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John William Gordon
Gordon in 2006
Gordon in 2006
Born (1925-11-19)19 November 1925
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, England
Died 20 November 2017(2017-11-20) (aged 92)
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality English
Education Wisbech Grammar School
Genre Teenage supernatural fiction
Notable works The Giant Under the Snow;
The House on the Brink;
The Ghost on the Hill;
The Burning Baby and Other Ghosts

John (Jack) William Gordon (19 November 1925 – 20 November 2017) was an English writer of young-adult supernatural fiction. He wrote sixteen fantasy novels including The Giant Under the Snow, four short story collections, over fifty short stories, and a teenage memoir.

Most of Gordon's novels are in the supernatural fantasy and horror genres and feature teenagers in the central roles. The adventures are often set in the Fens, an environment Gordon found mysterious and inspirational in his own adolescence, and contain elements of East Anglian folklore such as the doom dog – Black Shuck. His work has been compared to that of the acclaimed ghost novelist M.R. James. Indeed, The House on the Brink (1970) is regarded by admirers as one of the greatest novels in the Jamesian Tradition.

His short stories have appeared in more than 50 anthologies and other publications and he is included in The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English. His work has been translated into many languages, including Russian, Japanese, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Czech, Spanish, Polish and Lithuanian.

Life

Born in the industrial North-East (Jarrow, Tyne and Wear), Gordon moved to the Fens (Wisbech in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire) with his family at the age of twelve, where he attended Wisbech Grammar School. The contrast of its flat, rural landscape had a profound effect on the young Geordie and inspired him to write many of his most popular stories including The House on the Brink, its sequel Ride the Wind, and Fen Runners.

Gordon served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, on minesweepers and destroyers, and afterwards worked as a journalist in the West Country and East Anglia. During his time working on The Eastern Evening News in Norwich he wrote his first novel, The Giant Under the Snow.

Although Norwich and its cathedral may have been the inspiration for parts of this book, it was the Fens of Gordon's youth that set the backdrop for most of his stories. As a reporter in Wisbech he cycled many miles covering events in the Fens, especially in the village of Upwell where his future wife Sylvia Young lived. Inspired by the landscape, Gordon had said: "I've often thought that the flat fenland is like an open book and it has always filled my mind with stories."

Many of his books feature Wisbech locations: Peckover House, Wisbech Museum, Wisbech Castle grounds, High Street, the Market Place and its pubs, The Crescent and The Park. Other locations in the Fens include Pingle Bridge in Upwell and the Fen rivers, particularly the River Nene.

Throughout his career Gordon's wife Sylvia was instrumental in editing and collating his work.

Eight years after the publication of his last novel (Fen Runners, 2009) and after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease Gordon died aged 92 in Norwich, the city where he lived and worked for much of his life.

Books

Novels

  • The Giant Under the Snow (1968)
  • The House on the Brink (1970)
  • The Ghost on the Hill (1976)
  • The Waterfall Box (1978)
  • The Edge of the World (1983)
  • The Quelling Eye (1986)
  • The Grasshopper (1987)
  • Ride the Wind (1989) – sequel to The Giant Under the Snow
  • Secret Corridor (1990)
  • Blood Brothers (1991)
  • Gilray's Ghost (1995)
  • The Flesh Eater (1998)
  • The Midwinter Watch (1998) – The Guardian Children's Book of the Week
  • Skinners (1999)
  • The Ghosts of Blacklode (2002)
  • Fen Runners (2009)

Collections

  • The Spitfire Grave and Other Stories (1979)
  • Catch Your Death and other ghost stories (1984)
  • The Burning Baby and other ghosts (1992)
  • Left in the Dark: The Supernatural Tales of John Gordon (2006)

Anthologies edited (selected)

  • The Walker Book of Ghost Stories (1990)
  • Best New Horror 4 (1993)
  • The Young OXFORD Book of Ghost Stories (1994)
  • The Puffin Book of Horror Stories (1994)
  • Dancing with the Dark (1997)
  • The Mammoth Book of Dracula: Vampire Tales for the New Millennium (1997)
  • Best New Horror 18 (2007)

Autobiography

  • Ordinary Seaman – a teenage memoir (1992)
  • "John Gordon, Word Hunter" – an interview by Chris Stephenson, Carousel No. 33, June 2006
  • "John Gordon", St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers, edited by David Pringle. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1998, .
DOI: http://doi.org/10.24877/rt.16
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