“I have a premonition of unpleasant happenings at the antique barn.”
And the winners, apparently, are Paperback Library and Gold Key Comics.
Dark Shadows is still filling time for a couple of months on television, but as of last week, the show is no longer an active participant as a chronicler of the Collins family that we love. Barnabas is safe at home, Quentin is only as insane as he’s supposed to be, and that is all that we shall ever know about their ongoing activities. For ABC Television, the concept of “Barnabas” is no longer their concern.
But the tie-in media continues, long after that dreadful April Third. For one thing, the ridiculous Dark Shadows comic strip starts in March, and runs for a year, coming to an unsteady stop in March 1972. The Paperback Library gothics also run until March 1972, and the Gold Key comic book line stretches all the way to February 1976. There may not be enough housewives interested in Dark Shadows to make it worth All-Temperature Cheer’s while to support a vampire show, but there are enough teenagers to satisfy Gold Key that Dark Shadows can remain more-or-less current in American pop culture for another five years.
So these are the standard-bearers for the characters from now on, the only people who still believe that there’s a market for stories about Barnabas and Quentin. As far as television is concerned, these characters are museum pieces, and as the spin-offs spin on, the question becomes: Does anyone want to buy these antiques?
This brings us to the latest Dark Shadows novel that Paperback Library has produced for public consumption: the antiques-filled Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic Potion, written by Dan “Marilyn” Ross and published in January 1971.
This is the 25th Dark Shadows gothic, and my ninth Paperback post, and unsurprisingly, it’s getting a bit repetitive. These sixty-cent gothics all follow a predictable pattern, especially since Quentin started appearing in the title back in book #16. There’s a dim-but-plucky ingenue faced with a dreadful problem, usually related to the people she’s stuck in a house with, and her only outlet for companionship is a handsome, understanding bachelor vampire who offers a sympathetic shoulder and the potential for a little neck play. Someone in the book is a disguised Quentin Collins, who’s secretly a bad hat and a dangerous werewolf, and Barnabas helps to expose the villain, who gets away, drat. Then the vampire ankles as well, before the heroine can expect him to follow through on any of the vague romantic promises he’s been stringing her along with.
We last left Quentin two books ago in Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse, masquerading as a pointlessly cruel psychiatrist terrorizing young women at an insane asylum, and if that’s the version of Quentin Collins that survives the crash of ’71, then things are going to get somewhat desperate for the housewives and teenagers and shut-ins that still believe in our mad, beautiful pop idol. What can be done?
Sometimes these Paperback Library novels star a procedurally generated Collins family member, some invented ingenue with a nervous condition who’s prone to night terrors and sudden inheritances, while others pluck a random heroine out of a previous century and have her bump into Barnabas somehow.
But this is one of the books that take place in the present day, starring a juvenile Carolyn Stoddard. The last time we saw PBL Carolyn was in Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost, when her old school chum Celia Dalton came to visit Collinwood with her unspeakable parents. Her father, Edward, was a parapsychologist who wanted to use Celia in a series of experiments designed to expand her spiritual potential, and ended up driving her more or less out of her mind. In this book, Carolyn has another old school chum coming to visit, and this girl’s father wants to do experiments on her, too. Either Dan Ross is recycling plots, or Carolyn went to school with a suspiciously unlucky graduating class.
As the book opens, Carolyn is arguing with her mother about working at an antique shop. Carolyn’s school friend Hazel is coming to Collinsport for the summer, and her father is crochety old Nicholas Freeze, who owns the shop. Nicholas is one of those grasping, covetous old sinners that you usually see around Christmas time, but in the off season he runs a shop called the “Olde Antique Barn”, which is unforgivable.
Freeze had a young wife who divorced him soon after the birth of their daughter, and then the wife died and Hazel was brought up by other relatives. Now she’s coming to stay at Collinwood with Carolyn for the summer, and work in the antique shop so that she can get to know her terrible father.
Carolyn has promised to work there too, so that they can spend some time together. The book spends the first several pages talking about how we’re going to hate being stuck in an antique barn all summer, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anything that we can do about it.
But the silver lining is that Barnabas Collins is coming to town, after some unexplained journey elsewhere, and that will make everything better.
“Her mother’s handsome cousin from England had taken an interest in her since her childhood,” says the book, “and despite the odd rumors which circulated about him, Carolyn had always found him pleasant.”
So there it is, the book’s first “handsome” right on the second page, where it belongs. As regular readers know, the Paperback Library is utterly committed to spreading the gospel about the rock-solid lick-the-mirror handsomeness of Mr. Barnabas Collins, which needs to be explained every ten pages or so, and I am keeping a running tally of how many times they call him handsome in each book, because I believe in public service.
In Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic Potion, Barnabas is described as “handsome” 15 times, which is around average for the books we’ve considered so far. Here’s the rundown:
- Barnabas Collins (Nov 68): 24
- Barnabas Collins and Quentin’s Demon (Feb 70): 18
- Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse (Nov 70): 18
- Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock (Oct 69): 16
- Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic Potion (Jan 71): 15
- Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse (April 70): 11
- Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost (May 70): 8
- Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch’s Curse (Aug 70): 7
So he’s not as handsome in Magic Potion as he was in Scorpio Curse a few months ago, but he’s solidly mid-teens, and that’s good enough. Also, if you’re interested, he’s called charming 7 times, with deep-set eyes (5 times) and a sallow (5 times), pleasant (3 times) face, with melancholy, suave, gallant and gaunt each getting one mention. Meanwhile, Quentin only gets one handsome, so that’s settled.
For some reason, Barnabas is suddenly a part-time actor who worked on the stage in London. This has attracted the attention of director Mike Buchanan, who’s running the Collinsport summer theater program, and renting the cottage on the Collins estate for some reason. This has nothing to do with the antique barn, but we’re going to hear a lot about it anyway.
So great, let’s go antique shopping.
The barn was crowded with antiques of all kinds, ranging from ten-cent items such as pieces of broken colored glass of another era to fine mahogany chests and tables worth thousands of dollars. The small office and reception room was situated to the right of the barn door entrance, an untidy, dust-ridden place with a large old-fashioned safe in one corner. This was said to be the only true antique personally owned by Nicholas Freeze, who preferred to sell his vintage pieces and had a fine disdain for collectors as a group.
That tells you pretty much all you need to know about Nicholas Freeze, a man who hates antiques and runs an antique shop anyway, where he encourages people to stick their hands into bowls of broken glass. That fine disdain that he has for collectors is probably something of a handicap in his chosen line of work, but he seems happy enough, in that he grouches and glowers and makes cruel, sarcastic remarks all the time.
The other thing about the antique barn is that Tom Buzzell works there; he’s a hollow-eyed alcoholic furniture restorer who goes on a tear every weekend and talks about ghosts, which he’s obsessed with. We spend a good amount of time with Tom Buzzell over the course of the book, which does not pay off in any significant way.
It turns out that Dan Ross knows a thing or two about antiques, or at least he’s read up on it, because the next thing you know, there’s Tom Buzell, industriously restoring the finish of a Hepplewhite mahogany bowfront bureau. Ross name-drops antiques throughout the book, including a Limoges dessert set, a silver teapot by Bailey Banks, and a Hudson Valley chest with four drawers and bun feet. I don’t know what to do with all of this information. As far as I’m concerned, if somebody wants a chest with bun feet, then they can go ahead and have one; it’s not really any of my business.
Checking in with Tom gives Ross an excuse to establish the status quo regarding the weird inhabitants of Collinwood: “Barnabas Collins, who had been banished from the estate as a vampire, and who had gone to Britain to found the English branch of the family,” and “the handsome Quentin, who could transform himself into a werewolf with ease, and who, some said, continued to return to the village in various disguises to conceal his identity. Though Quentin fought against the evil curse continually, he had never been able to conquer it and had remained unhappy and a wanderer.”
So we’re still doing the “Quentin in disguise” thing in this book, which means there’s a Scooby-Doo mystery where everybody talks about who they think is secretly Quentin until the second to last page, when his identity is revealed and he runs away into the night.
