skimmed most of the way through to the obvious climax—"Get back, Drakula!" I warned as I snatched up the stake at my feet—groaning the whole way. Then I looked up the author and quickly found it is the pseudonym of a writer named Victor J. Banis, and o my friends, lots of fun stuff came my way. Born in 1937 in Pennsylvania, Banis is considered the father of gay pulp fiction. That's a pretty big deal, and as I read about Banis and his illustrious history in the pulp trade, I learned he also wrote many Gothic romances of the late '60s and early '70s under other various pen names (he even wrote some of the perennial Executioner men's adventure series!). In interviews Banis has no illusions about the quality of some of his output—he was simply a working writer, but his subject matter had never been explored in mass market before. Fascinating! I live for these jaunts down forgotten paperback history...

Banis, 1973

I've found a handful of glorious paperback covers for his books from that long-ago era; I think you'll recognize a Hector Garrido cover down there too...


2 comments:

andydecker said...

Not only "The Vampire Woman".


"Devil Soul" is a dreary rip-off of two thirds of Dennis Wheatley's "The Devil Rides Out". Scene by scene it re-tells the original. Only much shorter.
Just omits the ending.

Wonderful Jones cover, though.

Kurt Reichenbaugh said...

Nice Stones reference in the title of this post. Love the covers. We have a store here that has a whole section of used gothics. I'll have to see if it has any of these.