Ghoulishly gruesome - perfect for Halloween terror!
Priestley’s first ever full-length novel for children, The Dead of Winter, is a supernatural tale of a bygone era.
A young boy, Michael, is approached at the graveside of his recently departed mother. Suddenly an orphan, Michael is more than a little distracted by his own predicament and grief. It is bewildering, then, for him to discover that he has been made ward of a certain Sir Stephen – the man who has been the benefactor of his shrunken family, and the man who was the cause of his father’s premature death. If this news in itself was not shock enough, Michael is informed that his presence is required at Sir Stephen’s home: Hawton Mere, the following day. A sense of dread and foreboding begin their awful descent on this unfortunate young boy; but dread and foreboding are to be the least of his troubles once he enters that terrible house.
A traditional haunted house story, The Dead of Winter, sets itself apart by the austerity of the gristle. Emphasising the truism that nothing is more terrifying than one’s own imagination, Priestley offers glimpses rather than full-blown appearances of the spectres that plague Hawton Mere. The existence of a dark, dank priest’s hole that essentially entombed a priest alive is guaranteed to give shivers; whilst the imagery of some monstrous spider at the core of the house is a powerful scare tactic that penetrates the subconscious mind, bringing with it an inescapable and growing feeling of impending doom. Perpetuating the fear factor is the author’s choice of adjectives to describe the environs and its depiction as gloomy, remote, lifelessness and cold. Everything about The Dead of Winter screams horror! But it is the wraithlike figure at the end that is truly terrifying.
Priestley is a master storyteller flexing his muscles and discovering (at last) he can carry off a full-length novel. If you like the macabre, uneasy suspense of a good old fashioned haunting – there’s no one better at it than Priestley.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012