Valancourt Books, 2015
(originally published 1937)
Yes, yes, I realize it's now way past Halloween, but I did manage to squeeze this in before the 31st of October, so I'm counting it toward my "road to Halloween" little miniseries of books.
This 1937 title has been brought back recently into print and out of obscurity by Valancourt, whose books are sending me to the poorhouse because I can't resist picking up their latest titles. I'm smiling all the way there though, because so far I've had incredible luck with the books I've bought -- some I probably would never have even known existed without the Valancourt guys making it possible. Fingers of Fear continues my run of good luck with this publisher -- here you have an old family home filled to the brim with family secrets, quite possibly an outbreak of lycanthropy, ghosts that stalk secret passages and (this is so cool) a portrait whose evil eyes watch anyone coming within its purview. While the plot and the action may be a bit convoluted at times and a bit hard to follow in moments, it's a really fun mix of gothic and the supernatural all rolled into one.
Fingers of Fear is set in depression-era America, and young Selden Seaforth is down to his last coins. With no money and no job, life is tough for him; he's also divorced from his wife. As he's despairing of what to do, bemoaning the fact that he's so poor that even his so-called friends from better days tend to ignore him, fortune smiles out of the blue in the form of Ormond Ormes. Ormes had been at school with Seaforth -- they meet and Ormes offers Seaforth a job which seems tailor made for him. It seems that because of some conditions in a relative's will, Ormes must have his rather extensive book collection catalogued and summarized (it's a bit more complicated, but that description will suffice for now). Seaforth will have room, board, and desperately-needed money. It all sounds so perfect, but as is usually the case in these sorts of things, it turns out to be a case of "if it sounds too good to be true, it generally is." Ormes takes him to the family home in the Berkshires, Ormesby, drops him off and returns him to the city; and virtually no time passes before Seaforth has his first supernatural encounter which shakes him to his rational, logical core. While trying to figure out what's going on at Ormesby and dealing with the inhabitants who keep family secrets tucked away for their own reasons, the supernatural encounters increase and then the first body is found...
|an old family summer home in the Berkshires, from oldhouses.com|
For me, Fingers of Fear was a fine, fun read in an old-school horror/gothic sort of way. It may not capture the minds and hearts of modern readers who must have something incredibly gross, violent or downright demeaning in some cases to get their horror jollies, but if like me you are finding your way back to a time before all of those elements were somehow necessary for a good chill, this might just be a good one to pick up. This book is a very welcome addition to my ever-growing dark fiction/horror/weird/supernatural library where the Valancourt editions are slowly taking over the shelves.