Next Carolyn meets the miserly Nicholas Freeze, counting his money as usual.
As she waited for her knock to be answered, she peered through the dusty glass and saw the thin, white-haired Nicholas Freeze on his knees before the old safe, apparently locking it after returning his money. He turned and squinted at her with a stern look on his narrow, sallow face. Carolyn took one look at his great hook nose and decided that Hazel had surely not inherited her attractiveness from her father.
He snarls at her that she needs to start learning about antiques, so she should read some books, which he’ll give her when he’s done grumbling at her.
“I’ll certainly try hard to get a knowledge of the business, and I know Hazel will, too. She’s to arrive the first of the week, isn’t she?”
He made his way over to the untidy shelf of books and blew the dust off them. Then, his back to her, he began rummaging through the big volumes.
“Yep. Hazel will get here early Monday,” he said. “You’re a good friend, she tells me. And it’s mighty nice of you to have her stay at Collinwood as your guest.”
“We had a grand time at school together.”
Mr. Freeze turned to her and grimly said, “I haven’t had anything to do with her bringing up. After her mother left me, it was her wish she be raised by her side of the family.”
“She’s a lovely girl. You must be proud of her.”
That’s the first sustained boost for Miss Hazel Freeze, who Ross is holding back for four chapters so that everybody gets a chance to talk about how great she is, and how excited they are to see her. The arrival of Hazel is a big deal in everybody’s life.
But Freeze also has some unkind words for Carolyn’s weird family, which he dishes out instead of letting her read the books he just said she was supposed to read.
Carolyn sat down in the black painted captain’s chair behind the desk, and began to study the book, but Nicholas Freeze soon interrupted. “I hear your cousin Barnabas is coming here for the summer.”
“I think it would be better for the village if he stayed away for good,” he said scornfully.
Carolyn looked up from the book with surprise. “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t much like the way he carries on,” was his reply. “Roaming around the graveyards and the village streets at night like a ghost! Never showing himself in the daytime!”
“If he enjoys living that way, I don’t see that he does anyone harm,” she told him.
His rheumy blue eyes revealed malice. “I wouldn’t be sure he does no harm.”
So this is Carolyn’s onboarding for her new job, listening to her malicious boss criticize members of her family. But she should be used to this, really, because apparently everyone in town knows that Barnabas is a vampire, and that Quentin is a werewolf.
“I knew the other one, that Quentin,” Freeze said. “Now there’s a scoundrel if there ever was one. Not the sort of person you’d wnat to meet on the night of a full moon.”
Carolyn was blushing. She said truthfully, “We never talk about Quentin at Collinwood.”
“And no wonder,” Mr. Freeze sneered. “He’s come back here more than once pretending to be someone else. Each time, the countryside has been haunted by a werewolf.”
This happens a lot in these Paperback Library novels, where everyone in Collinsport is aware of and vaguely pissed off at the monsters who prey on their children, but they don’t do anything about it except gossip and engage in mild, inconclusive police investigations.
Then it’s time for Carolyn to meet another character: Mike Buchanan, the summer theater director who’s renting the cottage at Collinwood. He’s come to see if Mr. Freeze would be willing to let him borrow some furniture for his plays, and he has a very PBL conversation with Carolyn.
“I hear you have a cousin from England who has acted professionally,” he said. “I’m going to try and recruit him for the company.”
“I hope you can persuade him,” she said. “He’s a handsome man. And I don’t doubt he can act.”
“I intend to discuss it with him as soon as he arrives. I understand that he will be living at the old house.”
“I’ve heard he dislikes being bothered in the daytime?”
“He’s writing a history of our family, and he is giving his days to that.”
“Indeed?” Mike Buchanan raised an eyebrow and she thought his voice took on a mocking quality as he said, “I hope he hasn’t forgotten to include the more colorful members of your family.”
“Were any of my ancestors that colorful?”
He nodded. “I’d say so, from what I’ve heard. Surely, you’ve heard the stories about Quentin Collins being a werewolf and Barnabas Collins a vampire.”
So, you see what I mean about the Collinsport gossip? Mike just arrived in town a few days ago, and he’s already disparaging Carolyn’s supernatural relatives.
The days pass at the miserable antique barn, where Carolyn tidies up, washes the windows and sells a Heissey glass water pitcher, whatever that is, and Freeze barely grunts at her.
The old man had few friends. His two closest cronies were William Drape, the town undertaker, a thin, scarecrow of a man who always dressed in rusty black, and Dr. Eric Blake, a semi-retired doctor addicted to drink. Every afternoon the three friends played cards in the office. At these times Carolyn was relegated to other tasks in the main area of the barn.
So this is going to be a whale of a summer, isn’t it? Still, at least Hazel’s going to show up next week, as Carolyn keeps reminding herself.
Carolyn was anticipating the arrival of the old man’s daughter on Monday. She had enjoyed the pleasant, blonde girl at school and was delighted she was going to stay at Collinwood. Elizabeth was a little worried that Nicholas Freeze resented his daughter’s not staying with him.
She told Carolyn, “When I talked with that sullen old man he made some nasty comments about Hazel coming here.”
“But he has no place for her,” Carolyn protested. “He lives in that old, run-down house by the barn. And every weekend Tom Buzzell gets drunk there. Hazel couldn’t put up with that.”
“I suppose not,” Elizabeth sighed. “Still, I think he hasn’t happy about it.”
Well, how could he be? It’s Hazel Freeze! How could you bear to share her with anyone else?
As the chapter nears its end, Freeze asks Carolyn to stay late and help him unload a batch of new items, which make him rub his hands with delight.
“A real find!” he told her. “Belongings of a family dating back to the early seventeen-hundreds. First man of science to ever settle in this area. I’ve bought up his journals and possessions for a song from a stupid young woman who is the last of the line and wanted to sell the stuff to buy furniture for herself and her husband. I’m going over the items tonight personally. A fine trade.”
It’s late and Carolyn doesn’t have a ride back to Collinwood, so she decides to walk down to the theater, and see if Mike can give her a lift. The theater is dark and empty, but she walks in anyway, just to see what happens.
She was about to leave when she suddenly was flooded with a sensation of fear… fear of some unknown thing. She stood there in alarm, wanting to leave but frozen by her fright.
Then she thought she heard someone moving about halfway down the auditorium on the left. Her terrified eyes fixed swiftly on that spot. For a moment, nothing seemed to disturb the shadows. And then suddenly a figure rose up from between the rows of seats — a figure so frightening that she at once reacted with a scream. It was a man with the distorted features of an animal! A man with a wolf-like face! And he was coming toward her!
But don’t worry, it’s just the traditional Chapter 1 jump-scare. The werewolf — which disappears as of the second sentence of Chapter 2 — does absolutely nothing in this book, except to show up twice at the end of a chapter and then vanish, upsetting Carolyn and inconveniencing no one else. The existence of the werewolf — which looks like a man with a wolf face, for some reason — is basically just a vehicle for criticizing Quentin. It doesn’t impact the plot in any way, and nobody even sees it except Carolyn. You might ask, why bother putting a werewolf in a book that doesn’t need a werewolf? There is no satisfying answer to that question.
But Carolyn flees from this unkind vision down the stairs, and collides with someone who just happens to be Mr. Barnabas Collins! Hooray!
She greets him, and tells him that she just saw something scary, so he leaps into action and looks around.
Barnabas was down by the stage now, his sallow, handsome face highlighted by the night light. His erect bearing made him a figure of assurance, and all her fears were eased through merely being with him. He searched the stage with his deep-set, keen eyes.
This is what Barnabas does; he is an emotional support animal for heroines. In a world of curmudgeonly antique shop owners and grandfather clocks with inlay bracket base and fretwork on the bonnet, Barnabas is a source of comfort, and a figure of gentle, incest-tinged romance. He doesn’t do a hell of a lot, especially in this book, but when that handsome man is around, troubles melt away.
They look around the theater, as a young man emerges from the shadows.
But this was no terrifying ogre with the features of a wolf, but a rather thick-set, long-haired young man with a broad, yet pleasant, face. He gazed down at them in a puzzled fashion.
