Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review - A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

In the spring of 1995, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I had just finished watching a movie and stopped at the Books-a-Million next to the theatre. In the bargain aisle, a thin hardback book caught my eye. The cover had a curious scene with Count Dracula having a conversation with Sherlock Holmes while petting an old hound dog. In the background, Frankenstein’s monster fumbled around as Rasputin sat locked in passionate conversation with an attractive, raven-haired witch.

The old saying suggests that a book should never be judged by its cover, but the exact opposite is true for A Night in the Lonesome October.

The story is narrated by Snuff, a grizzled old watchdog who just happens to belong to Jack the Ripper. He tells his tale over the course of thirty-one chapters, each representing a single day in the month of October. Snuff and his infamous master are charged with keeping an ancient portal to ultimate evil closed. There are other players in the game, but whether they seek to open the portal or keep it closed is a mystery.

The participants slowly reveal themselves during the month, jockeying for advantage and killing off other players when the opportunity arises. The characters are instantly recognizable from literature and popular movies: the good doctor and his brutish creation, the great detective, the vampiric count, a witch, a druid, a sadistic clergyman, a mad monk, and the wolf man Larry Talbot.

The colorful cast and story directly influenced by H.P. Lovecraft are complimented by Snuff’s cheerful narrative when interacting with the other players and their animal companions. When a writer crafts an enthralling story and truly enjoys writing it, that joy is passed on to the reader. Roger Zelazny must have had a blast writing this tale. One comical illustration per chapter by Gahan Wilson adds to the whimsical fun.

A Night in the Lonesome October is a fun and furious romp through the world built by 19th and 20th century literary and film masters. If you find this forgotten gem on an old library or bookstore shelf or floating around on eBay, pick it up. Unless the idea of Jack the Ripper and the wolf man having coffee and talking shop bores you, you will love this book.

Rating - *****

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