I hadn’t heard of Russell until I saw this Penguin edition somewhere. I love castles with ghosts in them, or at least I love reading about them and visiting them in the daylight. Not sure, if I would like to spend a night in one. So of course, I had to get it and eventually read it.
The fact that Russell worked for Playboy does show in a few of the stories – one or two stories have a link with sex and violence. The objectification of Playboy isn’t present though.
The first three stories – the S stories of “Sardonicus”, “Sagittarius”, and “Sanguinis” are apparently the three stories he is most widely known for. It was “Sardonicus”, a story about a physician who tracks to castle to deal with a man who makes an offer he can’t refuse. The ending of this story is particularly good. The other two S stories make use of Jekyll and Hyde as well as Elizabeth Bathory. The stories are good examples of why writers like Stephen King enjoy Russell. In fact, Russell’s Bathory is well done not only in terms of historical accuracy but also in terms of a believable reason.
But honesty, the best story in the collection is “The Runaway Lovers”. The title couple is pretty much what the story is about, but how Russell uses it is just so wonderfully twisted. The ending is just so great. Forget any upcoming superhero movie – I want this movie.
Most of the stories present wonderfully twisted and subtle endings, especially “The Cage” which closes the collection. Several stories have interlinked characters.