This is actor Jim Swift, one of the two suspects in the “who’s Quentin” murder mystery dinner party; the other one is the director, Mike Buchanan. Jim is the nice one. He says he’s happy to meet them, and sorry that Carolyn had an unpleasant experience. He says maybe they should check the fire escape, and they go and look, but they don’t see anything. Then they have a pleasant conversation about acting.
You might ask, if this does turn out to be Quentin, why he would bother to turn into a wolf long enough for Carolyn to see him, then scurry out of sight and change back, in order to politely introduce himself? The answer is that Paperback people do foolish things at the end of Chapter 1; they can’t help themselves.
Barnabas and Carolyn adjourn to the Blue Whale, to fill up on soft drinks and conspiracy theories. The appearance of the wolf creature makes Barnabas suspicious that Quentin Collins might be back in town.
“Elizabeth and Roger hoped he would never return.”
“But he has, so many times,” Barnabas said. “He’s a master of disguise and sly enough to know when he is least likely to be suspected. Coming here in summer when the place is filled with tourists would be ideal. He could mingle with the others and not be noticed.”
That would be a good point, that Quentin might want to come back to town when he’s least likely to be suspected, except that apparently everyone in town already suspects him. Quentin has been brought up in almost every conversation that Carolyn has had so far.
“Of course, there is another interesting possibility.”
She stared at him. “What?”
“What was your impression of that actor, Jim Swift?”
She looked surprised. “He was very nice. Why?”
“He could be Quentin, you know.”
“I’d never thought of that.”
Barnabas said, “There’s something about him that reminds me of Quentin. I’d like to check his past and find out his history.”
This is a weird concept that the Paperback Library has committed to for about eight books so far: that Barnabas and Quentin keep turning up in the same place, and Quentin is in some kind of magic disguise, and Barnabas has trouble recognizing him. With the evil Dr. Ayler in the Scorpio Curse, at least he had a bald cap and spectacles on, but as far as I can tell, Jim Swift doesn’t have any distracting disguise elements; he’s just a pleasant, good-looking man with a face that should be instantly recognizable. And yet here we are.
The interesting thing is that they’re pivoting on the characterization of Quentin, and turning him into a less menacing figure.
“That has to mean more trouble at Collinwood.”
“Not necessarily so,” Barnabas said. “Often Quentin is restrained in his behavior here. He simply has the desire to return to his home area. But there are times when the curse takes control of him and he becomes a werewolf against his will. That could have been what happened tonight.”
So that’s where we are, werewolf-wise: it’s a little quirk in Quentin’s character, that only exists so that people are motivated to speculate about him incessantly for the entire book.
Anyway, the next morning, Carolyn goes back to work, dusting and selling people knickknacks. Working up on the second story, she sees that Freeze has left the door slightly open to the secret room where he keeps the most valuable items.
She peeks inside, and sees the lot of antique furniture that Freeze had acquired from the family of that chemist from the early seventeen-hundreds. The prize item in the collection is a Chippendale cherry inlaid slant-top desk with an ogee bracket base, because of course it is. Chippendale actually started making furniture in the late seventeen-hundreds, but Ross wants everyone to know that at least he knows what an ogee bracket base is.
It was while she was dusting the interior of it that her hand must have touched a hidden spring, for a secret panel at once opened, revealing three dusty glass bottles with wide bases and narrow necks. They were ancient in design, and their glass stoppers had been sealed in place with wax.
She judged each of the glass containers must hold about a half-pint of some dark liquid. She took them out of the secret compartment one at a time and carefully removed the dust from them. She had no idea what the bottles might contain or why they had been so carefully hidden, but she was certain they had been there for a very long time.
So there’s actually a magic potion in this book, which is a relief. There was no witch’s curse in BQ and the Witch’s Curse, and no Scorpio curse in BQ and the Scorpio Curse, and I was starting to think that Paperback Library was not being entirely frank with us.
But you can’t just look at a bottle of dark liquid and call it a day, so Carolyn also finds a hidden envelope signed “John Wykcliffe, Esquire” from 1724.
She frowned in concentration as she attempted to get some meaning from the letter. It seemed to be a message warning someone about the contents of the bottles. The gist of it was that the fluid contained in them was an elixir capable of prolonging life indefinitely. It must be administered in extremely minute doses, and even then there was an element of danger in the rare liquid.
This is why you need members of the Collins family around, if you plan on doing any dark deeds. Collinses naturally gravitate toward opening mystery boxes, even mystery boxes with ogee bracket braces.
Naturally, mean old Nicholas Freeze catches Carolyn in the secret room, snatches her wrist with his skeleton-like hand and tells her to get away from his stuff, which is understandable. But her curiosity is piqued, and she decides to tell Barnabas about her weird discovery when he visits Collinwood that night.
“John Wykcliffe was surely a chemist of note,” says Barnipedia. “He was responsible for several formulas still in use today, but I doubt very much if he found an elixir of life.”
Carolyn’s response to this is, “Many people have tried to discover some magic compound for that purpose but no one has succeeded thus far,” which is clearly a sentence delivered from the aether directly into her head for this very moment.
Then they start talking about the annoying rumors that Barnabas is a vampire, and how the village girls that he bit were just looking for attention, and besides, none of them died so it’s fine. This offhand attitude towards other people’s traumas is a serious problem with our culture in general and this book in particular, which we will return to later on.
“I wish we weren’t cousins,” Carolyn said, suddenly forlorn. “If you were merely a handsome stranger, I could fall in love with you.”
“And where would that lead?”
“We’d run away together and be married and live happily ever after,” she said.
Barnabas laughed softly. “That’s almost as much a fantasy as the elixir of life that you found in that old desk. I doubt if I ever shall have the privilege of settling down to married life.”
“You will when you meet the right girl.”
His eyes met hers sadly. “I have known many lovely girls. Any one of them might have made me a good wife. But fate has ordained me to be a wanderer.”
This aloof, misunderstood wanderer thing is apparently good box office for gothic paperback readers, who dream of taking care of lonely men and teaching them to love. It helps if the guy’s rich, of course.
Barnabas finally clears the scene and Carolyn reads a book for a while, and daydreams about the incomparable Hazel Freeze.
On Monday Hazel Freeze would arrive for the summer, and she not only would have a helper at work, she would have company at Collinwood. Hazel would be staying with her until she left in September. It was a happy prospect, and once again she marveled that an elderly, caustic man such as Nicholas Freeze should have such a sweet daughter.
This promotional message has been brought to you by the Hazel Freeze Council, which is wholly responsible for its content.
Around 11:30, Carolyn is still reading when a thunderstorm breaks loose just above the house, and the electricity goes out. She looks out the window at the lightning for a while, and then she suddenly has a terrifying intimation that someone else is in the house. Gothic heroines get these intimations from time to time.
“What was it that had made this reasonless fear coil around her stealthily like some obscene serpent?” she wonders, which is a tough question to deal with in the dark. So she stumbles around and looks for candles, and she goes into the living room, and there gazing at the portrait of a dark beauty is the figure of a man!
Specifically, the man is Jim Swift, the actor who I guess is probably Quentin, given that he’s inside Collinwood for no reason in the middle of the night with no lights on. We’ve seen this kind of behavior from Quentin before, like in December 1969 when they showed him wandering around the house wearing a wristwatch for some reason.
“Did I frighten you?” he asked, his pleasant features showing a smile in the glow of the candle.
He thinks this home invasion is funny somehow, and we’re expected to go along with the idea. She asks him how he got in, and he says that the door was open and he was wet, and he tried to ring the bell but maybe she didn’t hear it because of the thunder. This is not a great reason to walk into someone else’s house and help yourself to some decor, but he’s pleasant and bantery and he’s probably Quentin, so everything is basically okay.
She asks him a whole bunch of questions, trying to figure out if he’s Quentin or not, but his answers are vague and not super helpful, either for mystery purposes or character development. He says, “This house was built for candlelight,” and he knows that there’s a portrait of Barnabas in the hall, so those are some clues, if you want some.
The lights come back on, so he takes his leave:
“I’ll see you again,” she said as he opened the door a little.
“You surely will,” he agreed, his eyes meeting hers. And then taking her completely by surprise he reached out and drew her to him for a kiss. In a twinkling he released her so that she hardly knew what had happened. As she stared at him in confusion, he told her, “Whenever I say goodnight to a pretty girl, I kiss her.”
“I’m glad you’ve warned me,” she said, blushing. “I’ll not be so surprised next time.”
He laughed. “I think we’re going to have a great summer, Carolyn.” And with that he went out into the night.
So if this is Quentin, and it probably is, then that is a wild mood swing away from the sadistic asylum doctor from Scorpio Curse. This would be a new kind of Quentin that has never come up before, on Paperback Library’s dime.
In the morning, Carolyn finds Roger in a temper.
“There’s just been a report on the radio of a girl found walking in a dazed state along the beach last night. She seems to have been one of the hippie crowd living on the beach. According to the report, she remembers being suddenly attacked by someone, after which her mind went blank. Aside from shock, there were apparently no other injuries.” He paused and then spoke slowly so that his remaining words would be sure to sink in. “But there was an odd red mark on her throat.”
Elizabeth spoke up, “That doesn’t have to mean anything!”
Roger turned on her angrily. “Not if you want to play ostrich and stick your head in the sand and ignore the facts around you. It’s clear enough to me. Barnabas is up to his old tricks. He attacked that girl for her blood!”
This is an odd feature of life in the Paperback Library, that everyone knows that Barnabas goes around at night biting young women, which they find annoying but not enough to do anything about it.
It all blows over, but Carolyn decides to go and warn Barnabas. She heads to the Old House, where she knows he won’t want her to come in, but she wants to and I guess in Paperback Collinsport breaking and entering is the neighborly thing to do. As she approaches the house, she sees Barnabas’ weird mute servant Hare walking towards the old family burial ground, shaking his fists at pixies and gnawing on chicken bones that he keeps in his beard for snacks, and that means Barnabas is entirely alone and unprotected, total score.
It would be too much to expect to find either the front or back door unlocked. But there was a cellar entrance on the right side of the ancient building and she might be able to get in through it. There was usually a padlock on it, but the wood was old and rotten, and using something to force the fittings, she might be able to break them away. It was a desperate course to take, but she was that anxious to reach Barnabas.
Obviously, Carolyn Stoddard is a criminal mastermind, who’s been casing the house for years and knows all the weak points. She manages to break in, and then has some feelings about the dank basement halls, until she finally ends up in front of guess what.
It turns out that the guy who everybody says is a vampire is actually a vampire, who knew. This revelation has become standard for these Paperback Library books for a while now; in fact, Barnabas specifically told Carolyn that he was a vampire in BQ and the Avenging Ghost, eight books ago, and she said that she didn’t believe him. Well, she believes it now.
She gasped as she came to stand by the casket. He could be dead! There was no sign of breathing. His hands folded on his chest had the waxy look of death. The shadows created by the flickering of the candles added to the awesomeness of it all. With his eyes closed Barnabas lost much of the magic of his charm, though there still was a classic nobility to his features.
Which is the top concern that you’d have at this moment, discovering that supernatural forces exist and the undead roam the earth, feasting on the blood of the innocent. That’s all fine, the big question is: Has he lost the magic of his charm?
And then someone else walks into the basement — Mike Buchanan, the director from the theater — because nobody in this book respects other people’s property. Mike says he’s there because he was following Carolyn, which is upsetting on its own, although she doesn’t pursue that line of questioning. He’s thrilled to know that Barnabas really is a vampire; last night, he booked him to appear in three of his plays, and I guess a vampire actor is an asset somehow. He promises that he won’t reveal Barnabas’ secret — in fact, he’ll provide Barnabas with an alibi for last night, if he needs one.
None of this makes a lot of sense, so Carolyn decides that maybe Mike is actually Quentin, especially when Mike says that he thinks that Jim is Quentin. “Quentin” appears to be a substance or property that can be found in almost anyone, rather than a person with actual goals or motives. It’s possible that Mike and Jim are both Quentin, and when they join together they can form a larger robot Quentin to fight monsters.
Before Carolyn left Barnabas’ basement in the last chapter, she tucked a little note between his dead fingers to read when he came to life again, as polite people do. The note said hey, my uncle Roger thinks you might be some kind of vampire, so be aware of that, actual vampire.
Barnabas’ response to this troubling development is to turn into a bat and fly over to Carolyn’s bedroom.
Carolyn stepped back from the window as the wide-winged creature continued to bump against the screen. And then in a twinkling it had somehow made its way into the room and across to a shadowed corner. As she watched with frightened eyes, Barnabas suddenly emerged from the shadows as calmly assured as ever.
He said, “I hope I didn’t frighten you too much. I decided this was my best way of getting in without encountering Roger.”
She stared at him with wondering eyes. “I’ve never seen you do anything like this before.”
His smile was bitter. “I only resort to this kind of legerdemain when all else fails.”
I’m not sure how I didn’t want to run into somebody who’s annoyed with me counts as “all else fails”, but whatever. This actually happens to be the one time in the entire book when Barnabas does a vampire thing, and he does it in order to cope with a mildly challenging social situation.
To be honest with you, there is hardly any action in this entire book, except for the last three pages, which doesn’t have much. Now that Quentin has been defined down from hypnotic evil magician hellbeast to either a friendly and attractive young actor or a slightly less friendly director, there isn’t a lot of scope for even the limited amount of action-adventure that the Paperback Library will allow, which usually amounts to being locked in somewhere with something that you’d rather not be locked in with. You wouldn’t think that it would be possible for someone to publish a book including both a vampire and a werewolf but includes no monster action whatsoever, but that is the kind of legerdemain that has happened to this book line, when all else has failed.
You can see how far the mighty have fallen, in the following baffling dialogue about who they think might be Quentin.
Carolyn: When I saw you down there like that this morning, I was terribly afraid for you. Especially when Mike Buchanan followed me and learned your secret.
Barnabas: That was unfortunate.
Carolyn: He didn’t want me to tell you, but I had no intention of not doing so. Though he seemed friendly and cooperative enough, I’ve begun to wonder if he isn’t Quentin in disguise.
Barnabas: We did think Jim Swift might be Quentin.
Carolyn: I know, and it still is a possibility.
Barnabas: But the way Mike behaved this morning started giving you other ideas?
Barnabas: You could be right. I’m not sure that I understand his sudden wish to help me.
Carolyn: Unless he is Quentin and sympathetic.
Barnabas: Quentin has opposed me and caused me trouble at times, though I haven’t blamed him, knowing that he still is under the shadow of that curse.
Carolyn: He could be trying to make amends.
Barnabas: If Mike is Quentin. But it could be that neither Mike nor Jim Swift is Quentin in disguise. He may not even be in the village, or he may be lurking here under another identity. The only clue we have that he might be here is that wolf-like phantom you saw in the auditorium. And whoever that was could have gotten in from the street.
Carolyn: I know that.
Barnabas: So we really have nothing to go on as yet. We’ll have to wait and find out, I suppose.
So that’s the problem with this entire enterprise: they can’t figure out which one is Quentin because they don’t know what Quentin is, what he wants or how he behaves. So there’s nothing to get hold of, no characteristics that would tell us which one is Quentin or even why it matters.
Mike might be Quentin because he’s acting friendly, or he might be Quentin and not very friendly. Or maybe Jim is Quentin, or someone else, or maybe Quentin’s not here at all, or maybe he doesn’t exist, and the two of them are lunatics trying to piece together a conspiracy theory. This may be how QAnon started.
The other depressing item on the agenda is the actual criminal in the room, serial rapist Barnabas Collins.
Barnabas’ deep-set eyes met hers through the gathering shadows. “Would you be shocked if I told you I am guilty?”
“I think not.”
“I am,” he said quietly. “I’ll be more careful in the future, but I have my needs.”
