Pageants of Despair is a story of a boy caught in a battle between good and evil. After unknown assailants attack his mother, Peter is sent by train to stay with his grandparents. On that ride an uncanny figure leads him back in time to the fourteenth century village of Dunfield, where Peter will take part in a mysterious play in which the actors become the characters they portray. Peter believes he has been brought there to counter an unearthly, menacing influence, but a succession of terrifying experiences leads him to suspect, instead, that he might be destined to cause the disaster he is trying to avert. He needs courage to face the crisis and intelligence to solve the mystery. In this tale where ancient pageants morph into horrific realities, the author draws on the actual medieval Townley Cycle of Mystery Plays—which were performed annually at Wakefield, England—to give Peter's experience in the imaginary village of Dunfield a vivid true-to-life.
Dennis Hamley was born in 1935 in Kent, England. He read English at Cambridge University and worked for many years as a teacher, a teacher-trainer, and an adviser to schools. He also founded the Lending Our Minds Out creative writing courses for children. Hamley's first book was published in 1962, a modern version of three Miracle Plays. Pageants of Despair, his first children's novel, was originally published in 1974. In 1992 Hamley turned to writing full-time. His latest title, Ellen's People, is published in the UK by Walker Books. In between, he wrote more than fifty other books, including short stories, books for schools, and non-fiction for all ages. Hamley lives with his wife in Hertford, England.
"The history is fascinating…Hamley has hit on the right road back to such lace-edged, antique virtues as honesty, gentleness, vision, and love." —Best Sellers
"The ancient tussle between God and the Devil seems to lie at the heart of this tale of sinister skullduggery in the Middle Ages. A good deal of background information on the Mystery Plays and extracts from some of the performances crystallise the setting; the atmosphere of religious superstition and its hold over simple folk are captured with a grim reality and a sense of lurking foreboding. [Readers who]…allow the tensions of time and mystery to work will share a strange experience in an unfamiliar world." —The Junior Bookshelf
"Hamley does create a lively picture of how the audiences and actors must have responded to the powerful messages of the miracle plays." —Kirkus Reviews
"The pageants are a frightening battleground—replete with medieval images of corporeal and spiritual corruption—from which Peter and his friends emerge triumphant." —Booklist