Skip to content

The Giant Under The Snow by John Gordon

September 24, 2018

John Gordon was born in 1925, (also known as Jack Gordon), gained fame as an English writer of adolescent supernatural fiction. At the age of 12 his family moved to Wisbech from Jarrow in Tyne and Wear. The contrast of the flat, rural landscape had a profound effect on him and inspired him to write many of his most popular stories.

He 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. It was during his time working as sub-editor on The Eastern Evening News in Norwich that he wrote his first novel, The Giant Under The Snow (1968). Although Norwich and its cathedral may have been the inspiration for parts of this book, it was the Fens that set the backdrop for most of his stories.

I was first given a copy of this book about 20 years ago from an old school friend who knew that I had always been a huge fan of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and he thought this to be a similar novel. He was right, I loved it and still read it and it’s sequel ‘Ride The Wind’ as an adult today. The cover illustrations are somewhat magical too.

Bearing in mind that this is a children’s book, the synopsis is this… One snowy Christmas, three children accidentally uncover a rusted old relic that contains a mysterious and dangerous power, plunging them into a strange world of ancient legends and magic. Their find resurrects an evil Warlord and his army of thin, spidery Leathermen who will stop at nothing to gain the relic for themselves. In a desperate race against time, the children must return the relic to its rightful owner–as whoever possesses it can wake an unbelievably huge and powerful force of nature–one that has lain asleep for centuries underground and use it for good or unstoppable evil.

Due to the book’s popularity, Orion Children’s Books decided to republish The Giant Under The Snow in April 2006. The revised edition had a new cover design by fantasy artist Geoff Taylor and new chapter head illustrations by Gary Blythe. Since 1968 the original story has remained fairly timeless; however, it was deemed necessary for the author to make some minor updates to the language (e.g. changing “gym shoes” to “trainers”). John Gordon also took the opportunity to clarify the origin of the Green Man in relevant chapters.

He authored 15 fantasy novels, four short story collections, over fifty short stories and a teenage memoir. Most of his 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 he found mysterious and inspirational while growing up. His books contain elements of East Anglian folklore such as the doom dog – Black Shuck. As a reporter in Wisbech he cycled many miles covering events in the Fens, especially in the village of Upwell. Many of his books feature Wisbech locations: Peckover House, Wisbech Museum, Wisbech Castle grounds, High Street, Market Place and pubs, The Crescent and the Park.

His work has been compared to that of the acclaimed ghost novelist M.R. James and his novel, The House on the Brink (1970) is regarded as one of the greatest novels in the Jamesian Tradition.

His work was published in the USA and in translation in Japan and various European countries. Throughout his career, his wife Sylvia was instrumental in the editing and collation of his work. Sadly John passed away in November of last year at the age of 92 and after a long battle with Alzheimers. I’ve just finished his last novel “Fen Runners” from 2009.

I thought this article was a very interesting insight into how John worked and how words were so very important to him.

In 2015 there were initial talks on the idea of making a film of the book, which promises to be a dark and chilling adaptation.

From info dated in 2017, there appears to be some headway,

even some inspirational artwork by Illustrator Davide Frisoni,

but talks are of needing additional funding and sadly there’s still no release date….. watch this space!

Have you read any other great supernatural/ magical tales either as a child or more recently ? Share your favourite reads with us.








No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: