If I keep up this pace I’ll finish next year. Reading the full set of Dark Shadows novels by Marilyn Ross, that is. Since they tell me I’m an adult, this might seem a strange avocation. Driven by nostalgia, and frankly, a love of gothic literature (the latter defined loosely), I’m revisiting my childhood reading. Long ago I ditched the copies of these books that I originally found in a haphazard way, and it is possible—in this universe of improbabilities—that I have repurchased one of the exact same books I had as a child. No matter. I don’t think I read Barnabas, Quentin and the Sea Ghost before. If I had, no memory of it is within easy recall. It does seem that W. E. D. “Marilyn” Ross was making some slight progress with his writing as the series went on, but this one isn’t great.
An undersea salvage operation, run by Claude Bliss—accompanied by his daughter Norah (someone has to fall in love with Barnabas, after all)—comes to Collinsport to find the treasure of Jenny Swift, a ship named after its pirate captain. There is, however, a ghost that haunts any who try to attain the treasure. In one of the “Scooby-Doo Effect” versions of the Collinwood estate, the ghost turns out to be a man, a neighbor, literally in a rubber mask. The salvage operation had been a bust from the beginning and Quentin shows up just to stir up trouble and then suddenly leaves before the story finishes. This particular fascicle feels unfinished to me. Who was the woman with Quentin? What happened to the daughter of the man pretending to be a ghost? Did Norah and Jim Donovan ever get together? And what of Dr. Hoffman and Professor Stokes?
I’m not naive enough to expect belles-lettres from these books, but the last couple in the series built some hope as they seemed to have been making progress. The stories were tighter and more innovative, even if still formulaic. Some seem more cookie-cutter than others. Since I have only three more novels to go (having read five of them this year), I see no reason to stop now. I know there are other Dark Shadows fans out there. I’ll probably put a YouTube video out on the topic down the road. I did watch many of the episodes, but my memories come primarily from the novels I managed to find back in the seventies. And like back then, I wasn’t really accurately called an adult, I suppose.