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Gilded Needles

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Welcome to the Black Triangle, New York's decadent district of opium dens, gambling casinos, drunken sailors, gaudy hookers, and back room abortions. The queen of this unsavory neighborhood is Black Lena Shanks, whose family leads a ring of female criminals-women skilled in the art of cruelty.

Only a few blocks away, amidst the elegant mansions and lily-white reputations
Kindle Edition, 265 pages
Published June 25th 2015 by Valancourt Books (first published 1980)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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4.5 stars!

This book was SO MUCH fun! Set in the early 1880's in the city of New York in a district called The Black Triangle,(where crime runs rampant and poverty reigns), McDowell brings the city and this district vividly to life. Abortions, prostitution and gambling are just a few of the dark deeds that are common here.

Black Lena Shanks and family run their all female criminal empire here without interference from police or anyone else. That is until the The Tribune decides to run a series of
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: valancourt, revenge
4.5 stars!

GILDED NEEDLES, by Michael McDowell is another tale rich in atmosphere that has been re-released by Valancourt Books. I quickly became a McDowell fan after reading some of his supernatural-themed titles. In Gilded Needles, he takes a much different approach. We are presented with an elaborately vivid tale of two vastly different families living in New York.

The Shanks family, headed by matriarch Black Lena Shanks, live in the "wicked", poor area known as the Black Triangle. They have
Jon Recluse
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, thriller
A dark historical thriller set in the infamous Black Triangle of 1880s New York, where crime is rampant, every vice is available for a price, and even the law can be bought.
When a "crusading" judge declares war on an all female criminal empire by sentencing three of its members to death, his entire family receives invitations to their own funerals in the opening salvo of a campaign of revenge and terror from the "queen" of the Black Triangle......Black Lena Shanks.

And Hell hath no fury....

Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
“You are falling into inanity,” said Judge Stallworth coldly. “I have told you, the lower classes do not take revenge upon the upper."

My third McDowell and I think I am a little in love with his writing. How else did I just enjoy a work of horror fiction with a blood-curdling and violent revenge plot at the heart of its story?

In an earlier update I mentioned that I could see some similarities between Gilded Needles and The Godfather. I still believe this is true. Except that Black Lena Shanks
Nancy Oakes
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gilded Needles is without a doubt one of the darkest, creepiest tales of revenge that I've ever had the pleasure to have read.

The setting of Gilded Needles is New York, 1882. The first thing that struck me on opening the book was the most excellent panoramic view of the city as the old year changes into the new. The author provides us here with a glimpse across the spectrum into what's happening at that moment, giving us a peek at the lives of "... the poor whose poverty was such that they
This book didn’t grab me at first. But after continuing through, I did end up enjoying it. I’ve been a fan of some of McDowell’s other books, and I’d rate this one just like those - very well written, especially effective settings and a good story. I wouldn’t classify this as a horror, more of a thriller, I guess. Worth the read!
Tom Mathews
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It may seem counterintuitive but some of the best horror I’ve read has no supernatural elements in it at all. Michael McDowell’s Gilded Needles is just such a book. The Alabama native applied his mastery of the Southern Gothic genre with all of its genteel depravity, racism political machination and wretched poverty, and applied it to the most unlikely setting, Manhattan.

Set in the New York City in 1882, it is an eminently believable story of hatred and revenge pitting two families, the staid
The upper class Stallworths, looking to gain political favour, decide to wage war on the sqalid NY district called The Black Triangle. The Shanks family, known for all manner of criminal activity, get caught in the crosshairs of the family's investigations in the area. When matters turn deadly, Black Lena decides to seek vengeance for the loss of her kin.
Set in the late 1800s, this book is rich in historical detail and you get a complete sense of the era. The authors descriptions of life in the
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
Great story that's very different for this author. It's fictional history with horrors that are 100% believable, but not really Horror.

The Audible version, at times, sounds like the old show "The Untouchables" because of the narrator's voice, but he does decent voices. There are a LOT of characters and things to think about, so while you're thinking about one thing you might lose track and need to hit the "Back 30" button. lol

Great, great story!
Lukas Anthony
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...

"Gilded Needles" is the tale of an all-female crime circuit and the lengths they go to exact revenge on a judge who prosecuted one of their family...and it's terrific!

I REALLY enjoyed this. I was expecting more of a horror theme based upon the author's previous work but in truth it's more of a crime drama that happens to have some murders thrown in. I thought the author did a great job setting up not only the seedy setting, but the characters (and
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Listened to this one on audio and dug it. The narrator did a great job. It was a little slow going in the beginning but found its grove in the later chapters.

Written very well, this one is pretty dark and the language reminded me bit of John Connolly’s Matthew Corbett’s series. That’s a good thing, btw.

Don’t be messin’ with the Shanks family. Lessens you want to get a party invite with your name on it. You don’t want that. Seriously.
*re-read 9/2016: rounding up to 5 stars!

4.5 stars!

GILDED NEEDLES, by Michael McDowell is another tale rich in atmosphere that has been re-released by Valancourt Books. I quickly became a McDowell fan after reading some of his supernatural-themed titles. In Gilded Needles, he takes a much different approach. We are presented with an elaborately vivid tale of two vastly different families living in New York.

The Shanks family, headed by matriarch Black Lena Shanks, live in the "wicked", poor area
Marie Helene
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-kindle, usa, fiction
3.5 stars

Not a book, but a Russian doll.

First doll. Here we have historical fiction (set up in New-York during the Gilded Age) and it is well documented by the author. Not bad, but where are we going?

