Shadows, Long and Dark
by Bob Freeman
by Bob Freeman
goth·ic - Pronunciation: 'gä-thik - Date: 1591: (often not capitalized) of or relating to a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents
ro·mance - Pronunciation: rO-'man(t)s - Date: 14th century: (1) : a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural (2) : a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious (3) : a love story b : a class of such literature
In an interview some time back, I was asked to describe my novel, Shadows Over Somerset, in a single sentence and I referred to it as a “Gothic Romance with testosterone”. I could tell immediately that the interviewer was put off by this description, but I stand by it, and proudly so.
I’ve never understood the disdain most people feel for the Gothic Romance sub-genre. It has been the redheaded stepchild of horror since before I was born. Truth be told, some of the greatest horror novels I’ve ever read fall under the Gothic Romance umbrella… The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a prime example. The Gothic Romance flourished in the late 18th and early 19th century in Great Britain. Focusing on mysteries that often involved the supernatural, the Gothic Romance was heavily tinged with horror, and they were usually set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins and haunted castles.
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the forerunner of the type, which included the works of Ann Radcliffe , Matthew Gregory Lewis , and Charles R. Maturin , not to mention the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley . These works usually concerned themselves with spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts, but look to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and its decidedly gothic overtones on how the themes could be explored with even more vigor…
As a kid, reading my way through the stacks of our small town's public library, I discovered writers like Mary Stewart and Virginia Holt, Anya Seton and Phyllis Whitney. They, and others like them, were very influential and inspiring, and they filled my imagination with a sense of wonder and enchantment... and a sense of dread whenever a fog settled in and the wind howled in a particular way.
But more importantly, to me anyway, was Dan Curtis, who explored the genre in the late-sixties and seventies, and was quite successful with it, in television. Dark Shadows and his masterful retelling of Dracula, with the spectacular Jack Palance as the cursed Prince Vlad, were cornerstones of what Gothic Romance could be.
A wealth of beautiful prose and horrifying verse have been penned within this proud genre, and I would be proud to have Shadows Over Somerset considered among their ranks.