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280 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1993
MADE THE CIRCUITS. THE THING IN THE CIRCLE changed shape, finally making itself look like a lady dog of attractive person and very friendly disposition. But I was not fooled into breaking the Circle. It didn’t have the smell part down yet
WE TOOK A WALK LAST NIGHT. ACQUIRING mandrake root in a field far from here at the place of a killing by somebody else. The master wrapped it in silk and took it to his work space direct. I could hear him engage in good-natured banter with the Thing in the Circle. Jack has a long list of ingredients, and things must be done properly on schedule.
WE WALKER AGAIN LAST NIGHT, AND THE master was hunting. He had donned his cloak and said to me, "Snuff, fetch!" And from the way he said it, I knew that it was the blade he required. I took it to him and we went out. Our luck was varied. That is, he obtained the ingredients he was after, but only with considerable turmoil and an inordinate passage of time. We were discovered near the end. I gave warning, and we had to flee. It was a long chase, till finally I hung back and nipped the other on the leg. We made good our escape, with the ingredients. As he was washing up later, Jack told me I was an excellent watchdog. I was very proud
RAINY DAY. WINDY, TOO. I MADE MY ROUNDS.
"Up yours, cur."
"Same to you."
"How’s about letting me out?"
"My day will come."
The usual. Everything seemed in order.
"How’s about a collie? You like redheads?"
"You still haven’t got it right. S'long."
"Son of a bitch!"
I BREAKFASTED IN THE DARK AND MADE MY rounds of the house. Everything was in good order. The master was asleep so I let myself out and prowled the vicinity. The day would not begin for some time yet.
EXCITEMENT. I HEARD THE MIRROR CRACK this morning, and I ran and raised holy hell before it, keeping the slithers inside. Jack heard the fuss and fetched the mundane wand and transferred them all to another mirror, just like the Yellow Emperor. This one was much smaller, which may teach them a lesson, but probably not. We’re not sure how they did it. Continued pressure on some flaw, most likely. Good thing they are afraid of me.
WE WERE OUT AGAIN LAST NIGHT IN PURSUIT of more ingredients for the Great Work. It was very foggy, and there were many patrolman about. This did not stop us, but it made things more difficult. The master's blade flashed, the woman screamed, and there was a rending of garments. We passed the Great Detective in our flight, and I inadvertently tripped his companion, whose limp had lessened his ability to avoid onrushing canines.
I DREW MORE LINES IN MY HEAD LAST NIGHT and this morning, but before I’d created a satisfactory picture we had a caller
LAST NIGHT WE OBTAINED MORE INGREDIENTS for the master's spell. As we paused on a corner in Soho the Great Detective and his companion came out of the fog and approached us.
The thing was strangely quiet as I entered the basement. In a moment, I saw why. We had developed a leak. The water entered at the wall, ran along a sagging beam, and dripped down several feet farther in. It had formed a puddle, and the puddle was slowly spreading. One moist pseudopod was extended in the direction of the Circle, having perhaps another ten inches to run before it breached it.
A brisk morning. After I made my rounds I went outside. I could discover nothing untoward, so I set off in the direction of the Good Doctor’s place. As I was trotting along the road, however, I heard a familiar voice from a small grove to my right:
Slow day. The Thing in the circle tried being a greyhound. I was never attracted to skinny ladies, though. Growled a few times at the Thing in the Attic. Watched the slitherers. Watched Jack as he puttered with the acquisitions. It was still too early for him actually to start using them.
"Snuff! Let me in! Help!" it cried
It was Needle.
"I know better than to invite you guys inside," I said.
"That’s the boss! I’m just a bat! I don’t even like tomato juice! Please!"
We approached. The birds were gone. So were the eyes. The man in uniform. His throat had been cut.
I went and dragged the corpse til I couldn’t manage another step. Then I dragged myself home, jaws aching, paws sore, my old injury from the zombie affair was acting up.
I made my way back to the body, which had a few more missing parts and didn’t smell too good, and dragged it to the next place of concealment.
