The Blagger's Guide To...The Woman In Black

So scary, Ruth Rendell had to sleep with the light on
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

*The Hammer Film Productions adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel The Woman in Black opened in UK cinemas this weekend, having been billed as the scariest film of the year. It stars Daniel Radcliffe as the young solicitor, Arthur Kipps, and Liz White as the titular woman in black.

*The actor who played Arthur Kipps in the 1989 ITV production of the film was Adrian Rawlins, who played Harry Potter's dad, James Potter, in the Harry Potter films. That version was adapted for the small screen by Nigel Kneale, the writer of the Quatermass TV dramas, husband of Judith Kerr (author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Mog books) and father of Matthew Kneale (author of the Whitbread-winning English Passengers) and Tacy Kneale, an actress and special effects designer who worked on the Harry Potter films.

*A film tie-in paperback is published by Vintage at £6.99.

*Hammer's publishing imprint is releasing a series of horror stories by literary novelists. Helen Dunmore's Second World War thriller The Greatcoat was out on 2 February; Jeanette Winterson's Daylight Gate, a story based on the Pendle witch trials of 1612, will be published on the 16 April.

*The Woman in Black was first published six years before Daniel Radcliffe was born. In 1987, the book was made into a successful West End production, which the actor has not seen. However, he has read the book, and when he met Hill they discovered that they both have border terriers sired by the same stud.

*On the stage play's first night, Ken Russell was in the audience and said that it would close within a week. It is still running in the West End.

*Susan Hill was born in Scarborough in 1942. Her first novel, The Enclosure, was published in 1961, written when Hill was 15 and published when she was still in her teens ("Schoolgirl writes sex novel" screamed one newspaper headline). Her headmistress told her: "You have brought shame and disgrace on to this school." She went on to study English at Kings College, London, and publish 24 further novels (the most recent, A Kind Man, published last year, 50 years after her first), four short story collections, 13 children's stories, nine works of non-fiction and five plays. She is the author of the Simon Serrailler crime novels. She sat on the Man Booker Prize judging panel last year.

*The atmosphere that lends such creepiness to The Woman in Black was inspired by a trip that Hill took to the Suffolk coast in the early 1970s. She didn't start writing it until 10 years later, after reading lots of ghost stories and wondering why there were so few full length ghost novels. Her aim was to equal the tension in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

*Hill wrote the novel by hand and read it into a Dictaphone for a friend, who was doing a typing course and wanted the practice. The typist found it so frightening that she could only listen to the tapes if she was not alone in the house. The typist, Jane Tranter, later became the BBC's Head of Drama. The crime writer Ruth Rendell has said that she was so frightened by the book that after she read it she had to sleep with the light on.

*This Christmas, BBC2 will screen an adaptation of Hill's 2010 ghost novel The Small Hand.