Gilded Needles by Michael McDowell

Gilded Needles, Michael McDowell, 1980

My favorite quote: “You are falling into inanity,” said Judge Stallworth coldly. “I have told you, the lower classes do not take revenge upon the upper.” (P.S. – like hell, they don’t)

Notable characters: Black Lena Shanks; the family matriarch who heads a group of female criminals; Judge James Stallworth, her enemy; the twins, Ella and Rob, young expert pick-pockets 

Most memorable scene: When the Stallworth family receives invitations to their own funerals

Greatest strengths: While McDowell is a master at placing the reader in any scene he chooses, his descriptions of New York’s poor area, known as the Black Triangle, and his analysis of life there in the 1880s, stand out singularly as some of the best stuff I’ve read. Like, ever 

Standout achievements: More dark crime than horror, this book is not only beautifully written, but it brings into clear and terrifying focus the old adage that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Seriously … Gird your loins, ya’ll 

Fun Facts: Stephen King once described McDowell as “the finest writer of paperback originals in America today.” Not that I put a whole lot of stock into King’s recommendations at this point, but in this case, I agree  

Other media: N/A

What it taught me: Nobody brings a scene to life like McDowell and every time I read him, I come away with a new perspective and a deeper understanding of how it’s done. There is simply no way I could narrow down a single lesson I learned from this book

How it inspired me: There’s a character in this book called Weeping Mary, who dresses in widow’s weeds and attends funerals where she pretends to be grief-stricken in order to pick the pockets of the mourners. It’s from her and Black Lena Shanks that my character, The Black Wasp (from the Vampires of Crimson Cove series) was born. Though nothing like either woman (aside from the black clothes) the Black Wasp undoubtedly made her way to me through these two shady ladies

Additional thoughts: I only wish this one had been longer … 

Haunt me:

Published by Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. First published in 2012, he has since co-authored The Cliffhouse Haunting and Mother with Tamara Thorne and is working on several other projects. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, was an Amazon bestseller. The Black Wasp, book 3 in The Vampires of Crimson Cove series is on its way. Find out more about him at: ********************************************************************************************* In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are currently writing several novels, including the next volume in the continuing gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Together, they hosted the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which featured such guests as Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, Kim Harrison of the Hollows series, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore. ********************************************************************************************** Currently, Thorne & Cross are hosts of Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where listeners can discover all manner of demented delights, unearth terrifying treasures, and explore the dark side of the arts.

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