Invisible Ink: No 76 - Muriel Gray
Sunday 08 May 2011
Fondly remembered as a TV presenter, this cropped-blonde Scot was a tough-talking broadcaster and journalist in a time of Eighties "yoof" programming, and later appeared on our screens marching up mountains, enthusing about fell walking. What few viewers suspected was that Muriel Gray had a secret life as the author of several terrific (and terrifically creepy) supernatural thrillers.
Authors often jump genres during their careers. Certain types of plot fall from fashion, and writers must change if they are to survive. Gray decided to beat Stephen King at his own game, just at the point when the overloaded genre was starting to wane. The Gothic cycle of the Eighties had ended, and the public appetite for such epics appeared to be satiated. Moreover, Gray had decided to tackle a specific sub-genre within her chosen field: Lovecraftian tales of monstrosities born of alliances between man, myth and nature.
Gray started with The Trickster in 1994, a solid homage to King concerning Native Canadian ritual magic. Four years later came Furnace, which showed more confidence and style. In this idiosyncratic fable, an MR James-style runic curse afflicts a long-distance truck driver in the titular Virginia town.
Gray took her subjects seriously, researching in Canada, then travelling with truckers across America until she had the details down. For The Ancient, which begins in Lima and moves to a supertanker ferrying trash, she created another tale of ancient demonic power and outdid herself, spending several weeks on board such a ship garnering enough information for the plot, and King graciously gave the book an endorsement.
By the time Gray was married and had started a family, she saw that supernatural thrillers were falling from grace, and stopped writing. I remember her describing the look of discomfort other mothers gave her at the school gates when they realised she was the wee woman writing gruesome novels of nameless evil. The super- natural cycle eventually returned, albeit in a watered-down, teen-friendly form, and Gray wrote again. This time, however, she chose a very different subject. The First Fifty: Munro-Bagging Without a Beard is a very funny attempt to explain why some people walk up mountains.
She has since published a work about Glaswegian art galleries, but clearly remains interested in the occult. With so few female writers tackling these kinds of grand mythologies, I think we should demand her return to the field.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times