Geoff Holder’s Zombies from History ponders what would happen if historic British figures rose from the grave, MJ STEEL COLLINS writes


Opening with a diagram of Zombie Phrenology, featuring such gems as Moan Resonance, Horde Mentality and Swagger Stagger, Zombies from History is essentially your guide of what to do when the chips are down and the historic Walking Dead come looking for your brains.
Author Geoff Holder points out that as not all the burial places of every historic figure mentioned is known, the zombie apocalypse would resolve this, as they came shuffling out of the ground.
He also provides a handy guide of useful zombie weapons and required equipment, such as armour, to protect yourself and the best places to go hunting out the juiciest characters.
For instance, Westminster Abbey happens to have the highest number of potential zombies mentioned within its burial grounds.
It features 66 figures from history, ranging from Thomas Becket and William Wallace, to Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, complete with the low down on their background, where they are buried, special skills and how difficult they might be to deal with in the zombie apocalypse.
For instance, Edward I, known to those of us north of the border as the Hammer of the Scots is given a particularly high difficulty rating, probably thanks to his blood thirst in life.
Basically, stomping on the medieval Tartan Army was something of a hobby of his, though Holder notes that as time has passed he may be somewhat more mild mannered.
Conversely, his son, Edward II is given a weaker rating, thanks to his rep as a weak king.
How he went, however, is somewhat eye watering.
Looking at the rest of the figures, it’s almost like the Top Trumps of revenants.
Holder also spends time speculating what the historic zombie might get up to, other than shuffling around.
He argues that Charles Dickens would perhaps prefer passing the time producing such works as Zombey and Son or A Christmas Cadaver.
Karl Marx, however, may lead the Living Dead faction of the anti-capitalism movement with the slogan, “Zombies of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your brains”.
As much of my time as a sociology student at Glasgow Uni was spent studying the ins and outs of Marx, I have to admit, this is my personal favourite.
As well as hit list of top historic zombies, the book also includes folk tales related to people, who didn’t quite make it to the grave in the expected manner.
For instance, the use of the corpse of 80-year-old murderer and Chelsea Pensioner Robert Legg was used to figure out the anatomically correct way Christ may have looked during the Crucifixion.
Then there’s the case of Sir William Lindsay of Covington in Angus who revived after his apparent death.
His funeral, replete with an Ox for the feast, had already been planned, so instead of cancelling it, he decided to show up – without telling any of the mourners he was still alive…
On a more serious note, given the recent popularity for zombies, this book could serve as an excellent and entertaining introduction to famous historical figures, as Holder’s humour and writing style is very engaging.
He hammers home facts which you may not forget in a hurry.
The illustrations are also rather amusing and really well done, with famous portraits of the likes of Queen Victoria redone to make them look a bit, well, zombie like.
My favourite is the image of a skeletal hand reaching out of Rob Roy’s grave – one that would probably stay with you for a wee while should it ever happen for real.


MJ Steel Collins
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