June 3, 2007
I’ve spent the last week or so reading the first Dark Shadows books, ones that were released starting in the 1960s to tie-in with the television show. If you aren’t familiar with it, Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that became popular after introducing a vampire character and other supernatural elements.
Over the years it had a little bit of everything, ghosts, werewolves, gypsy curses, and even time travel. There was an attempt to update it in the 1990s that failed because the schedule was constantly being changed, and another fairly recent try that didn’t make it to air. The Sci-Fi channel used to show it, but stopped because they hate me and because they’d rather find time for stupid bullshit like this.
Anyway, I’ve read the first four novels and am halfway through the fifth. They’re all very short (around 150 pages) so it hasn’t taken very long. I won’t say they’re good, but they’re entertaining enough for fans of the show or people who like cheesy gothic mysteries.
The first five books are:
- Dark Shadows
- Victoria Winters
- Strangers at Collins House
- The Mystery of Collinwood
- The Curse of Collinwood
Victoria Winters is the heroine so far. She’s an occasionally annoying foundling who is hired as a governess for the mysterious Collins family, and believes the secret of her past may be connected to them. Based on the story so far, she must be right. She only occasionally does any teaching, so they have to have some other reason for keeping her around. Victoria bothers me as a character because she’s constantly flipping between believer and skeptic. She’s like Mulder and Scully in one person, if that one person was not too bright, lived in an old spooky house, and was constantly fending off both murderers and older, mostly wealthy men.
Each cover features the vampire Barnabas Collins brooding at Victoria (except for The Curse of Collinwood, where he’s actually showing fang). This is a blatant and pretty pathetic marketing ploy when you realize that none of these books actually have Barnabas Collins in them.
None of these early Dark Shadows books have supernatural activities so far. The crimes are mostly mixed up with Collins family drama, though there are some very Scooby Doo moments where bad guys try to frighten poor Victoria with things that seem ghostly. Book five may have zombies in it, I’m not far enough along to know if they’re real zombies or just local fugitives. In fact, I’m getting impatient with The Curse of Collinwood, because the whole thing feels like one pointless, repetitive argument about whether there are real zombies on the loose or just some crazy, hippie fugitives. The zombies/fugitives only make an appearance to get the argument started again. At this point, I’m hoping that both Victoria and Burke Devlin get their brains eaten.
Of course I know that won’t happen, because if Victoria died then there wouldn’t be anyone for Barnabas to brood at when he makes an appearance. I’m assuming that the vampire finally shows up in the next one. I’m prepared for this to be wishful thinking, but he’s on the cover of book six (again) and it’s titled Barnabas Collins. I’m really looking forward to some of the later novels which will probably feature my favorite character, Quentin. There are almost twenty books with exciting titles like Barnabas, Quentin and the Frightened Bride.
Assuming I can actually find them all, this is going to be great.