John Coyne - The Legacy (Coronet, 1980: Originally Berkley, 1979)
A birthright of living death.
Six came to claim it.
Six beautiful people arrive for a weekend in the country. Six guests of the unseen host who lies wasting away upstairs.
Five heirs to a mysterious Legacy watch the body of the sixth float to the side of the pool.
Four claim the unspeakable power of the Legacy, while a red stain spreads across the ceiling.
Three realise the Legacy has come to claim them.
And then there are two.
I've not seen the movie but the reviews I've read suggest it's a difficult to follow mess. The novel is "adapted from Jimmy Sangster's screenplay" and Coyne has certainly made a decent stab of it ....
Ravenshurst, Kent. The centuries old Luciferian Jason Mountolive is approaching death. On the plus side, he's finally located the present day incarnation of Margaret Walsingham, his soul mate, and the sixth person to share his mysterious 'Legacy'. Maggie lures designer Maggie Walsh to England from the States under the pretence of a contract, then instigates a minor motor accident in which her boyfriend Pete Danner's Triumph Bonnerville is busted up. Insisting that the crash was his chauffeur's fault, Mountolive invites them to spend the night at Ravenshurst while Danner's bike is fixed.
They are soon joined by five obscenely wealthy guests from across the globe: Clive Jackson, a big noise in the music biz with a thing for underage groupies: Karl Leibknecht, ex-Nazi, arms dealer and torturer: Barbara Kristenberg, fashion house designer; Maria Gabrielli, streetwalker made good; and Jacques Grandier, ruthless tycoon. Why do they all seem to think that Maggie's there for any other reason than the bike having been pranged? How come Jason was the picture of health when Maggie first set eyes on him but is reduced to a shriveled, clawed thing in an oxygen tent within hours? And why was he so insistent on forcing that strangely inscribed ring onto her finger?
One way or another, everybody at Ravenshurst owes their fortune to Mountolive. Each of them is a Luciferian. And, very soon, it is apparent that one of them is intent on getting their hands on the Legacy at the expense of the others. After the first couple of murders, Danner steals a Rolls and attempts to escape with Maggie, but all roads lead back to the estate so they're forced to spectate more deaths by drowning, burning, choking on a chicken-bone, etc. Then there are the super-sinister staff to contend with - could one of them be behind the murders?
The movie starred Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott and Roger Daltrey. Perhaps ominously, there was a theme song, Another Side Of Me by Kiki Dee ...
Blimey! You used to pile through 'em in the old days didn't you Dem? I've just finished Phobia (which Jimmy S had a hand in too) and will bung up a cover/review soon. I had a feeling this one had turned up here. I've got the same Coronet edition - nearly finished it. Saw the film on the big screen back in the day. The book's intriguing with some good sections. The old 'all roads lead back to where you started from' ploy is good for a shiver. Escape on horseback? You've got to be joking. A cat with a crossbow? It all makes sense while you're reading. More of a murder mystery with a vague sense of unease floating around. Nurse Adams habit of turning up all the time is pretty scarey too.
The Lurker In The Shadows
I recall reading that Jimmy Sangster was deeply unimpressed with what they turned his script into on "The Legacy". After years of Hammer horrors in creaky old mansions and castles, he'd written a story set in a disused Baltimore hospital, which the producers immediately went and changed to a creaky old mansion.
John Llewelyn Probert
I also recall reading that Sangster became even more depressed when the novelisation above became a bestseller in the UK
I really can't think why - the film wasn't that successful was it?
John Llewelyn Probert
No it wasn't - that was the weird thing. The film didn't do very good business at all but the book went to the top of the charts. Maybe the distribution was unusually good. It was even in the Abergavenny branch of Woolworths!
It's a pretty good, easy to read novel. I've ..erm...tossed it off in a couple of days. Good bloodthirsty ending. I'd like to see the film again.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.