Friday, October 10, 2014

A Night in the Lonesome October Re-Read

It's hard to believe it's been almost 20 years since I picked up the paperback edition of A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. I just ran across it in a Barnes and Noble, or possibly a B Dalton, my curiosity piqued by the cover art -- Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and others all at a gathering.

It turned out to be a fun excursion, a  Lovecraftian tale told through the eyes of Snuff, a dog who happens to be Jack the Ripper's familiar. Jack is just one of many players in an ancient game that
revolves around opening gateways to let Old Ones back into the world.

Some want to open. Others want to keep things closed.
Avon Edition

As the cover art promised, Holmes and Watson and many other figures from Victorian literature and Victorian reality people the book. Some Universal Pictures horror figures show up too.

It's rather handily told in brief chapters, each corresponding to a date in October. Snuff struggles to find out who the players are and what their goals are and really has a lot resting on his shoulders as Oct. 31 approaches.

I'm doing a re-read this year, as I've been intending to do for a couple of years, mostly since reading this essay by Dr. Christopher S. Kovacs in the Lovecraftzine which notes:

A cult tradition has evolved to re-read the book each October, a chapter a day, and to attempt to deduce the identities of the tantalizingly familiar characters. For the book is rich with borrowed characters from real life and classics of literature and screen. Some are obvious, but others are not.

Kicking myself for letting my original paperback edition go, I tracked down a good used hardcover for less than a fortune. And finally this year, I remembered close enough to Oct. 1 to play the game.

It's been long enough since that initial reading, that it's new to me again, and it's a blast to step back into Zelazny's blend of the Gothic, Lovecraft, the Victorian and the Universal horror cannon. It's almost like one of those late entries in the Universal series such as House of Frankenstein, where all of the signature monsters were thrown in.

I've been told there were once plans to throw Basil Rathbone's Holmes into those mixes, so the book's a bit like a Universal film that never was.

I'm happy to take a few minutes each night to join the game. It's a perfect Halloween season venture.

I was also happy to discover a couple events serendipitous to my re-read. Chicago Review Press has brought out a new edition of the book, which had grown hard to find, and the Twitterverse has become involved in the re-read game.

There aren't a lot of tweets so far, but the hashtag #GoodDogSnuff has been deployed. Perhaps the cult will grow, and the universe is expanded in Issue #18 of the Lovecraftzine with new tales from many authors. Read the back issue free online here.

It's just Oct. 10, so there's time to join the game.


Charles Gramlich said...

Read lots of zelazny but not this one. Great title.

Sidney said...

It is. It comes from Poe, and there's a Richard Laymon book by the same name, very different premise.

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