Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Errol Lecale – The Death Box

Posted by demonik on May 16, 2009

Errol Lecale – The Death Box (Nel, 1974)

Death Box

Death Box

Review by Nighteader
As with the other ‘Specialist’ books this has a strong atmospheric opener. The steam-ship ‘Unity’ encounters a drifting tall ship in the calm waters of the Sargasso Sea, it’s sails set but it’s crew missing. On boarding the craft crusty old sea dog Captain Macneil finds provisions but no log book or charts, all seems to point to the Dutch ship’s Captain and crew abandoning the vessel. Captain Macneil decides to tow the ship back to London as salvage.

Eli Podgram, the Specialist in all occulty things, reads with interest the story in ‘The Times’ about the abandoned ship brought to the docks in London and the mystery surrounding her. He gets a whiff of the Twilight World and sets out to investigate. There’s a quick introduction of the rest of the team, big Hugo and deaf-mute Mara, a further recap (for those not familiar with the series) of Podgram’s history – how he was once bitten and turned into a vampire in his ancestral home in Transylvania, and how he proceeded to attack the young Mara in the woods thus terrifying her into being a deaf-mute, how he overcame his vampire curse with a blood tranfusion from a dying monk and in his guilt offers to care for the young girl he’d almost killed. Podgram’s brief journey into the Twilight World leaves him with a distinctive white cross in his hair. From then Eli Podgram vows to fight against the Twilight World and forms a close telepathic bond with the girl Mara and a strong friendship with Hugo, his muscular manservant.

It soon transpires there’s a vampire loose in London. Naturally not just any old vampire, this is Dagmar the Black, Archduke of Szlig in Lower Ruthenia, an Adept of the Black Arts. This is what I call a proper vampire, he’s tall and darkly dressed with a wide brimmed hat and burning eyes and a stench of decay about him. He hides his coffin filled with his native earth in a seedy lodging house and proceeds to feed off whoever gets in his way…

There’s lots of dramatic chasing around, Eli goes onto the Astral Plane, Mara is almost vamped and there’s a great finale in the British Museum. This was great fun, a bit of a cliché perhaps but it was just like reading a classic Hammer vampire flick – swirling fog in Victorian London, high melodrama, a bit of occulty stuff, proper fanged vampires with hypnotic eyes, and a big satisfying finale. A brilliant quick read I thought.

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