Leon Garfield C. S. Hannabuss - Essay

C. S. Hannabuss

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The richly styled atmospherics of Leon Garfield form one of the salient literary features in the landscape of the last decade and a half of children's books…. [His] tales of misty derring-do, replete with coincidental encounters and nightmare villainies that work an insidious chemistry on the imagination of the reader, will remain on booklists for a long while. Nevertheless the strength of stories like Devil-in-the-Fog and Black Jack and Smith should be seen side by side with the pastiche heaviness of Child O'War, the manneristic parody of The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris, and now the sense of self-imitation that arises in The Sound of Coaches….

The play's the same but the company are tired after a long season. Episodes trickle along, description doing the work of action. The characters are not able to support this amplitude, for they thrive in the pell-mell that continually entertains and delightfully confuses the reader. The greater scope to show the hero's feelings is impaired by a hang-dog prolixity with none of the wry self-knowledge that exonerates, say, Tom Jones from being tiresome. The Sound of Coaches has few of the haunting harmonics one yearns to hear again: in fact it is rather a weary sound, going on a bit too long. (p. 110)

C. S. Hannabuss, in Children's Book Review (© 1974 Five Owls Press Ltd.; all rights reserved), Autumn, 1974.