Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Something Evil by Arthur Hoffe (1968): Oh, Sister

After half a dozen chapters I knew Something Evil (Avon Books, Sept 1968) wasn't gonna be evil enough for me. The opening prologue, in italics—which I kinda hate—is set literally on a dark and stormy night with a guy sneaking up to a spooky old house, finding creepy statues in a stable, and then hiding when a woman comes running in... followed by another who then, to the man's horror, stabs the first woman! O horrors. Dude books off into the "murky blackness":

A flash of lightning illumined her face as she stared in fury after the retreating figure. Her eyes, in the light of the electric bolt, were deep, piercing, wild—the eyes of a thing gone mad.

Following chapters are set on the foggy New England coast, it's the 19th century, and you'll meet a cast of characters from any period melodrama, engaged in boilerplate soap operatics with the Gothic flair (moodiness, gloominess, doominess, craziness, drunkeness, murderousness) and one morning reading over coffee I realized the twist. I skipped to the final pages and, lo and behold, there it was. There's an incest angle (god again?) and a Psycho angle and a nice wrap-up with all the ugliness politely put away.

My impression is that most Gothic paperbacks of this era followed, as strictly as any Harlequin romance or detective series, the most restrictive of conventions, with nary a whiff of originality or uniqueness (I believe in some cases publishers had writers sign contracts to this effect). Now I'm always looking for something, anything, to relieve this conformity of genre, but Something Evil doesn't have it. Even searching for author Arthur Hoffe turns up precisely nothing other than this tome. Out of the void and back into the void.

But I was happy to find the cover artist acknowledged on the copyright page, one Bob Foster. Since Something Evil has always been a minor fave cover (I mean who doesn't love baby alligators, altho' I didn't read enough to see if they're actually in the book), I was happy to look up Foster and find his resumé includes lots of '60s and '70s science fiction paperback covers, along with other illustrations of the day. So let's say something good came out of Something Evil.


1 comment:

David said...

I looked this up to see whether it had any relation to the Steven Spielberg TV movie. There *is* a TV movie of Hoffe's book, but they changed the title to "Scream, Pretty Peggy."