Three evenings with the Green Man
It’s the season, isn’t it?
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one: there’s a haunted inn on the road to Cambridge, called The Green Man. It’s haunted by the ghost of a 17th century dabbler in the mystical arts, a man that was denied a proper burial because of his trafficking with pagan rituals, and maybe because he killed his wife. And there’s the current owner of the inn, slowly soaking himself in scotch, and trying to get both his wife and his mistress in the same bed together. And maybe he sees ghosts, or maybe it’s just DT.
And there’s a bit of satire of the Cambridge environment, and of academia, and of modern people and of modern Church. And God makes an appearance, and everything is so witty, and sometimes so sexy, it’s hard to believe it can also be so scary.
It’s Kingsley Amis’ The Green Man.
Kingsley Amis’s The Green Men was published in 1969, mixing folk horror and the traditional ghost story in the stuyle of M.R. James with sharp satire and comedy of manners.
Amis was trying to break the walls of genre and literary fiction, and The Green Man was his attempt at supernatural horror.
And it did quite work.
Granted, M.R. James would have been shaken at the amount of promiscuity that peppers Amis’ novel, but the end result is still quite effective.
The novel was turned into a BBC miniseries in 1990, and I’ve spent the last three evenings enjoying the show – with a wonderful Albert Finney in the role of the confused and terminally randy hotel owner that becomes a pawn in the war between Heaven and Hell.
The ghostly and frankly sinister Doctor Underhill needs someone to act in the real world and recover a pagan idol in silver that gives him control over – among other things – an evil tree standing on the hill facing the Green Man Inn.
But it’s slightly more complicated than that.
Beautifully shot in the English countryside, with a great cast and a great selection of jazz standards on the soundtrack, it was a delight.
A scary delight at times, a naughty delight at others, but really, a good show.
Should you be interested, there is a viable copy on YouTube, and the series was also distributed on DVD.
It is well worth checking out.
And the novel too.
I was never a fan of Amis, but The Green Man is an excellent addition to the supernatural bookshelf.