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Wish List Wednesday: The Heir of Starvelings by Evelyn Berckman


I was so inspired by the Teaser Tuesday idea that I decided to do Wish List Wednesdays! Yes, I know, someone is probably doing it, too, but if I stole the idea I repent forthwith.

At any rate, every reader has a mile-long wish list of books she can’t wait to get her grubby little hands on. So, on Wish List Wednesdays, we’ll share the following:

  • The title of a random book from our wish list,
  • How or where we found out about the book,
  • How long the book has been on our wish list,
  • And why we want it so badly!

Post your Wish List Wednesday book to your blog/Twitter feed and link to it in the comments. If you have neither, just share your info in the comments. I can’t wait to see what’s on your wish lists!

Happy Halloween (or Hallowe’en, if you’re particular), precious ones!

In honor of the holiday, today’s Wish List Wednesday title is a creepy Gothic from the way back machine. It’s Evelyn Berckman’s The Heir of Starvelings (isn’t that a deliciously Gothic title?), and here be the book’s synopsis, courtesy of Fiction DB:

Lovely Davina Milne refused to stay away from Starvelings because of its sinister reputation. Village talk about the evil Lord Stanyon and his reclusive wife could not keep her from the youthful heir of the manor who so clearly and painfully needed her. But when the lovely young girl entered the bleak mansion, she found herself moving ever deeper into a labyrinth of fearful secrets. And when suddenly she could no longer ignore the dark chasm opening before her unbelieving eyes, she realized escape had become impossible…

Now doesn’t that just give you the creeps in a very good way?

I can’t remember where I heard of The Heir of Starvelings, but I strongly suspect it was from browsing the huge archives of vintage paperback covers over at Book Scans Database. Please visit Book Scans, by the way — the good people there are not getting nearly enough credit for the wonderful work they do!

I put the book on my Wish List on April 26th of this year.

As to why I haven’t made the purchase yet, I’m embarrassed to say I stuck this on my Wish List and promptly started wishing for 1000000000 other things. For once, the problem is not lack of copies to choose from; unlike most Gothics, there are more than just a few raggedy paperback copies to choose from. The Heir of Starvelings, which was first published in 1967,  has gone through more than one printing, and was even published in hardback. That says more about the author, Evelyn Berckman, than about the Gothic genre, which was, unfortunately, infamous for churning out forgettable books by forgettable authors during the genre’s 1960s-1970s heyday.

In fact, it’s the story of the author as much as this book that intrigues me. While The Heir of Starvelings most certainly hews to almost all Gothic conventions, as do many of Berckman’s books, Berckman is rarely identified as a Gothic author, but instead as a mystery/thriller author. This, however, may be a case of a rose by any other name; according to her Goodreads bio, Berckman wrote “post-war detective fiction, horror and naval history, with a gift for engaging titles, featuring no one detective but a series of independent young women.” Hmm. That sounds strangely like the premise of many a Gothic to me.

The gift for engaging titles was strong with this one; in addition to the delightfully creepy The Heir of Starvelings, Berckman’s Gothic (or not) titles also include A Finger to Her Lips, No Known Grave, Wait, Just You Wait and the evocative The Victorian Album.

At any rate, Kirkus Reviews had no doubt that Berckman was writing Gothics, as summed up by this pithy 1967 review of The Heir of Starvelings:

True Gothicism. Complete with ragged innocent heir, a little boy entombed in the blackness of his home–nicknamed “”Starvelings”” by frightened villagers, a lovely governess who comes to take care of him having lost her true love, and the evil that his father and his father’s manservant represented. Miss Berckman can impart an air of doom to the sound of a broom. She’s almost too clever but it’s for the ladies who will thrill along.

I’ll just bet Ms. Berckman put a hex on that reviewer.


Author: J.E.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

2 thoughts on “Wish List Wednesday: The Heir of Starvelings by Evelyn Berckman

  1. This sounds enticing! I’ll have to add it to my increasingly epic wish list also.

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