The giant under the snow, John Gordon (1968)

I must have been about ten or eleven when I first read this novel; it scared me silly then, and it’s still very powerful all these years later. In fact, on re-reading it now, I suspect the brooding atmosphere and dank landscape have influenced my own writing. The dripping trees and bare branches of the wood surrounding the barrow and the decaying backstreets of the un-named city are reminiscent of Alan Garner (another childhood favourite), and Gordon clearly draws on similar folklore.
On a school trip to a dark age barrow, the three protagonists, Jonquil, Arf and Bill find part of an ancient belt buckle. This is the trigger for the appearance of the terrifying leather men, bent on recovering the buckle. They discover that if it is reunited with its other half it may be used for great evil or great good. Its original owner wants it back, and guess what he would use it for.
Gordon is a masterful storyteller, whose effortless prose style convinces the reader of the most unlikely scenarios. I never found any other novels by him, as a teenager, but I see from the bibliography below that he has produced a regular output for young adults, since his debut with TGUTS in the late sixties.

John Gordon, a bibliography

Interview in Ghosts and Scholars

Reviews by young people


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