The Dead Men Stood Together (book, Christopher Priestley, 2013)


From SFX #240.

FOUR STARS

Author: Christopher Priestley

Publisher: Bloomsbury

213 pages

Rime reloaded

Christopher Priestley brings us more nautical chills with this retelling of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner – you know the one: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s big poem, water, water everywhere, dead albatrosses, cursed sailors. That one.

We’ve plenty of time for Priestley, his horror stories are spooky in the manner of MR James. That they’re for kids is frankly irrelevant, they give us the willies too. His other gift – for crisp, uncluttered writing – is marvellously utilised to render Coleridge’s poem as prose. A new young protagonist gives us our viewpoint (he’s in one line in the poem), a fresh ending provides salvation, and much atmosphere is spun from Coleridge’s words along the way. It’s beautifully told, but for all that not as scary as some of Priestley’s other stories.

Did you know?

Coleridge – who was a philosopher as well as a poet – came up with the oft-used phrase “suspension of disbelief.”

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