Brittany Stones – Blog #013 of the 160 “Pretty Faces” book cover Challenge
This is book #104 on the list of 160 books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the twelfth book I scratched out a cover for.
She witnessed a murder—and then unwittingly entered the killer’s castle.
Here’s a list of all five Gothic Romance Novels that were written by Mr. Fox as Lynna Cooper:
The original back cover description…
In the swirling London fog, Adele Putnam witnessed a very real murder—but when the killer and his victim later vanished, she began to doubt her senses. Her brother Michael told her to forget the incident and to accompany him to Brittany, where he intended to study the ancient monoliths of Carnac, similar to Stonehenge.
Adele was happy to go. Not only would she aid Michael in writing his book, but she could visit her girlhood friend Lysette, who had married the Count de Kerceval. But to her horror, she found that Lysette was dead, and the handsome grieving husband was none other than the man she’d seen in the London fog….
What are the Brittany/Carnac Stones?
Brittany Stones is not the name of the lead character, it’s the name of a place in the north-west of France. The Brittany Stones are also known as the Carnac Stones. They are stone alignments, much like Stonehenge in England, built by a prehistoric group of people.
This is a historical topic ripe with the ancient supernatural. The history of the Carnac Stones go back as far as man could write them down. The Stones are thought to have been erected as far back as 4500 BCE. The area is primarily in the town of Carnac, France. The area comprises of stone alignments, stone tombs, burial mounds, and single standing stones. I can see how Mr. Fox would have chosen this area as his setting for the story.
Although the stones date from 4500 BCE, modern myths were formed which resulted from 1st century AD Roman and later Christian occupations. A Christian myth associated with the stones held that they were pagan soldiers in pursuit of Pope Cornelius when he turned them to stone. Brittany has its own local versions of the Arthurian cycle. Local tradition claims that the reason they stand in such perfectly straight lines is that they are a Roman legion turned to stone by Merlin.
– From Wikipedia
There are also links to cults making human sacrifices. Back in the late 1960s to the late 1970s stories that were written around a cult were very popular in the paperbacks. Mr. Fox also used this motif many times in his paperback books. The sacrifice motif appears in his stories Druid Stone and Cherry Delight’s Silverfinger just to name a few.
Here’s a map of the Carnac area:
Now this Gothic story isn’t entirely about the Carnac Stones, it is about a brother/sister amateur archeology team that are out to solve the mystery of the Stones. Michael and Adele (Del) are the main characters. They travel to the Brittany Stones to get first hand knowledge of the area. Del is writing a book and uses the old reference material in the library of the Count’s castle. Del suspects the Count of being a murderer and the suspense increases when she agrees to stay in the castle to be able to study the manuscripts more indepthly and also find out if the Count is truly a murderer.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter six of Brittany Stones, were Del takes the Counts two children out for a picnic. She meets a local who gives her more insight about the surrounding area, including the Carnac Stones:
A sunny glade lay before us. I reined Champion toward it, the cart bouncing over roots and into ruts, much to the delight of the children who shouted in glee and clung to me with both hands.
Then we were spreading a blanket that was in the cart upon the ground. I swung the picnic hamper onto it and seated myself with Florian on one side and Yvette on the other. There were ham sandwiches, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs. I had not thought I was hungry; perhaps it was the open air, but we ate everything that had been in the hamper, even the crumbs.
It was while I was putting the hamper and the blanket in the cart that I saw the old man. He came trudging through the trees, a gnarled cane in his hand, head down and studying the ground before him. There was someone else with him, a tall man in loose shirt and somewhat baggy trousers who stayed much in the shadows of the boles. There was something about this bigger man that caught my eye, held it. His yellow hair was shaggy, windblown, and there was a wild, staring look in his eyes. At sight of us, he drew back further between the trees, as though afraid.
The old man continued on as he had been walking, unaware that his companion was no longer with him. Once he turned aside and skirted a patch of ground where mushrooms grew.
He started in surprise when he saw us. I called, “I hope I am not trespassing on your land, sir. We’ve just had ourselves a picnic.”
His stare went from me to the children. He came forward, shaking his head. “You are free to come and go here, mademoiselle. This land belongs to the chateau. My son works it as a tenant farmer, as I did before him, and pays rent to the count.”
