Friday, 2 February 2018

From the Pages of Paperbacks from Hell: Elizabeth

Author: Ken Greenhall, Year: 1976

Elizabeth was the first Paperbacks from Hell mention I read that was really something special. I had enjoyed Smart as the Devil and Rooftops – they are the kind of books I was there for – but this was something else. A terse novel (I like ‘em that way) at 127 pages, this only means that author Greenhall is precise in his storytelling, seeming to choose his words carefully.

In telling the story of a fourteen-year-old girl who may be the recipient of some supernatural life coaching via an image in a full-length mirror (then again, she may just be your average teenaged psychopath), Elizabeth is creepy more so for what it hints at than it is for what it states explicitly.

After her parents die in an accident (maybe), Elizabeth moves in with some relatives and discovers the aforementioned mirror that reflects the image of Frances, a long-dead witch. Soon, the family's dealing with almost as much illegal sex as they are tragedies.

As I have never been a fan of the “haunted mirror” trope, I’m happy to report that it’s merely a device here, a means to an end. Much of the story is revealed through the inner thoughts of its main character, and Greenhall does an outstanding job of bringing us into Elizabeth’s head.

It’s that story that Elizabeth and Greenhall have to tell here, as well as the way in which the author tells it, that makes a lasting impression, and it’s a shame that the late Greenhall hasn’t received more recognition before now. Thanks to re-prints of this and others of his works from Valancourt Books, however, all of that could be rectified.