Carolyn, afraid that her face might reflect the shock and horror his words made her feel, was thankful for the shadows. Even though the unfortunate girl had not been harmed, it was frightening to know that Barnabas had been forced to attack her and drain off some of her blood. Carolyn understood he had done this only under duress and that he tried not to harm his victims. She knew that this need of his was as repulsive to him as to her. Only the fact that it stood between him and true death made him continue his vampire ways.
Barnabas understood her silence, saying, “You’re disgusted with me.”
“No!” she protested.
“Try to understand,” he said unhappily.
“I do, but let’s not talk about it,” she begged.
So really, it’s Barnabas that’s the victim, not the young women who are supernaturally roofied and assaulted. He’s forced to do it, the poor thing. This concept works until you ask why it always has to be young women, and then you get discouraged and you can’t watch vampire stuff anymore.
They start speculating about Nicholas Freeze and the alchemist’s life-giving potion, and Barnabas says, “I have a premonition of unpleasant happenings at the antique barn. I can’t tell you anything more definite. I wish you weren’t going to be there, but I suppose you can’t help it. Hazel is coming, and she’ll expect you to work with her.”
Carolyn says that Hazel is arriving tomorrow, and Barnabas says, “Good. I’ll have plenty of chances to win her friendship.” And all I have to say is that Hazel Freeze better be the greatest person alive, after all this buildup. I expect big things from Hazel Freeze.
Next morning, Hazel arrives at the shop, and the first words out of her mouth are, “It’s not a very neat office, is it?” which is not an auspicious start.
“But I’m not going to let anything spoil our summer. We’re going to have fun.”
“Everyone at Collinwood is looking forward to meeting you,” Carolyn told her. “Especially my cousin Barnabas, from England.”
“I like Englishmen,” Hazel said, her eyes dancing with happy expectancy. “Is he charming?”
“Good,” she said. “I’d like a flirtation this summer.”
So, yikes. I guess Hazel Freeze has come to party. But everyone feels better now that Hazel’s here — it’s more fun at the shop, it puts Roger in a better mood, and then here comes that creep Barnabas. He says that he knew her mother at one time, and they saw each other quite a lot, which for him means that he used her for food.
“I wish my mother had married you,” Hazel said. “I’d much rather have had you as my father.”
Barnabas laughed lightly. “Well, suppose I pretend I’m a very close relative. Say, a fond uncle? Then I’ll be able to treat you something like a daughter.”
Hazel was wistful. “Do I seem that young to you? I was hoping you’d think me nice enough to date.”
“I do,” Barnabas assured her. “It’s only because of knowing your mother I adopt this elderly pose. Otherwise, I’d be enchanted with you as a companion.”
In six pages, he’ll be committing crimes on her jugular vein. There are too many fond uncles in this world, if you ask me.
Then they all go down to the theater, where Barnabas is going to start rehearsals for A Doll’s House. Carolyn has another flirty chat with Jim about how she thinks he might possibly be a werewolf, and Hazel talks to Mike, who tells Carolyn that he hasn’t forgotten how interesting their weekend was. And so, amid a flurry of supernatural suspicion that nobody bothers to explain to her, Hazel goes back to Collinwood and gets raped.
By which I mean that Carolyn awakes in the night and finds that Hazel’s bed is rumpled and empty, and when Carolyn looks outside, she sees Barnabas with his fangs in her friend’s neck.
Carolyn watched with a shocked expression. Some of her fear left her. She knew now it had been Hazel leaving the room which had wakened her. Her friend would be fairly safe, even though Barnabas would take blood from her. It was a means of getting his needs for the night fulfilled without venturing into the village and risking further scandal. She could understand the extremity of his position, but she still was upset that he should have chosen Hazel for his victim.
So Barnabas wants to be an uncle when it comes to any potential romance between them, but he will use her body to fulfill his nocturnal needs. This is a morally confused position that Dan Ross expects us to be perfectly fine with.
The next day, Mike comes to the antique shop to pick up some furniture for the next production, and he notices that Hazel’s got a red mark on her throat. He likes Hazel, and he tells Carolyn that he knows Barnabas has got at her. “Talk to Barnabas,” he says. “And if he won’t listen, let him know that I’m on to what is happening. And if he continues with it, I’ll cause him some problems.” This means that Mike is a villain.
But he’s not the only one, and here comes the actual plot, finally arriving on page 73. Nicholas Freeze has read all of John Wykcliffe’s journals, and he believes that the liquid in the three bottles is the key to eternal youth. And guess who he wants to test it on? His daughter Hazel, who’s already young so I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen. Old Doc Blake — one of Freeze’s card-playing cronies — says he’ll give Hazel injections of the liquid, and it’ll work out great.
Carolyn tells Hazel that Freeze is a lunatic and Blake is an alcoholic, and she shouldn’t let anybody mess with her body fluids that isn’t named Collins.
At night, Carolyn tracks Barnabas down during one of his night-time graveyard lurks.
“I had to talk to you alone,” she said urgently.
A frown crossed his handsome face. “What is wrong now?”
“Everything,” she said unhappily. “Mike knows that you’ve been taking Hazel’s blood. Don’t deny it, because I saw you from the window.”
“I’ve not harmed her.”
“Mike doesn’t believe that.”
“What does he know about it?” Barnabas asked with some anger.
She gave him a pleading look. “He knows about you and what you are! And he told me to warn you about touching Hazel again.”
“And if I ignore his warning?”
“I don’t know what he’ll do. Tell the police, I suppose.”
“He has no right to interfere,” Barnabas said angrily. “I only mean to turn to Hazel for a few nights. I have a plan. Why does he want to spoil it?”
So I think it’s time for Barnabas and I to have a serious conversation, because this is not how we should be engaging with the women in our lives. This concept of the harmless vampire attack has been growing for several books now — Carolyn and Barnabas discussed it a bit in BQ and the Avenging Ghost — but now it has reached its final and most virulent form.
Don’t get me wrong; I am one hundred percent down with vampire rape fantasies, where a crazy sexy dude passionately forces himself on you, and takes control of your will through the power of his intense, unstoppable hotness. My vampire fantasties are just as elaborate and embarrassing as anyone else’s. But if you think about this as someone you’re not attracted to, it gets way less exciting.
Think about the ugliest, creepiest teacher you had in middle school. One day, your teacher comes up to you and says, oh by the way, I have a powerful need to drink human blood, and I’ve decided that I’m going to extract yours, and I’m going to do it using my mouth. I could choose anyone to feed on, but I’ve chosen you, seventh grader, because I find you attractive. You have no choice in the matter, come with me to the bio lab right now and we’ll get started. So you go through that whole experience, and your teacher says great, thanks a lot, we’re going to do that every day after school from now on.
Does that really feel like a “no harm no foul” type situation, or does it feel like your body is being violated by a pedophile? This isn’t the fun sexy Vampire Diaries fantasy rape, it’s the actual, invasive, terrifying, try to dissociate from your body, you’ll still have flashbacks about it twenty-five years later, every once in a while you’ll just start crying for no reason kind of rape, and it happens to you every day, until the creep finds someone else to creep on.
Like I said, I’m all in on the sexy rape fantasy, in theory and practice. But there’s something about the cold, clinical way that they’re discussing it, as if you could assign this fate to any given young woman, and why would anyone want to interfere. In your personal sexy vampire fantasy, you’re the one who’s being violated, and you dig it. In this book, Carolyn and Barnabas calmly discuss the pros and cons of which victim to use so that Barnabas doesn’t get caught, and brought to justice. It’s saying that women’s experience of their own bodies doesn’t matter, and that it’s okay for you to make a strategic decision on their behalf.
And the Barnabas Collins that we know, the one who’s less rapey and more explicitly helpful to other people, has left the stage. As of January 1971, this is the Barnabas that we’re left with.
So they talk about Freeze’s plan to inject Hazel with the magic potion, and Barnabas is terribly concerned, because wouldn’t it be awful if somebody invaded her body and messed with her bloodstream without her consent.
Barnabas is cancelled, so let’s go talk to Jim Swift instead, who’s the only genuinely likeable character in the book. Carolyn runs into him on the street during lunch hour, and he takes her to a coffee shop and asks if she’s in love with Barnabas.