Second doll. The aristocratic Stallorwths vs the lowly Shankses. We enter crime territory. To be honest this part of the story dragged

Third doll. About time. Revenge with a capital R! A truly scrumptious dish that was worth the wait

this is unlike any of the other Michael McDowell books I've read. I wouldn't say this one is his best but Black Lena is mean and devoted to seek her revenge.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gilded Needles is both twisted and entertaining and I loved reading every page of it. McDowell does a really good job of making you truly hate and despise certain characters throughout the story and that just makes the vengeance visited upon them even sweeter. The descriptions of the Black Triangle really left me with a bad taste in my mouth(the taste of stale beer mixed with the smell of an outhouse to be exact). For whatever reason I enjoyed feeling like I was thrown into this disgusting part ...more
I've enjoyed other Michael McDowell books very much, particularly his 6 volume Blackwater series and the scary horror tale The Elementals, but this revenge story was a pretty grim affair, populated as it was with mostly unpleasant, unsympathetic characters and winding down to a fairly predictable outcome.
Andi Rawson
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

Another great read from Michael McDowell. Gilded Needles is set in New York City in the late 1800's. For those who aren't familiar with McDowell's writing, his often formally written prose is laced with both subtle humor and outright wit. Although I felt that a few parts of the book could have been shorter, the story itself is captivating and well-paced.

The Stallworth's are a wealthy family living in one of New York's wealthier neighborhoods. The Shanks' are a family of criminals
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It had me guessing what would happen next. It was a fun twisted revenge story.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: valancourt, 2017
Gilded Needles is a sublime novel of revenge by Michael McDowell.

I'm not typically fond of stories set in New York City in the 19th century, although there are a few exceptions. I can gladly say that Gilded Needles is most certainly an exception, as by the time I was around 40% through this book (both ebook and audio), I could not stop reading.

An amazing, in depth analysis of life in New York City in 1882, McDowell pulls no punches in analysis of the Black Triangle neighborhood and those that
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read

Always a good read when written by Michael McDowell. Will be searching for another. Would recommend to others for sure
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic period piece set in Mew York in 1882 filled with revenge and murder. Two families, both with a grudge against the other, try to eliminate one another.
McDowell was a true master in whatever setting he chose and this book is a gem.
Benjamin Bauer
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Holy shit. A more satisfying revenge yarn you'd be hard-pressed to find. A practically Dickensian one no less!

Now, the back of the book, at least the Avon edition, makes it sound as though the Stallworths are the heroes and that Black Lena and her crew are the villains of this tale. Truthfully, this book doesn't concern itself with black and white delineations like that. Both sides do equally horrid things to one another. But contrary to the synopsis, I found Lena and her family immensely more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bleaker than Dickens' "Bleak House" McDowell's novel set in 1882 New York City details the horrific lengths individuals will go to in the face of death, poverty, and loss. The city is a character in itself, full of the dregs of society; pocket-picking street urchins, backstreet hustlers, swindling prostitutes, and a host of other law breakers. In the midst of this miasma of the destitute, stands the upper class, so divided from the poor they cannot even begin to comprehend the horribleness ...more
Neville Longbottom
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was definitely different than the three other books I’ve read from Michael McDowell, which were all southern gothic horror with supernatural elements. This switches gears entirely to be a revenge story in 1880s New York City with nothing supernatural. It’s definitely a harsh and gory story, but it takes a while for the actual revenge plot to get started.

I think the strong point of this book is the characters. Lena Shanks and her family of female criminals are super compelling. They have
Lee Dunning
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all the old books I've reread recently, this one held up the best over the passage of time. I've never read any of Michael McDowell's other books, which I'm sorry about now, so I may have to try to find old, used copies. Apparently, his work is normally more firmly entrenched in the horror genre, where "Gilded Needles" is very much set in the real world, albeit a harsh and dangerous one. The true horror, I suppose, is the means by which humans will subjugate and judge one another. There is no ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The supreme revenge taken by a invincible family of criminals on a "righteous" family of would-be saints and stern lawyers is mind-boggling. Filled with the terror of gory deaths and ruined lives, this novels stuns with its visceral intensity. What can I say? The immensely-talented man did it again!
Matthew Stefan
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Revenge Junkies
Beginning this book, I must say I was a bit bored. This book seemed to be a gothic repeat of Tale of Two Cities. This opinion didn't last. By the end of the book, I was grinning ear to ear as Black Lena got her revenge. It is a bit of a slow burn for the first 100 pages, but it really picks up towards the end. Overall, a very satisfying book!
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have heard great things about Michael McDowell, a horror author most prolific during the '80s. From my understanding, he was never super well-known (like Stephen King or Clive Barker) but his works have gained a cult following since his death in 1999. This is the first of his novels that I have read, and I am blown away by how much I enjoyed it.

Gilded Needles follows two very different families - the Stallworths and the Shankses - living in New York in 1882. The Stallworths are high class,
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating period piece focuses on a war between two families, one rich and captained by a judge, the other from the wrong side of the tracks and the law, headed by a German immigrant matriarch. The sympathies seem pretty firmly on the side of the criminals which is just one instance of the layered richness of this book.

The setting of New York City in the 1880's provides a great vehicle for an examination of power and its abuse and is faithfully rendered. I'm particularly interested in
Brittany (Lady Red)
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love this so much.
There’s an episode of Ripper Street called “Become Man” that is wonderful and tragic and made me fall for a fictional character.
This book is what I wished that episode would have been. Girl gags, poor people who use the fact that rich people think they’re stupid against them, lesbian characters that aren’t dead at the end, asshole fake moral people getting their just deserts, what’s not to like.
It’s also a beautiful edition published by Valencourt.
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Michael McDowell is a prolific horror writer who has distinguished himself with a varied body of work within the genre. He was born in Enterprise, Alabama, in 1950 and died of AIDS-related illness in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1999.

His first horror novel, The Amulet, relates the tragedies that befall various individuals who come in possession of a supernatural bracelet in a small town.