Leon Garfield Geoffrey Trease - Essay

Geoffrey Trease

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Leon Garfield has quickly established himself by general acclamation as one of the most gifted and individual writers for the older child. He has staked out a special corner for himself; one is tempted to say 'a graveyard plot', so macabre is his fancy, but that description would belie the vitality, the exuberant gusto, with which he claps his skeletal grip upon the bristling nape and sends his delicious frissons down the spine.

Those who seek absorption, and dislike short-story collections, need not be put off by the title of his new book, Mister Corbett's Ghost and other stories …, for there are only three stories, and two are of novella length. Both [novellas] have Mr Garfield's favourite period and setting, the seamier side of the 18th century…. Both, and the short story between them … are related in Mr Garfield's characteristic style, by turns humorous and horrific, earthy and fantastical, scintillant with new-minted phrases.

The style is superb. Of the content I am not so sure. It poses the question that always crops up at parents' meetings on children's reading tastes. Is horror undesirable, or does it provide a healthy release?… [I wish] that Mr Garfield, having given us four books of this genre, would emerge from the shadow of the gallows and exercise his splendid powers in a wider historical field. (p. 700)

Geoffrey Trease, in New Statesman (© 1969 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd), May 16, 1969.