The Green Man
by Kingsley Amis, introduction by Michael Dirda
Maurice Allington has reached middle age and is haunted by death. As he says, “I honestly can’t see why everybody who isn’t a child, everybody who’s theoretically old enough to have understood what death means, doesn’t spend all his time thinking about it. It’s a pretty arresting thought.” He also happens to own and run a country inn that is haunted. The Green Man opens as Maurice’s father drops dead (had he seen something in the room?) and continues as friends and family convene for the funeral.
Maurice’s problems are many and increasing: How to deal with his own declining health? How to reach out to a teenage daughter who watches TV all the time? How to get his best friend’s wife in the sack? How to find another drink? (And another.) And then there is always death.
The Green Man is a ghost story that hits a live nerve, a very black comedy with an uncannily happy ending: in other words, Kingsley Amis at his best.
A thoroughly contemporary ghost story .... A splendid chiller, in the uncomplicated, old-fashioned sense. As one might expect from the author of Lucky Jim, The Green Man is also an extremely funny book, filled with slapstick, parody and satire. Indeed, the success of this short novel depends very much on the balance that Amis maintains between fear and laughter.
—Robert Kiely, The New York Times
Contains all the best and familiar Amis qualities—including superb sexual comedy.
—Sunday Times (UK)
What makes The Green Man readable and re-readable is the skill with which Amis, like Henry James before him, turns the narrative screw. It is, quite simply, a rattling good ghost story.
—The Times (UK)
In the drunken, lecherous, God-fearing Maurice Allingham, the drunken, lecherous, God-loathing Kingsley Amis created a character who makes sin and redemption far more real and natural than they appear in the works of most professedly Christian novelists.
—The Independent (UK)
How rarely do we come across the really frightening ghost story now. Kingsley Amis's The Green Man was a rare and honourable exception, and Amis followed the classic pattern of earlier writers, letting the story progress carefully from a recognisable normality, through unease, to the rapid unfolding of horror that marks out the most successful and scarifying of all horror story writers.
—The Guardian (UK)
A powerful and to my mind much under-estimated ghost story.