She says she’s fond of Barnabas, but she’s not considering marriage with him. Jim says he’s glad, because he’s in love with Carolyn, which is fast work given that this is their fifth conversation ever, but he doesn’t push it; he just states it as a fact, and says that he hopes she’ll get to know him better.
Carolyn asks if he thinks Mike could possibly be an impostor named Quentin Collins, and Jim says that he doesn’t have any particular reason to think so. He’s never heard the name Quentin before, so she fills him in.
“If Mike is Quentin, he might cause all of us trouble,” Carolyn said. “Or he might not. He isn’t really a bad person but he suffers from a condition that makes his actions unpredictable.”
“Mike can be unpredictable.”
“But not in the way I mean,” she said. “At least I think not.”
Jim Swift looked baffled. “You’ve told me a lot, and yet you haven’t really told me much,” he said. “What you’re asking me to do is watch Mike and see if I can find anything about him to link him to this Quentin Collins.”
“If you will.”
“I’ll do almost anything for you,” he said. “Does this give me a lead ahead of Barnabas?”
She smiled. “It means you’re my friend.”
“At least that’s a beginning.”
So I think that’s pretty cute. Usually, every single character in a Paperback Library novel is angry and resentful, and spends their time complaining about all the other characters. I am on Team Jim, and if he turns out to be Quentin, then that will be a major restructuring of the character’s place in the story.
But what, you are asking, of Hazel Freeze? Well, Carolyn comes back from lunch, and learns that she’s in the office with her father and Dr. Blake, who’s injecting things into her. Carolyn busts in and tries to stop them, but it’s too late.
The decrepit Dr. Blake finished the injection and turned to Carolyn with his hypodermic still in his trembling hand. “Perhaps I can satisfy your worries, young lady. I have found Miss Freeze to be suffering from a mild anemia, and I have administered a suitable tonic by needle.”
Hazel nodded. “That is true, Carolyn. Dr. Blake proposes to give me a series of such liver injections to improve my blood. He wants me in a healthy state for an experiment he’d like me to help him with later on.”
Carolyn listened to this in a rather stunned state, and she began to understand. Hazel had given her the hint. The dark-haired girl had agreed to the liver shots since they couldn’t do her any harm. Later, she would either postpone taking the elixir her father was forcing on her or refuse to have any part in his proposed experiment.
So that about wraps it up for Hazel Freeze as a source of entertainment in this novel. She’s going to keep on getting these “liver injections” until Carolyn figures out that they’re actually giving Hazel the dangerous elixir, which is several injections from now, and it’s too late. Personally, I feel like Hazel has not lived up to expectations; she has not improved my summer to any noticeable degree.
The next day, Hazel gets another injection, and she starts to get headaches. Roger’s annoyed again, because there’s been another attack on one of the hippie girls who live down on the beach, and he’s sure that Barnabas is up to his old tricks. Things are just going to get worse from here.
When Barnabas stops by, Carolyn asks if he might have caused Hazel’s anemia by drinking her blood, and he says of course not, vampire bites are entirely harmless; it’s like going to a spa.
“If you need someone’s throat tonight, let it be mine,” Carolyn says. “I won’t mind.”
“I’ll think about it,” says Barnabas, and heads for the door. Man, if there’s one thing that spoils his hardon, it’s consent.
That night, Hazel gets up from her bed again to go traipsing across the wet lawn in her nightgown. Pissed off that Barnabas is still tapping her friend, Carolyn goes outside to look for him, and tell him what she thinks of him. But instead of finding him, she sees the weird phantom she’d seen before — the man with a werewolf’s ugly face!
Don’t worry, it doesn’t do anything. She runs back in the house, and she’s fine. But Roger’s awake, and he asks her what’s going on, and she tells him that she just saw a werewolf.
“You’ve told a remarkable story,” her uncle said sternly.
“I know that.”
“If what you say is true, we do indeed have new problems at Collinwood. It has to mean that Quentin has returned.”
Her eyes widened. “Of course!” she said tensely. “The werewolf’s head!”
So: really? That hadn’t occurred to her? Quentin being a werewolf is one of the three topics of conversation that she ever has.
Roger opens the door and looks outside, and there’s Mike Buchanan, supposedly taking a stroll before going to bed. Roger decides that it wasn’t Quentin after all, it was just Mike, irresponsibly walking around outside at night, and Carolyn just imagined that she saw a wolf’s face, which whatever.
Carolyn goes to bed, and in the morning, they’ve got Hazel problems.
The moment she awoke, before she dressed, she knew something was terribly wrong with Hazel. The moans and babblings of the girl in the other room came to her with terrifying clarity. She quickly got out of bed and hurried to the bedside of her friend.
Hazel stared up at her with wild, glazed eyes. “Choking!” was the only word she could make of her tortured babbling. Carolyn was sickened to see that she had evidently been tearing at her throat in the night. It was a mass of scratches and red irritated marks. She tossed from side to side and never ceased her tortured murmuring.
So it is simply not true that having Hazel come to your house makes anything better. The level of Hazel propaganda is absurd; she’s a mess. At least Roger understands this.
When they entered the dining room, Roger looked up from his plate with annoyance. “What now?”
“Hazel Freeze is dreadfully ill,” Elizabeth announced.
Roger threw down his fork. “Another crisis,” he said angrily. “I felt taking that girl in here was a bad error.”
That is clearly the proper response to Hazel’s collapse, a fork-throwing situation if there ever was one. What this country needs is a more durable Hazel Freeze.
Roger calls Nicholas, who wants the terrible Dr. Blake to come over and take care of Hazel. Suspicious, Carolyn tells her mother that they should call their family doctor, and for a moment it looks like we might have dueling doctors. When Nicholas shows up with Doc Blake, Carolyn says that she thinks the liver injections might have caused the problem, but Nicholas ignores her.
Blake gives Hazel the once-over, and says, “The young woman is the victim of some kind of virus. She needs a series of antibiotics and the care of a professional nurse. I’m going to take her to my place and have my nurse look after her.” You can’t cure a virus with antibiotics, but you also can’t cure anemia with centuries-old magic potions, so the quality of medical care in the Paperback Library is clearly below par.
It’s time for another conversation with Jim Swift, who figures out that they weren’t giving Hazel liver injections; it was the elixir the whole time. This concept hits Carolyn with shattering impact, which means that Jim and the reader are both two chapters smarter than Paperback Carolyn.
She also tells Jim about the terrible experience she had with the wolf creature last night, and he’s sympathetic. He wants to hear all about her suspicions and worries, whether it’s werewolves, Quentin, Mike, or all three.
“I only wish we had more free time for each other,” Jim said. “The way it has been, neither of us seems to have many idle minutes.”
She smiled wistfully. “In spite of that, we’ve become good friends.”
“I’d like to see us get to know each other better.”
“The tension may ease and allow us time together later.”
“I hope that’s true,” he said. “I’ll cross my fingers that Hazel recovers quickly.”
“That’s the main worry now,” Carolyn agreed. “Once she’s well, everyone will be less tense.”
Well, you know what happens when anyone relies on Hazel; things only get worse. That night, Barnabas flies by, and gives Carolyn the news that Hazel is dead, so at least we’ve got that over with.
In addition to that, Freeze doesn’t seem to be too grieved about his daughter’s demise; when Barnabas saw him, he was meeting with Mike and whispering furtively. Barnabas has decided that Mike is Quentin, and somehow he’s in cahoots with Freeze to sell the elixir, an idea that comes out of basically nowhere at all.
“The world of antiques had always seemed to her to be weirdly close to the world of the dead,” says the opening sentence of Chapter 10, which does not speak well of anyone. Carolyn’s still working in the antique barn, because Barnabas suggested to her that she could keep an eye on Freeze, Dr. Blake and Mike (who might be Quentin), and make sure they don’t hurt anyone else with the magic potion. At this point, it’s not really Carolyn’s business anymore, but try telling that to a Paperback Library heroine; they are determined to put themselves into as much mild peril as they can get ahold of.
