Hammer Films may have come back from the dead with such cinematic manifestations as the 2012 adaptation of Susan Hill’s allusive ghost story The Woman in Black, but the Hammer brand has shown a Dracula-like capacity for regeneration in another form — that of the novel. Random House inaugurated a Hammer publishing imprint in 2011 inaugurated by making available several novelisations of well-known films, but the imprint’s editors showed a commendable ambition by commissioning the talented Helen Dunmore (who has gleaned several awards for her historical fiction and poetry) to write a novel which might be described as being in the horror/supernatural field, The Greatcoat. The result is highly auspicious, a ghost story delivered with quietly impressive elegance and style. A young woman coping with the loneliness of gloomy nights in Yorkshire’s East Riding is drawn into an affair with a man who is not all that he seems. The evocatively drawn atmosphere of the novel — while modern in its literary accoutrements — successfully conjures something of the zeitgeist of an earlier era of the Gothic, and demonstrates that a genre until recently held to be moribund has plenty of life in it yet.
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore is published by Hammer/Random House