I recall seeing the film by the same name, from director Richard Marquand, which is likely as obscure as this novel. Most times I try to read a book first before seeing the movie, but this time a movie-tie in novel (unable to locate for a long time), so every time I read the names of the characters and the reference to gothic manor I imagine the actual actors and building, the one used in the film Loseley House, England, UK. While many perhaps have never heard of either, allow me first to state the book is a well-crafted straightforward story from John Coyne, then again the reference material presents the same way and ideally for the fans of gothic dark mysterious manors, homes and in this case the mansion. Coyne, penned this novel early in his career, while not responsible for the cover, it does match the movie poster, all brewing for an ominous storyline, these types of tales always generate intrigue for a core of the horror fans, haunted house or sinister forces surrounding them. Now, he never truly achieved the heights of Stephen King, few ever did or do, but his novel Hobgoblin (1981) helped to identify his clear writing talents, along with The Searing.
The book, sadly is out of print, though as I found copies do still exist, the hardback with dust jacket, more difficult to locate, (my copy has the jacket in worn condition but a first printing, still holding up very well) most have the paperback, either way the tale reads nicely from the story and screenplay by legendary writer Jimmy Sangster. Noting this entire book, takes very little time to read, 186 pages, from Berkley Books, yet delivers on the occult and supernatural fronts well enough to keep the reader’s attention.
The story introduces two American architects Maggie and Peter, however we quickly learn that only Maggie gets an invitation to a prestigious location in England for a remodeling job, soon we discover no one is at the location leaving them puzzled over the tickets, the money advancement and other unique elements. Readers must remember the era which the story takes place in, there was no Google, or the internet and definitely no cellphones, oh how did we all survive? Anyway, an accident in the countryside causes them to arrive at the mansion, Ravenhurst, a place filled with a haunting legacy, and the encounter leads to the discovery of the true essence of the trip. There they meet five other guests, of varying degrees of wealth and prestigious means, they now know the reason for their summoning, however Maggie doesn’t, and along with hidden horrors there’s just one additional problem Peter, the uninvited guest. Now as the story isn’t too long, I shall refrain using the character names as much as possible as to avoid spoilers, except one needs to watch out for Mr. Mountolive. As for the other characters, for the most part they are well defined, as they tie back to the film, but the center core of the story reaches to riches of atmosphere, moors of fog, screams of terror, and all the clichés of haunted houses. Yet, it still drives the reader to explore these types of novels, knowing that the book takes liberties, realizing how some character possess talents, all providing gothic elements driving a creepy story. Some readers of gothic horror tales know the dialogue could lag, however not here, Coyne does a clear job of continuing the mystery to solid finish.
Therefore, if you like to venture back to the older gothic horror novels, this one might intrigue you to, visit a used bookstore, walk the rows of mysteries to discover, all the demonic satanic undertones fitting into a puzzling array of scenarios and guests with their own motives and secrets. Yes, it might seem a tad aged, but still a wonderful read, for those that like their horror filled with suspense, hunt for The Legacy.
Title: The Legacy
Author: John Coyne
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: April 1979
Reviewed Format: Hardback with Dust Jacket
You can find the book through third party vendors on Amazon: