EDWINA NOONE – Dark Cypress.

Ace K-213, paperback original; 1st printing, 1965. Reprinted at least once.


   Edwina Noone was, as you might have guessed, if you didn’t already know, one of the pseudonyms of Michael Avallone, one of more prolific writers of the 60s and 70s. As the author of a long armful of detective novels, his primary private eye character — and probably his favorite — was the inimitable Ed Noon, the books in which he appeared I should really unpack and read again soon.

   Avallone as Noone stays totally within the restrictions of the gothic romance novel, however, as practiced in the 60s and 70s, and except for sheer readability, perhaps, there’s nothing in this tale’s style of writing to suggest that it was Avallone who was really at the wheel.

   We move from Cornwall (see my earlier review of The Shadow of Polperro, by Frances Cowen) to Connecticut. From the present day when the previous book took place, we shift in time to some unidentified period in the past. Rather than a desolate castle on a rocky coastline, the focus is instead a grove of cypress trees surrounding a bathing pool behind a huge manor house.


   A young girl comes to be the tutor of a young motherless boy, his aloof father and two servants the only other occupants of a house that’s full of secrets. Many another gothic novel has started in very much the same way. The boy’s older brother is dead, drowned in the pool behind the house, a magnificent lad; a prodigy, the housekeeper says. The mother had died at childbirth. The younger boy never knew her.

   Very atmospheric, and although you can read pages at a single glance, the tension builds so that you can all but feel it. Built to a formula, but in the hands of a man (in this case) born to write, formulas can also have substance.

— January 2003

[UPDATE] 01-12-09. Another reason you should go back to the review I posted of The Shadow of Polperro is that in the comments afterward Xavier Lechard and I had a brief exchange about the formula that most gothics were structured on, plus a display of a few of their covers in their French incarnations.

   The following list does not include all of the gothic romances written by the late Michael Avallone, only the ones for which his Edwina Noone byline was used. (He also wrote gothics as by Priscilla Dalton, Jean-Anne de Pre, Dora Highland and Dorothea Nile.) Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

NOONE, EDWINA. Pseudonym of Michael Avallone.

      Corridor of Whispers (n.) Ace 1965
      Dark Cypress (n.) Ace 1965
      Heirloom of Tragedy (n.) Lancer 1965
      Daughter of Darkness (n.) Signet 1966
      The Second Secret (n.) Belmont 1966
      The Victorian Crown (n.) Belmont 1966


      Seacliffe (n.) Signet 1968


      The Craghold Legacy (n.) Beagle 1971
      The Cloisonne Vase (n.) Curtis 1972
      The Craghold Creatures (n.) Beagle 1972
      The Craghold Curse (n.) Beagle 1972
      The Craghold Crypt (n.) Curtis 1973

   Of the two covers shown, note that the first is a stylized version containing all of the traditional ingredients, while the second features photographed models, rarely used for gothics, with a close-up shot of only their faces.

   The book itself was marketed as “a novel of high romance,” so it was an obvious attempt to move away from the typical gothic novel. Nonetheless the blurb on the front cover gives it away: “… dark tale of foreboding love between the daughter of a Yankee captain and a mysterious seafaring stranger, on the windswept coast of Maine.”