Sir Tristram Goes West
by Eric Keown
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Punch, 9 May 1932

October 2005

 

"Sir Tristram Goes West" by Eric Keown is a mildly funny ghost story — a very short and slight story — with one really clever idea.

This idea is simply that an English castle, haunted by a ghost, is sold to America and shipped in pieces over sea to be reassembled; and the ghost is pressed to go along. This is the inspiration for the classic movie comedy The Ghost Goes West (1936). The latter form really is where you should enjoy the story; there's a lot more development in the film.
  

Please note that "Sir Tristram Goes West" is cleanly funny, a light fantasy with no horrors at all, and definitely without the goopy maggoty trashiness that is revered by many writers of the departed, and even more filmmakers.
  

In the story, the castle is English and the death of the castle's scion (creating the titular Ghost) is tied to a specific historical event, the Battle of Naseby during the English Civil War (1645). In the movie, the castle becomes Scottish, and the battle is Scots versus English, rather generic I think but perhaps around 1748.

There is also some tricky business with American gangsters of the modern era — 1932 that is, modern to the Ghost and extra amusing as seen from Britain. This is less important to the plot of the movie.

A funny little Anglo-American acorn of a ghost story.

  

© 2005 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
"Sir Tristram Goes West" has been reprinted several times; most interestingly, along with a discussion of the film, in —

Successful Film Writing:
As Illustrated by 'The Ghost Goes West'
  (1936)
edited by Seton Margrave

 

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