So here’s Carolyn, upstairs on the gallery floor, and she hears a scraping noise that makes a cold finger of fear touch her spine. She looks at the door of the locked room, which opens slowly, and there’s the pale, ghostly form of Hazel in her flowing nightgown.
She hightails it out of there and runs into Mike, who’s at the antique shop for some reason.
“A ghost?” His tone was incredulous.
She pointed back to the steps weakly. “Up there.”
He studied her with open derision. “You’re making a fool of yourself with your nerves.”
His reproach coming on top of her shock was a staggering blow, at least until she realized that she was talking to Quentin, not Mike, and that he was opposed to her making any discoveries about what had gone on in the old barn.
“I saw Hazel’s ghost. She moaned to me!” Carolyn insisted.
“You know better than that,” Mike Buchanan said impatiently.
Nicholas Freeze appeared from the shadows to stand beside Mike. “What’s wrong?” he asked in a quavering voice.
Mike turned to him with a sneer. “She claims she’s just seen your daughter’s ghost.”
“Hazel’s ghost!” Nicholas echoed.
“I did,” she feeling as if she might faint.
“What kind of monstrous lie are you telling?” Mr. Freeze demanded loudly.
So that’s how things go, at this point. Carolyn has another nice coffee date with Jim, and he tells her that he understands Mike’s part in the plan — an aging Hollywood star, Marjorie Mason, is arriving later in the week, and she’s known for being touchy about her age. Surely, she would be a willing customer for Freeze’s youth-giving elixir, and Mike can make the introduction, so now we have to worry about this new character.
So it just kind of drags on, as these books tend to do by this point. It’s the same people having the same conversations on the same subjects, except now instead of Hazel they’re worried about Marjorie Mason. The reader doesn’t see much of Marjorie, and we have even less reason to be interested in her than we did in Hazel, so she starts getting injections and nobody really cares.
The main concern is whether Mike is Quentin or not, and as a sideline, whether Carolyn should have a romance with Jim. Barnabas says yes to both. “There is no future for us,” he says. “There might be one for you with him. If he wants to marry you, and you like him well enough, you mustn’t hold back because of anything you feel for me.”
This is all very noble, except at the end of the chapter Carolyn goes to the Old House when Barnabas has just risen, and he’s hungry so he drinks her blood.
She saw Barnabas standing by and raised herself up to say, “I’m sorry I made such a fool of myself by fainting.”
The mad light had vanished from his eyes and now, in an easy voice, he told her, “You have no reason to apologize.”
Even though she was still slightly dazed, Carolyn was sure she knew what he meant. Her eyes met his. “So it was my throat this time,” she said in a whisper.
“I never intended it that way,” Barnabas said in a tragic tone.
Right, because this is actually all about you. In other news, Marjorie falls ill and goes to Dr. Blake, and then before you know it, there’s a tragic accident as she drives her car over the cliffs, which means the theater is down one aging Hollywood star.
Carolyn has an urgent conversation with Barnabas about whether Freeze, Mike and Dr. Blake killed Marjorie, and then she has another one with Jim on the same subject, and Jim kisses her, but she decides that she wants Barnabas more.
Four pages left in the book, and Carolyn’s still in that damn antique barn, and Nicholas Freeze suddenly decides to confess to everything. The potion didn’t kill Hazel, it just drove her insane, and the ghost that Carolyn saw was actually Hazel bumping around upstairs. Marjorie went insane from the elixir as well, so they pushed her car off the cliff so that no one would discover what they’d done to her, but they still want to test out the elixir and now they’re going to test it on Carolyn, come this way, we’re going to do it right now!
Mike and Blake and Freeze are all there, forcing her into the office where the villainous doctor has prepared the hypodermic. “Let’s not have any more nonsense!” they say, as she struggles, and the needle is about to shoot the elixir of madness into her veins, and
The shot rang out, and she opened her eyes to see Dr. Blake staggering back with a confused expression on his florid face. She also was barely conscious of the blood spurting through the cloth of his right sleeve. The hypodermic needle had fallen to the floor.
Mike let her go and wheeled on the intruder. Jim Swift stood in the doorway. He had fired the shot that had saved her.
Hooray, yes, it’s Jim Swift to the rescue, I didn’t know he was carrying a gun this whole time but maybe he was, and he smashes all the bottles and crushes the hypodermic with his heel, and that is the end of the magic potion, the hero saves the day. Hooray for Jim Swift!
Nicolas cries and Mike runs away, and I guess Doc Blake goes to the hospital with a gunshot arm, and Jim picks Carolyn up and carries her back to Collinwood, like a boss.
He came to her and said, “Feeling better now?”
“Much,” she said. “What about Hazel?”
“They found her in the house,” he sad. “Hopefully with treatment she’ll come back to herself. The doctor who examined her thinks her condition is only temporary.”
“I’m so glad,” she murmured and looked up at him fondly. “It was wonderful the way you got rid of Quentin.”
He smiled. “I thought I did rather well. Quite a melodramatic scene. It appealed to my sense of good theatre.”
“When will I see you again?”
“I’ll be in touch soon,” he promised, bending down to kiss her goodnight. Then with a look of tender amusement he lingered to add, “I think, for just once, I stole some of the thunder from Barnabas.”
So, yes, it turns out that Jim was Quentin after all, and he’s the one who saved the heroine and Barnabas didn’t do anything. Naturally, Jim disappears after this conversation, because it’s the end of the book and neither Barnabas or Quentin are allowed to stick around past page 158.
The sad, handsome Barnabas gets the last word, naturally.
“I knew almost from the beginning Quentin was posing as Jim,” Barnabas said. “Because we’re friendly rivals, I couldn’t tell you.”
She stared up into his sad, handsome face. “Now I understand so many things he told me. And he was always afraid I’d marry you. He claimed to be in love with me.”
“I think he is,” Barnabas said. “But like myself, he’s not able to ask you to be his wife. At least, not yet.”
“Will you ever be free?”
“Even a curse must have a life span,” Barnabas said. “Let us hope that soon one of us can finally pledge his heart to you.”
Plus, who knows, maybe I’ll stop assaulting your friends at some point.
But that is a remarkable twist, for the one of us who’s interested in tracking the evolution of Quentin’s characterization across this inadequately entertaining line of books. In a single book, Quentin has gone from black-magic criminal to Barnabas’ friendly rival, the one character who is uniformly sweet and devoted to the heroine’s welfare, and he only puts on a wolf mask for a couple of ten-second jump-scares that don’t even menace anybody.
In fact, Quentin’s reputation has been cleared to such an extent that he becomes the second hero, and teams up with Barnabas to fight evil spacemen from the planet Velva, which is literally the very next thing that happens.
Tomorrow: Frocks and Violence.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the opening narration, John Karlen says that “a wedding has been decided ubon” between Catherine and Morgan, and then says, “On hearing the news of the current — coming marriage…”
There’s a fault with one of the cameras that’s messing up the picture, which first becomes evident when Quentin and Melanie start talking in the parlor in act 1.
When Morgan leaves Collinwood in act 1, he tries to close the doors behind him, but they swing open. This is extra convenient for Kendrick, who’s trying to sneak in.
When Morgan enters Collinwood and talks to Quentin in act 3, the camera zooms in too fast and he’s out of focus for a few seconds.
When Catherine gets up from the bed, there’s a lot of noise in the studio — it sounds like someone is dragging something.
Catherine says, “Morgan, I insist that there be no reprises.” She means reprisals. He answers, “Do you mean he’s going to — you’re going to let him get by with this?”
Tomorrow: Frocks and Violence.
— Danny Horn
26 thoughts on “Episode 1202: The Leftovers”
Oof, this was a rough one. Once upon a time, I had seriously considered trying to collect all of the Paperback Library books, then maybe even doing a podcast about them as well. Then I read one of your first posts about them, lay down for a while, and felt better about it.
I was also getting those feelings of “bad touch” such as we all got from Barnabas’ “Comfort me” line way back when, long before we got to the truly rapey bits. Ugh, these books are vile, even for Gothic romances. Has Kathryn Leigh Scott recorded the audiobook for this one yet – and if not, can anyone stop her before it’s too late?
