Wednesday, February 9, 2022

[Review] - Dark Shadows by Marilyn Ross

One Upon a Time in the '80s, I was a little bitty kid who would curl up with his grandma in the extra bedroom/laundry room and watch reruns of Dark Shadows on PBS on an old black & white television. That was my first introduction to the mysterious world of the Collins family and their vampire ancestor, Barnabas Collins. 

Fast forward thirty-some-odd years later, and I still have a fascination with Dark Shadows. For some time, I've been looking for the original Dark Shadows novels written by Marilyn Ross, one of the many pseudonyms by William Edward Daniel Ross (1912 - 1995). Ross published thirty-two Dark Shadows titles from 1966 to 1972 and The House of Dark Shadows novelization in 1970. These books are hard to come by in thrift stores and used books shops near my location. From time to time, I stumble upon these books on eBay, but with hefty price tags. Since 2020, Hermes Press has reprinted the first 16 Dark Shadows titles on paperback, and the books are also available on Kindle.  

Believe it or not, the beginning of episodes of Dark Shadows didn't feature Barnabas Collin. Instead, the show focused on Victoria Winters, who travels to Collinwood (referred to as Collins House) by train to become young David Collin's new governess. The first Dark Shadows novel is a partial retelling of Miss Winters's arrival. While working for another family, she had received a mysterious letter from the Collins family, offering her a job as David's governess. For many years, a secret benefactor has been sending Victoria money. She wonders if the person and the Collins are connected. Or better yet, maybe, this person knows her parents' identities.  

The beginning pages stay close to the very first Dark Shadows episode. Victoria Winters arrives at Collinsport by train. She has a brief conversation with Maggie Evans at a coffee shop. Victoria gets a ride with the town's only cabby, Henry Jones, until a flat tire forces her to walk the rest of the way to Collinwood. The story changes a bit with the introduction of Ernest Collins, a character that never appeared in the series. He's the cousin to the family's matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and her brother, Roger (David's father).  

Ernest is a famous concert violinist. He suffered a nervous breakdown after his wife was hurt in a car accident and moved back to Maine to live in a small cottage on the Collinwood property. Eventually, he fell in love with another woman. Then another accident occurred - the woman jumped off a cliff.  And his next great love is - Victoria Winters.

Final Thoughts

Dark Shadows is an unusual love story, with hints of the paranormal in the background. At only 144 pages, Ross uses gothic atmospheric prose to tell this retelling of the first episode of Dark Shadows. After Victoria Winters's arrival, the story goes in a different direction. The story feels less like a novelization and more like a standalone tale. 

It's a typical 60s gothic romance novel. It has a twenty-something female protagonist with a haunted past, a creepy mansion, and a mysterious love interest who may or may not be a killer.  

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Dark Shadows. I was expecting a word-by-word, scene-by-scene adaptation, but, instead, I read something completely different - a suspenseful love story. 

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