"Damn! I need a left femur and this one ain’t got one!"
He loomed nearer. Monstrous jaws, great feral eyes. . . Then he sat down.
"So this is where it is," he said.
"The missing body. Snuff, you are tampering with evidence."
"And you might say I’m tampering with something already tampered with. Who are you?"
"Could’ve fooled me. I thought you were-a great wolf. . . oh."
The Thing in the Streamer Trunk had poked a small hole in the front. An enormous yellow eye regarded me through it. It didn’t make a sound, though.
There was a big fellow lurching about the place-drunk perhaps. Biggest man I’ve ever seen. He was only about for a little while, during the height of the storm. Then he lay down on that fancy bed in the basement, and the Good Doctor covered him up, entirely, with a sheet. He didn’t stir again.
The things are getting restless, but their restraints still serve.
"Come on!" it said. "I’m almost strong enough to break out of here on my own now. It won’t go well with you if you keep me til I do."
"'Almost,'" I said, "isn’t good enough."
It growled. I growled back. It flinched. I was still in control.
Up in the morning, out on the job. I hassled the Things, then checked around outside. A black feather lay near the front door. Could be one of Nightwind’s. Could be openers on a nasty spell. Could be just a stray feather. I carried it across the road to the field and pissed on it.
"I’ll invite you into the parlor," Jack said, "if you don’t mind stepping over a few dismembered ogres."
"Never did before," the lady answered, as he led her in that direction.
Someone stuffed him into one of his baskets and torched it.
"What’s going on at the end of the month?"
"Weird stuff," I said. "A little specialized craziness. Stay away from any human gatherings that night."
"'The experiment man'?"
"You know. The big fellow the Good Doctor put together from all the parts his assistant dig up for him."
Mrs. Enderby happened to be in a tree in her yard with a pair of binoculars when I passed, and called out to me.
"Snuff, please come here!"
I kept going.
Then I noticed a peculiar shape to the rear-that of a bat hanging from a beam. While all bats look pretty much alike to me, especially when you turn them upside-down, it reminded me a lot of Needle. I approached and said loudly, "Hey, Needle! What the hell are you doing here?"
Players may fall, or go mad, catch fire, be transformed.
Jack and Jill went down the hill. Gray and I ran after
"Carpe baculum!" (Seize the stick!)You know the feeling when you finish the book and with a quiet satisfied and slightly smug smile realize that it was just perfect, as though it was written just for you? Sometimes I get lucky like that.
And sometimes there just may be a hilarious body parts exchange during frantic digging in the cemetery that made me choke with laughter sometime around 3 am:
“Damn! I need a left femur and this one ain't got one!"And who is better to figure out the plot threads than our narrator, a gifted thaumaturgical calculator, also known as Snuff, Jack Ripper's dog (or perhaps, a tad more than your usual canine), the spy, the plotter, and the only one to keep in check the menaces of “the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk, not to mention the Things in the Mirror.” Snuff, whose keen sense for animal politics and a knack for knowing when to form alliances with the other familiars (Bubo the rat making me laugh!) and when to strategically share information may be the deciding factor in the battle for the fate of this world. Snuff, whom I love dearly even though I'm decidedly not a "dog person".
"Left femur, you say?" came an ancient croaking voice from nearby, which could have been Owen's. "I've one right here I ain't usin'. Have you a liver, though? That's my need."
"Easily done!" came the reply. "Bide a moment. There! Trade?"
"You have it! Catch!"
Something flashed through the air to rattle farther down the hill, followed by scurrying sounds.
"Fair enough! Here's yer liver!"
There came a splap from higher up and a muttered "Got it!"
"Hey!" came a lady's voice then, from off to the left. "While you're about it, have you a skull?"
"Indeed I do!" said the second man. "What'll you give?"
"What do you need?"
"Done! I'll tie 'em together with a piece of twine!"
"Here's your skull!"
"Got it! Yours'll be along shortly!"
"Has anyone the broken vertebrae of a hanged man?" came a deep masculine voice with a Hungarian accent, from somewhere far to the right.”