A few bits still made me laugh out loud, though, especially this:
“It’s possible that Mike and Jim are both Quentin, and when they join together they can form a larger robot Quentin to fight monsters.”
For some reason, I found myself saying out loud, “And I’ll form…the head!” Now I can’t get the image of a Voltron-style giant Quentin robot fighting all the other kaiju from this show. Or would they all have Zords to fight with, instead? (Christ, I need more hobbies.)
hmmm… if you take Mike and Jim, the magic immortality potion, jump to another 60’s tv show and then add in Captain Jack Harkness, do you end up with the Face of Boe?
If we do, he’s pretty much a kaiju all on his own… 🙂
Hoo, boy — good ol’ Paperback Library. I finally finished collecting all the books about ten years ago and I even tried to read a few but I became discouraged fairly quickly. I did notice, however, that after Ross wrote the HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS novelization, characters from the movie began to pop up in his DS novels … Willie, Julia, and Stokes all make frequent appearances from that point on until the end of his series. I haven’t read MAGIC POTION, but it does seem that Ross was inspired by the “Barnabas turns into a bat and then materalizes in Carolyn’s room and rapes her” scene in HODS, since it appears here wholesale … twice.
This book has characters named Jim Swift and Jim Smith? That’s even more confusing than Joanna Mills, Ivan Miller and Capt. Miles in the show’s 1840 Flashback.
There is a contented expression on my florid face.
Or a florid expression on your contented face. Pardon my strange interlude.
Eh, can’t complain. Still better than the parallel storyline.
Seems like Dan Ross did watch the show for at least a little while, during the Leviathan segment- Carolyn working in an antique shop, sinister doings at that antique shop which drag on way too long, Quentin introduced as a mysterious figure skulking about in the dark whose relationship to Barnabas starts with apparent hostility and ends with apparent friendliness, Barnabas as a resolutely non-sexy vampire, Roger petulantly denouncing a house-guest whom he did not invite but is powerless to expel, etc.
Not that another romp through the anacreontic argot of the Paperback Library isn’t… instructive…
but I do hope you’ll revisit the sheer WTF madness of the Gold Key comics before you finish this masterwork.
Yeah, there’ll be more Gold Key, more Paperback Library, more Parkerverse and more Big Finish. More of everything!
“Or maybe Jim is Quentin or maybe it’s somebody else, or maybe Quentin isn’t here at all, or maybe he doesn’t exist and the two of them are lunatics trying to piece together a conspiracy theory. This may be how Qanon started.” I laughed out loud. I wonder why Ross didn’t watch a few episodes to find out who Quentin was instead of researching about cabinets with bun feet (I want one of those).
You mightn’t like bun feet; they sound like they’d be tricky to walk on!
I’m here all week, folks!
Try the fish!
I’ve just been skimming these Paperback Library recaps (sorry) but is Ross suggesting that Quentin can alter his appearance supernaturally – that he’s a shapeshifter, in other words? You could make a (barely) plausible case for that – Quentin found some way to use the werewolf curse to enable an alteration of his human form. Otherwise, we’re stuck with the notion that he can create these flawless disguises just using masks, wigs, make-up, etc. which is no more believable here than it was when Rollin Hand did it on Mission: Impossible.
Ross suggests nothing supernatural about Quentin’s disguises. The wigs are just that good. Ross didn’t put much thought into it.
Ross doesn’t even mention wigs, or masks, or distinguishing features. He just says that Jim has a broad and pleasant face. There is absolutely no explanation for how he can go unnoticed by people who are specifically looking for a disguised Quentin.
I’ve read several of these books and I’m still giving Ross too much credit.
“This is what Barnabas does; he is an emotional support animal for heroines. In a world of curmudgeonly antique shop owners and grandfather clocks with inlay bracket base and fretwork on the bonnet, Barnabas is a source of comfort, and a figure of gentle, incest-tinged romance.”
“And i was starting to think that Paperback Library was not being entirely frank with us.”
two more examples of that special talent you have for conscious observation, that never ceases to do me in.
when i was a tyke, and Dark Shadows was still on its first run, i would go to drug stores and collect these books, chunking down my sixty cents. i can’t imagine what i was thinking. but somehow, instead of being as embarrassed as i truly ought to be, reliving them through your eyes is somehow oddly satisfying. geez Louise, when i said i’d follow you anywhere, i must have been on the level.
Hurrah! You’ve finally reviewed a Paperback Library book I’ve actually read. And I’ve got to say, your recap is vastly more entertaining than the actual book: you literally had me Laughing Out Loud at points.
I wonder, since the PB Dark Shadows books are so formulaic, would it be possible to do a parody one? “Barnabas, Quinton and… the Mysterious Virus?” Just throw in a few “handsomes” and you’re good to go.
Barnabas, Quentin, and the Blue Whale BOGO Dinner Special
Barnabas, Quentin, and the Awkward Rash
Barnabas, Quentin, and Ted and Alice
Barnabas, Quentin and the Chocolate Factory
Diagnostically, I don’t think Ross’ problem is an inability to write prose. The HODS novelization is a perfectly competent example of the genre (not that that’s great praise from a literary POV), so we know that if you hand him a screenplay he can turn it into a readable novel.
I think some of it is that the Great 1795 Retcon broke him. In the early books it’s pretty clear that he had at least partial access to “Shadows on the Wall” and tries to stick to the backstory it establishes, although his offering an alternate explanation for the locked room in the basement in the first book suggests that he didn’t have the entire document (if he did, contradicting the planned resolution of that plot point was a pretty baller move). Barnabas Collins is the turning point where the books become incredibly formulaic. There is no effort to maintain any kind of continuity within the books regarding the 19th century inhabitants of Collinwood.
Can anyone out there fill in process with regard to how these were written? Does anyone know, for instance, the lag between submission and publication? First publication dates for the early books are:
Dark Shadows: Dec ’66
Victoria Winters: Mar. ’67
Strangers at Collins House: Sept. ’67
Mystery of Collinwood: Jan. ’68
Curse of Collinwood: May ’68
Barnabas Collins: Nov ’68
#209 (Willie opens the magic box) aired 14 April ’67; #345 (they hear about Burke’s plane crashing) aired 20 Oct. ’67. Yet Barnabas doesn’t show up in a book until Nov. ’68, and in May ’68’s Curse of Collinwood Burke is alive and kicking (to some extent that may reflect this being “parallel time” — the opening pages mention Vicki’s PBL boyfriend Ernest Collins dying in a plane crash in South America — this is also the 1st book that refers to Liz finding out Paul was still alive).
“‘Quentin’ appears to be a substance or property that can be found in almost anyone…” Perhaps Quentin is like the Sampo from that MST3k movie The Day the Earth Froze: “Hey, maybe Quentin isn’t a thing at all. Maybe Quentin can be found in the laughter of children, the crash of the waves against the shore, the human capacity to love and be loved. Maybe he’s a new high-energy prop comic. Ladies and gentlemen, the Funny Bone is proud to welcome funnyman Quentin!”
Happy New Year, fellow DSED fans…
Don’t bring Lemminkäinen into this.
I purchased all of these books as a young teen. I remember almost nothing about them. I got rid of them when I went to college in 1975. I love the photos you select to illustrate the story, Danny.
Too bad about the blooper during the opening narration. Otherwise it is an outstanding piece of voice acting, crisp and urgent, perhaps the single best delivery of any opening narration in the whole series.
Before today I hadn’t encountered the name “Kendrick” in so long I’d forgotten it existed. But just now while watching this episode on Tubi, the commercial right before the scene in which John Karlen’s character reveals his name prominently featured a salesperson named Kendrick. Weird.
Odd how things like that happen. For example, a couple of years ago I was flipping channels and saw the closing credits for some old game show I’d never heard of. What stopped my flipping was Bob Cobert’s name listed as the composer of the theme music. As a Dark Shadows fan, I was curious when Cobert had died. I googled his name and found a news story saying his death had been reported that very day.
Or as the might say on the show, THAT! VERY! DAY!