A fish out of water

Long Island
Long Island, New York, from an early map

Kathryn L Ramage Maiden in Light Wapshott Press 2011

Jane Austen and H P Lovecraft may once have been strange bedfellows, but the recent trend of re-imagining 19th-century romances as vampire and zombie tales renders this marriage made in hell less surprising. Kathryn Ramage dedicates Maiden in Light to these two authors, though the resulting novel is not the undead romcom that you might otherwise expect. Instead we have here an engaging novel mixing social observation, convincing character development and palpable suspense, all set in an alternate world consistent within its constructed parameters.

Laurel is a fish out of water in the 20th-century yet medieval town that is New York, stuck in a family intent on matching daughters with appropriate suitors while discovering herself a tomboy with burgeoning magical abilities. She is summoned to her uncle’s castle of Wizardes Cliff at the eastern end of Long Island where she quickly comes into her own as a sorcerer’s apprentice, before her curiosity causes her to stumble on the dread secrets that form all wizards’ responsibilities, the stuff of her nightmares. Continue reading “A fish out of water”

To the Dark Tower

city

Kathryn L Ramage
The Wizard’s Son
Wapshott Press 2009

The British folktale of Childe Rowland has had a lasting influence on English literature. The youngest of three brothers, Rowland has to rescue his sister Elen and his elder brothers from the King of Elfland following Elen’s disappearance, Persephone-like, chasing a ball. With an enchanted sword he manages to track the King to his enchanted castle (also known as the Dark Tower) and defeat him. A few lines from a ballad (“Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower came…”) re-appeared in Shakespeare’s King Lear, the narrative also furnishing the plot to John Milton’s Comus and becoming the inspiration for Browning’s famous poem, and finally in the 21st century the elements of plot, name and relationships re-appear, I believe, in Ramage’s The Wizard’s Son to help elucidate what is otherwise a very puzzling story. Continue reading “To the Dark Tower”

A tortured but decent sleuth

Marsh Hall
Audley End, Essex

Kathryn L Ramage Death Among the Marshes:
A Murder Mystery Set in the Twenties
Edited by Ginger Mayerson
Storylandia, The Wapshott Journal of Fiction Issue 10
The Wapshott Press, Summer 2013

The detective with a notebook is a commonplace in murder mysteries, and Death Among the Marshes pays homage to this trope, not once but twice – the investigating police detective brings one out, as does Billy Watkins, the manservant of the main protagonist Frederick Babington. Set in the early twenties, this clever novella also gives specific mentions both to the Sherlock Holmes stories and to the first of the Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). Set in the fictional Norfolk pile of Marsh Hall, seat of Viscount Marshbourne, by the village of Marshbanks, Death Among the Marshes is Kathryn Ramage’s way of having fun with the country house mystery genre while also acknowledging that living in the aftermath of the Great War was no less difficult for many returning soldiers than surviving the actual conflict.

As with the detective the reader may well resort to a notebook to make sense of the complicated relationships and possible motives of the actors in this story. Continue reading “A tortured but decent sleuth”