He came closer, peering more sharply into my face. “Only make sure you do not walk where the mushrooms are.” His cane lifted, pointing. “That is where the corrigans come and dance.”
“The corrigans? More Breton fairies?”
His face grew grave. “You are English. You don’t understand these matters the way we do here. To walk where they dance is a bad omen. This is why the mushrooms grow there, as a warning.”
“I shall remember,” I promised. In an effort to make conversation, I said, “Your companion seems very shy.”
He looked at the trees, nodding. “It is my grandson Pol. He is a little simple, he is fearful of strangers. I take him with me on my walks to give him something to do.”
I sympathized with him. He informed me that Pol did chores about the farm, he was very strong, perhaps the strongest man in Brittany; but that his mind was so weak he must be watched constantly and given only simple orders. We spoke of many things, the old man and I. I told him I had been a girlhood friend of Lysette. He listened to me quietly, his wrinkled face vaguely worried.
His hand poked the cane at the ground, making tiny holes in the turf. “The old cults are being revived,” he said so softly that I had to strain my ears to hear.
My eyes touched Florian and Yvette where they played in the grass. The thought came into my mind that the old man spoke so softly because he did not wish the children to hear what he said.
I lowered my own voice.
“They are making sacrifices,” I murmured.
He nodded, his wrinkled face troubled. “As they did in the old, forgotten days, when they raised the stones.”
“Who raised the alignments?” I asked. “Do you know?”
“The old race, those people who were here in the land before the Celts came. It was they who worshiped strange gods, who erected the stones, who made sacrifice, as you say.”
The sharp black eyes studied my face. “What do you know of the old race? You mentioned sacrifices. That means you understand something of their ways.”
I told him about Michael and our researches. He listened gravely, attentively. When I was done, he shook his head. “It is dangerous, what you do. The corrigans will be displeased.”
“What of the Yann an Od? And the Night Shepherd?”
His eyes widened, and he made the Sign of the Cross. “You must not speak of them, lady. They are fearful creatures, both of them.”
“So I understand. It was the Yann an Od who killed Lady de Kerceval.”
“It was sad, very sad.”
If you’d like to read more of Brittany Stones – chapter One is available on The Gardner Francis Fox Library.
Originally published in 1974 by Beagle Books
The cover Artist: Uncredited (Who ever the artist was was crafty enough to leave a WF in the bottom right-hand corner.)
I digitally transcribed this book on my own in 2019.
I have to say that the original wrap-around cover is pretty impressive. It does have a hint of truth for what the story has going for it. There are ancient cultists and they are looking to sacrifice pretty young ladies.
I told my wife about the story plotting in Brittany Stones and she said it sounds like a Nancy Drew novel. I personally haven’t read any of the Nancy Drews, but I watched her and The Hardy Boys on TV as a young lad.
I enjoyed the story. I like how Mr. Fox wove the elements all together. You can see the ending coming from a mile away, but it ties off the whole thing very sweetly.
I create the cover illustrations to size. I work on 6 x 6 black Ampersand Scratchboard. The book covers are 6 x 9, which leaves 3 inches for text. I want a clean “Penguin Books” look and feel to the covers. I’m using the pretty faces motif to keep a unified look and feel to the whole library. The back cover has an image of the original cover, the date it was originally printed, and the original story description.
I used this photo from La Esmeralda’s stock account I found on Deviantart
I purposely chose this photo for the cliches. I wanted something very heavy with the Victorian Gothic appearance. La Esmeralda’s delivered. I did make her nose a little more crooked. For me, a pretty face has to have something that stands out and makes it feel original. I do not care for perfection in life or art. We must strive to become perfect in our lives, but only in the idea of becoming perfect.
I exhibited the original at a local show and it sold. The person who bought it said it was very striking and they had to have it.
Here’s a short video I put together of me working on the scratchboard process.
I have had many positive comments about the “new” covers. I feel pretty confident I will be able to do all 160 book covers.
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I will not be working on books in the order as Mr. Fox wrote them. I am doing the book cover designs based on when the transcribers who are assisting me, finish one. As they complete a book, it will be the newest release, so it will get a new book cover design. I also have to go back and replace the photo-bashed covers I made when I first started the Gardner Francis Fox Library in 2017.
Thank you for stopping by and finding out more about what I’m doing. You can also see all of the books that have been transcribed so far by visiting The Gardner Francis Fox Library’s official website.