Saturday, June 20, 2020

Truly misleading book cover:
"Witches' Sabbath"

So, let's get some of the confusing parts out of the way first. For reasons I cannot fathom, this gothic romance novel, Witches' Sabbath, was alternately marketed as a horror novel with this Paperback Library edition. It is not a horror novel. The last line of the 1962 Kirkus review makes that quite clear: "A little overwrought, but a patently potent, romantic entertainment." We can further see that it was originally meant to be marketed as a romance (and was, in fact, award-winning within that genre) via these two other covers.

And, regarding the author: This cover states that it's "Charity Blackstock writing as Paula Allardyce." Those are both pseudonyms, actually, so it's kind of weird to have one pen name writing as another pen name (and disclosing it as such). The actual author was Ursula Torday, whose name's letters could have been reworked to create Saturday Lour, which would have been yet another good pen name.

Now, on to the rundown...

  • Title: Witches' Sabbath
  • Author, per cover: "Charity Blackstock writing as Paula Allardyce"
  • Author: Ursula Torday (1912-1997)
  • Cover blurb: A haunting mystery of love and evil "filled with real horror, suspense, eeriness." ⁠— San Francisco Chronicle
  • Additional cover text: A Black Magic Novel of Terror
  • Publisher: Paperback Library (52-527)
  • Number on spine: 7 (presumably its number within the Black Magic Novels of Terror)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Year: First printing, August 1967 (originally published in 1961)
  • Pages: 174
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: It was a magnificent mid-June day of the best summer of the century when Tamar Brown arrived at Lanchester, the station for Meadway Bois.
  • What's Meadway Bois? The tiny (and fictitious) English village at the center of this tale. It's a good village name.
  • Last sentence: Mr. Kingham knocked purposefully on Mrs. Leigh's door.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Abigail's cottage had been built in Elizabethan times; Tamar, for all she was small, had to stoop to avoid knocking her head on the low beams.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: Humphrey was not at his best in moments of crisis.
  • Humphrey Sloane mansplaining things to Tamar: "You Lunnon ladies are terrible iggerant. It's a witch bottle, with the face of a bearded gent on the front of it. You put bits of your enemy in it — nail-clippings and suchlike — and boil it up. Very tasty. Abigail did that for Ann Leigh who began to spit pins afterwards, which must have been a little trying. She certainly had it in for her, what with killing her baby and all."
  • Does Tamar end up with Humphrey? No. She ends up with someone named William, who's not much better.
  • Hey, that was a spoiler! Sorry. If you're really sore, I'll mail you some nail-clippings and you can make a Papergreat witch bottle to get revenge.
  • Internet review #1: On Goodreads, Charlotte wrote this in 2019: "I was expecting a thrilling Pagan mystery, potentially delving into past timelines and the age of suspicion and witchcraft. I was sadly disappointed. ... The misogyny of Tamar's relationship was absolutely staggering; I couldn't fall in love with her choice of man as I was expected to, as I couldn't see him as anything more than an emotionally stunted brute."
  • Internet review #2: On Picterio, @cobwebs_and_creepers wrote this circa 2017: "This book is... not so great. Interesting enough storyline though, about lovely redhead Tamar who is writing a book about Abagail [sic], the legendary witch of tiny village Meadway Bois. Surprise! ⁠— Tamar bears an uncanny resemblance to the long-dead beauty."
  • About the Black Magic Novels of Terror: Apparently there were nine titles total, all published in 1967 or 1968. The other eight were The Witch-Baiter and The Haunted Dancers, edited by Charles Birkin; The Torturer, Scream and Scream Again, and The Darkest Night, by Peter Saxon; Drums of the Dark Gods by W.A. Ballinger; The Dead Riders by Elliott O'Donnell; and The Black Art by Rollo Ahmed.
  • Rollo Ahmed sounds like a pen name: Yes, but it's not. Abdul Said "Rollo" Ahmed was an Egyptian-born Black man who studied and wrote about the occult and remains a bit of a history mystery.

The very grave back cover

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