Friday, 31 October 2014

Guardian Books Blog: Bringing up the Bodies for Halloween








Yesterday’s entry was a list of scarey stories for Halloween: Today’s appeared on the Guardian Books Blog and looks at gruesome graveyard scenes in all kinds of books. The piece is here at the Guardian, and this is how it begins:

However depressing the thud of earth on the coffin-lid may be, it is music compared to the rattle of gravel and thump of spades which heralds a premature and unreverend resurrection…
That’s from Dorothy L Sayers’s 1921 Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, as she describes the gruesome exhumation of a man who may have been murdered. The corpse is carried from the grave to the cemetery potting-shed in the middle of the night, so that a doctor can explore the entrails. 
Many of the creepiest encounters with corpses in books aren’t even supernatural. You don’t need anything extra to make bodies, coffins, graves and exhumations scary – but the odd ghostly touch doesn’t go amiss.

One of the most macabre is in the children’s classic Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner, when the young John Trenchard gets trapped in a church crypt with damaged coffins. He ends up lying alongside the skeleton of Colonel John “Blackbeard” Mohune, and, amid the bones and the hair – “I buckled to the distasteful work of rummaging the coffin” – finds a valuable locket with clues to a lost treasure.






Several of the books mentioned in the piece have featured on the blog – Andrew Miller’s Pure, Dumas Fils’s La Dame Aux Camelias, Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Graham Greene’s The Third Man, and Gregory Widen’s Blood Makes Noise (thanks again, Col!).

exhumation scene in The Third Man

The commentators at the Guardian came up with some great additions to the piece, and I’m sure blog readers can match them – let me know below if you can think of any notable coffin/graveyard scenes.

12 comments:

  1. Still not yet got the Halloween vibe though apparently we are watching The Cabin in the Woods and Drag me to Hell tonight, so that's my evening organised for me! Loved Widen's book and glad it offered some material for the post. Greene's Third Man should get logged at some point - and hopefully read thereafter.

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    1. The Widen fitted in nicely, thank you. I'm sure you must have come across some other corpse-raiding in your extensive reading....

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    2. Funny enough the Curtin book we chatted about recently - The Replay - involves a bit of this, though with more comedic undertones rather than macabre. I can't remember if the corpse in question had been actually buried or just laid out in preparation.

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    3. It's astonishing how many books there are with this trope once you start to think about it - I'm still coming up with ideas for the piece, when I should be moving on to the next Guardian topic!

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  2. Really enjoyed the article Moira, not least for expanding my knowledge of Albanian authors by 100%

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    1. Thanks Sergio. We all need an obscure author in our lives, and Kadare is mine....

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  3. Oh, Moira, this is a great, great post! I'm now thinking of all kinds of graveyard scenes from crime fiction. You never fail to inspire me!

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    1. thanks for the kind words, Margot, and now I'm really looking forward to reading your take on it....

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  4. Moira, I read your article at The Guardian Books Blog. didn't know Eva Peron's body went missing after she died. This is so strange. I hope to read about it online. Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd" might well be my next book by one of my favourite classics authors.

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    1. Thanks Prashant! I didn't know about Eva Peron's body till I read the book Col sent me - it was a good thriller. I think there's quite a bit about it online. Hardy is gloomy but good I always think....

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  5. A ghastly subject. I did get a book by Ismail Kadare recently: The Ghost Rider. I have no idea if it is good but it was in the mystery section, so I went for it.

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    1. Tracy, I haven't read that one, but I have liked all of his that I have read.

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