"Hi. I'm a watchdog."Yes, Roger Zelazny is indeed a genius who clearly had such a great time writing this story that the fun is infectious. Whichever genre this little gem of a book falls in - comedy or Gothic horror or detective mystery - there is no doubt that it's the work of a confident master and a delight to read, especially on a dark and lonesome late October night.
"I've been watching you."
"And I've been watching you."
"Why is your person digging a big hole?"
"There are some things down there that he needs."
"Oh. I don't think he's supposed to be doing that."
"May I see your teeth?"
"Yes. Here. May I see yours?"
"Perhaps it's all right. Do you think you might leave a large bone somewhere nearby?"
“I took Jack his slippers this evening and lay at his feet before a roaring fire while he smoked his pipe, sipped sherry, and read the newspaper. He read aloud everything involving killings, arsons, mutilations, grave robberies, church desecrations, and unusual thefts. It is very pleasant just being domestic sometimes.”
“Eyeballs, anyone?” came a call.Roger Zelazny cheerfully hides identities and key plot points from his readers during the early part of the Game, allowing us to work out for ourselves who and what they are, whether they’re working for good or evil, and what exactly is going down on Halloween night. The Count and the Great Detective are fairly easy, Jack and the Good Doctor probably won’t take a whole lot longer, and Larry Talbot reveals himself fairly early on (even if you’re not already familiar with his name). But most of the others will take more puzzling out. Fans of A Night in the Lonesome October, which has developed a cult following, devote entire web pages to analyzing the identities of and inspirations for various minor characters (you should check these pages out only after you’ve finished the book, as they’re riddled with spoilers). It was delightful to read and unpack all the layers of meaning hidden in the text. Any book that reveals more and more layers and depth and connections, as you reread and analyze it, gets a large rating boost from me. I’ll freely admit that it brought back the best of my memories of deep discussions in college English lit courses.
“Over here,” said someone with a Russian accent. “One of them, please.”
“I’ll have the other,” came an aristocratic voice from the opposite direction.
“Either of you got a couple of floating ribs, or a pair of kidneys?”
“Down here, on the kidneys!” came a new voice. “And I’m in need of a patella!”
“Oh? No problem.…”
I took Jack his slippers this evening and lay at his feet before a roaring fire while he smoked his pipe, sipped sherry, and read the newspaper. He read aloud everything involving killings, arsons, mutilations, grave robberies, church desecrations, and unusual thefts. It is very pleasant just being domestic sometimes.There’s a longstanding rumor (which, as far as I can tell, has never been confirmed) that A Night in the Lonesome October arose out of a bet someone made with Zelazny that he couldn’t write a story where readers would root for Jack the Ripper. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a reader who would claim Zelazny lost that bet.
Jack (that one) and Snuff (his dog, our narrator)
Crazy Jill (a witch) and Graymalk (her cat, of course)
Morris and MacCab (I never quite figured out who they were, though Bill put forward a great suggestion) and Nightwind (the owl)
The Count (you know him) and Needle (the bat)
Rastov (a mad monk) and Quicklime (a snake)
Owen (a Druid) and Cheeter (the squirrel)
Larry (a Moon watcher) and his exotic plants
The Great Detective (there's only one) and his Companion (you know him)
The Good Doctor (had me a bit stumped) and Bubo (a rat, cleverly named)
Vicar Roberts (pure evil) and Takela (an albino raven)
" 'Hi. I'm a watchdog.'
'I've been watching you.'
'And I've been watching you.'
'Why is your person digging a big hole?'
'There are some things down there that he needs.'
'Oh. I don't think he's supposed to be doing that.'
'May I see your teeth?'
'Yes. Here. May I see yours?'
'Of course.' "
The wild and crazy romp with the supernatural begins on October 1 and ends....fittingly....on All Hallows Eve, and besides the thrashing Jack, you'll encounter favorites like Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and other creatures of the night lurking about in the nearby woods and graveyards.
Great read....Great book-cover....Loved every minute of it!