Often described as “low fantasy”, there is no saccharin sweetness to be found amongst these stories' pages. Instead they lead the reader on rollercoaster adventures which, amongst other things, prompt us to ponder themes of mystery and questing alongside the harshness and toughness of life. I’ve often considered one of his recurring themes as a writer to be uncertainty, but not necessarily in a negative way.
The influence of the Mabinogion seems to run deeply through some of his work. An example, The Owl Service, a modern interpretation of the story of Blodeuwedd, is a favourite of many. Indeed, Granada commissioned a dramatization for TV in 1969, which is still available on DVD and remains very watchable. The BBC also ran a sterling radio dramatization of the story some 30 years later.
The main character, Professor Colin Whisterfield, (yes a grown up version of that Colin for those of you who have read the earlier books) has cooked and eaten a meal with his therapist up in the wilds of Alderley Edge. After much wine, he reacts to something his therapist says to him in a way that has stayed vividly in my memory:-
Certainty can be a handy boon when it helps us to safely jump a chasm or to perform a life saving operation. However, static certainty or certainty in excess, without the balance of dynamically fluid uncertainty can, at best, result in a shamefully destructive and intolerant arrogance. At its worst it can result in a tendency to domineering, uncompromising fascism.
Stay moving, always asking questions, and,most of all, as the Old Sod Bill Gray would say, “Keep Questing!”