This week we spoke to Kathryn Leigh Scott and Steve Smith, the reader and publisher respectively of a new series of audiobooks releases of the curious and compelling 1960s Dark Shadows audiobooks. Scott, a writer, and actress is well-remembered as waitress-turned-governess Maggie on the original show, and she reads the books with warmth and an awareness of how the actors playing many of the roles on the show actually talked. Steve Smith, the publisher for Oasis Audio, championed the licensing of the books, and bringing them to contemporary ears is a passion project for him.
The history of Dark Shadows in novel form is strange. From 1966 to 1972, Dan Ross wrote thirty-two gothic novels in the world of the classic soap opera Dark Shadows. Ross based the novels on the bible for the show that Dan Curtis and the creators of the show gave to him, and reportedly he was so busy churning out the books that his exposure to the show was limited to the writers' material. The result was astounding: a sprawling Dark Shadows continuity that ran simultaneously (and past) the life of the show with different plots, characters, and situations. The concept of an AU (alternate universe) is familiar to today's fandom, from Young Justice fanfic to whole swaths of Star Wars, but as with many things, Dark Shadows got there first.
The books are a time warp: the books bustle with casual references to the world outside Collinsport, the weird little fishing village ruled in dissipated drear by the Collins family. We hear about the watusi, brand-new 60s convertibles, and dangerous-looking hippies. But without cell phones, 24/360 TV or the Internet, the world is not so different from that of Jane Eyre. This makes the 60s is an ideal time in which to place a gothic novel because ingénues can still go to mansions and insinuate themselves into the mysterious lives of those who live there.
The books also broadened the scope of Dark Shadows, so that the estate now has multiple houses, theaters, and spooky surroundings, and of course the deadly Widow's Hill cliff. Whole troupes of visitors arrive, including mysterious ballet companies and werewolves in disguise.
The books are instantly recognizable with their cover oval frame around paintings and then photos (although often the cast photos on the covers often had nothing to do with the story.) For years they've been difficult to find except on eBay or in vintage bookstores. Having these new versions is a treat for fans, but it's a way into a strange world that new listeners will find enticing.
We chatted with Kathryn Leigh Scott first, then Steve. Listen here:
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The Team: Hosted by Jason Henderson, editor of the Castle of Horror Anthology and Young Captain Nemo, and creator of the HarperTeen novel series Alex Van Helsing.