Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 18, 2010

R.I.P. V: Salem Brownstone

DSC00836by John Harris Dunning & Nikhil Singh

My fourth and final selection for the Peril the First portion of R.I.P. V is somewhat ambiguous. In September and the first half of October I read three books that I had picked specifically with R.I.P. V in mind, and read an additional book that just happened to fit the theme. These books were The Yellow Room Conspiracy by Peter Dickinson (chosen because in the past Dickinson’s mystery writing has made me a bit jumpy), The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle (because Beagle without fail pulls off a fine darkly fantastical tale), The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier (my first foray into the haunting and atmospheric worlds of Du Maurier), and of course Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez/translated by Helen Lane (which, with its focus on a dead body, seemed quite suitable). Somehow though, all of these books fell short of my expectations in some manor (with the exception of Santa Evita, which I just decided not to cross pollinate into R.I.P. V since it was selected for a different purpose originally).

The Dickenson was an intriguing tangle of family scandals, but at no point was I on the edge of my seat in shivery anticipation. The Beagle had women raised from the dead drifting about in a half alive state, and wizards half dead in the thirst for power, but it was mostly an exciting tale with a surprising lack of his usual melancholy. The Du Maurier was about mistaken identities and was set in a huge chalet in the wild French countryside, but I felt constantly one step ahead of the main character and the house ended up being rather luxurious and well lit… Good books all, (I was disappointed in the Du Maurier, but still rather liked it). They just didn’t speak to my autumnal mood to the extent that I wished.


So, to come back to Salem Brownstone – I found it at my local bookstore and was immediately grabbed by its purple cover and intense black and white illustrations. A graphic novel seemed just the thing to wrap up my specific Peril the First reading. It was definitely a curious book, a little simplistic in storyline, but wildly imaginative in its visuals. Salem Brownstone finds out that the father he never knew has died and left him his mansion. Salem visits the mansion and is immediately caught up in a battle to fend off the soul-eating beings of a shadow world, with a beautiful contortionist from a traveling circus as his companion. There is so much detail in each frame of the panels – after a swift read-through, I felt compelled to go back through and study the drawings at length. While a mildly dark humor infuses the text, an even more subtle humor is laced through the drawings. There are some seriously strange characters and locations, and while the dialog and narration didn’t knock me off my feet, the illustrations more than make up for it.

peril the firstSo there you have it – officially I’ve completed the Peril the First portion of R.I.P. V by reading four books that fit into Carl’s loose guidelines. I still have plenty of time to read more short stories and get some spooky movies watched before the end of the month! And of course, plenty more beer to drink: enjoy a Harvest Ale from Long Trail Brewing Company (Bridgewater Corners, VT), or an Autumn Ale from D. L. Geary Brewing Company (Portland, ME).

I’m also hoping to find time between moving house (for the last time I hope – year-round housing and a proper home for my books is just a few weeks away!), and biding farewell to friends and coworkers who are leaving me for warmer, more fun locations (darn local seasonal economy…although I’m grateful for my year-round employment!) to carve another pumpkin before the month is out. Here’s what will probably (realistically) be my only edition to the jack ‘o lantern population for this year though (and my first jack ‘o lantern ever, odd as that may seem!):


  1. That’s your first jack-o-lantern ever?? Crazy! It’s way cooler than any of the ones I’ve made over the years. 🙂

    The visuals in this graphic novel look amazing. Sort of Aubrey Beardsley influenced, perhaps, and I love his style.

    • Thanks Emily! Thank goodness for patterns and little saws out of pumpkin carving kits – plus a bit more dexterity than I knew I possessed! I couldn’t have pulled it off with a kitchen knife, that’s for sure.

      The illustrations in Salem Brownstone are definitely super cool – I hope the Nikhil Singh does more. I need to look the authors up actually, and see if they have any other work!

  2. A purple cover is always worth checking out 🙂

    And that jack-o-lantern is brilliant!

    • Haha, I totally agree! And thanks – my poor fiendish friends are starting to die by now though… I really will have to make another jack ‘o lantern – my new home will need a Halloween guest after all. 🙂

  3. This one looks and sounds great. Unfortunately my library doesn’t seem to have it so I’ll have to check inter library loan. Love the illustrations. I’m afraid if I see it in the bookstore it may find its way home with me. 🙂

    • Yes it’s a dangerous one. I only held out over the course of two visits to the book store, but after seeing it for the third time I caved!

  4. I am not creative when it comes to pumpkin carving at all! And, if you put a pumpkin on my doorstep guaranteed it will be smashed on the road the next day…

    • That’s a bummer – the pumpkin smashing part I mean! I took great pleasure in smashing my own pumpkin, once it had started rotting and withering away though. 🙂

  5. […] Reviews – Books: The Haunting of Hill House Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby Salem Brownstone […]

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