GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: 31 Days of A Night in the Lonesome October: Day 26

A Night in the Lonesome October
All is not what it seems…

In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.

Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.

And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.

Author: Roger Zelazny
Illustrator: Gahan Wilson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Gaslamp
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1994
Pages: 280


October 26th

A short, quiet chapter. Nobody’s out and about, all taking a last breath before the big event. Snuff does his rounds but finds nothing untoward and does normal doggie things for a bit, before realising he is being followed.

He tracks sneakily backwards and disturbs a big loping dog. The dog says it is new to the area, just looking for a place to lay its head and asks Snuff questions about the big event.

Snuff answers cautiously and when they part the big dog calls after Snuff by name, something Snuff never gave him. Is this a new player? Or a new familiar of an old player? Time’s getting short if we are to find out.

Another chapter that made me want to rush ahead and see what happens. Reading it like this has been a real pleasure, but I’m also missing the other real pleasure of devouring a wonderful book in one great gulp. That’ll be next year’s Halloween day for me I think.


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: 31 Days of A Night in the Lonesome October: Day 25

A Night in the Lonesome October
All is not what it seems…

In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.

Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.

And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.

Author: Roger Zelazny
Illustrator: Gahan Wilson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Gaslamp
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1994
Pages: 280


October 25th

Jill and Greymalk come to Jack’s place to clear up; an excuse for Jill and Jack to share some more of his sherry. Graymalk has a revelation to start the day. The police have taken note of last night’s burning…but only because they have found the charred remains of Owen, the druid in a fourth basket, whereas our heroes only burned three. Someone has taken the opportunity to remove another player. At the same time, the druid’s magic sickle has disappeared.

The druid’s familiar, Cheeter the squirrel, is distraught, for the druid had it under a spell, having stolen its shadow and ‘intuition’ in order to ensure its loyalty. Snuff and Graymalk break into the druid’s house, confirm that the sickle is missing then discover that the squirrel’s shadow is trapped in a magical spell painted on the wall, held in place by seven silver nails.

Snuff once again shows his mettle and, slowly but surely, draws the nails out with his teeth. Graymalk explains what needs to be done with the nails for the return of the squirrel’s shadow; this is what she learned from the old cat in the Dreamlands.

Cheeter, shadow restored, leaves the game and returns to the woods.

A lovely chapter this one; it shows us again how Snuff and Graymalk have bonded, despite being on ‘opposite sides’, and shows us the loyalty between familiars is just as strong, if not stronger, than their loyalty to their masters. Zelazny deliberately keeping the touch light today, to bring us down from the pyrotechnics of the night before.

Snuff now suspects that there might be a ‘secret’ player, one who is always throwing off his calculations. The plot has thickened. Again.


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: 31 Days of A Night in the Lonesome October: Day 24

A Night in the Lonesome October
All is not what it seems…

In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.

Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.

And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.

Author: Roger Zelazny
Illustrator: Gahan Wilson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Gaslamp
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1994
Pages: 280


October 24th

An action packed chapter today. Our heroes discover, thanks to Jill’s warding spells, that several of the familiars have visited the house in their absence in the city, one of them a loping wolf-thing that Talbot insists wasn’t him.

After Snuff does his rounds to make sure everyone knows the vivisectionists didn’t get him, someone, Snuff suspects the Vicar again, lays a spell on Jack’s house, a booming thunder and lightning storm of a kind, but only on the inside. The ‘things’ in the mirror, in the steamer trunk, in the attic and in the basement, all different, all dangerous, all get loose at the same time. Jack and Snuff have a battle on their hands.

The slithering things slither. Jack tries to round them up with magic while Snuff shows his mettle, dealing with the thing from the steamer trunk before holding off the thing from the attic long enough for Jack to get to work on it with his blade. The thing from the basement arrives, intending on getting at Snuff. Jack dispatches it easily.

We learn in passing that Jack is indeed under a curse and the blade is a focus of that, but that he is also a magic user in his own right, and possessor of at least two wands of power, one of which is one of the game’s major artifacts.

We also learn that the ‘things’ weren’t actually part of the game, but were intended as insurance to cover Jack and Snuff’s tracks should they need to escape after the big night. That insurance policy is now revoked.

The things are all eventually dispatched after a wonderfully described battle in the house. Jill and Graymalk arrive to see what all the fuss has been about and they have a very domestic pot of tea in the carnage after the battle.

At the close of day they get rid of the remains of the things by filling the druid’s wicker baskets with the offal, hoisting them up a big oak tree and setting it alight, a bonfire for Halloween, and a very pretty sight.

A lot of what Zelazny does well today. Fast paced, action packed but you always know where all the participants are and what they’re doing due to his descriptive skills, and he still manages to slide some pertinent information in among the mayhem. Technically, he’s brilliant, and also too good to let you notice while you’re barreling along caught up in the plot.

We got another lovely, gruesome Wilson illo too today, of the thing from the steamer trunk, coming apart where Snuff has been at it. Wonderful stuff.


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: 31 Days of A Night in the Lonesome October: Day 23

A Night in the Lonesome October
All is not what it seems…

In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.

Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.

And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.

Author: Roger Zelazny
Illustrator: Gahan Wilson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Gaslamp
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1994
Pages: 280


October 23rd

Another long chapter today, and the game is starting to take shape. Snuff has recruited the help of Larry Talbot in attempting to find the center of things and takes him to the spot where Snuff and Graymalk were transported to the Dreamlands. They have a long talk about the nature of Snuff’s magic and what it can, and can’t, do. Talbot believes another player has been taken off the table and asks if Snuff’s magic can identify them, but that isn’t possible. They walk Snuff’s rounds and eventually discover a player has indeed died. The mad monk has apparently hanged himself, but investigation shows that it’s a set up. He has been murdered, and his magical icon stolen. Someone is collecting artifacts, and whoever it is will have gained a distinct advantage in the game to come.

Snuff suspects the vicar. Later, while investigating with Graymalk, they are almost caught in the vicar’s house. Snuff has a chance to get away, but Graymalk is trapped by the vicar, so Snuff goes back and rescues her, mangling the vicar’s ear in the processs. A wonderfully written scene that serves to show how tightly cemented Snuff and Graymalk’s relationship has come; Snuff is now bonded to her almost as tightly as he is to Jack, willing to put himself in peril for her.

Snuff and Graymalk accompany Jack and Jill to London. Their master and mistress are getting very friendly, Jill even going so far as to share a warding spell that will inform them if anyone tries to enter their house in their absence. They are enjoying their trip, but Snuff realises they are being followed. Before he can raise the alarm he is kidnapped.

The vicar has delivered Snuff into the hands of vivisectionists where he is to be rendered down in candle wax, no doubt for use in some nefarious ritual. He is saved at the last minute by Jack, an angry Jack full of the power of some dark spell. When they leave the vivisectionists they leave a sea of blood behind, fulfilling the prophecy of the old cat in the Dreamlands. The scene in the vivisectionist’s lair is wonderfully done, just the right mixture of comic accents and Snuff- in-peril moments allied with some of Zelazny’s descriptive work, which, at its best, is second to none.

So someone is gathering the things of power. Is it the vicar? Or is this another of Zelazny’s misdirections. The Good Doctor’s ‘big man’ has also been prowling around. Is he being used for nefarious purposes? And how will Jack and Jill’s obviously budding relationship pan out when all the Openers and Closers have to declare for one side or the other? Lots of questions still to be answered, and the moon is still growing. Talbot’s curse will obviously have a part to play too.

And is Jack also, like Snuff, under some kind of curse, or is he using the dark magic that surrounds him deliberately? I predict more blood.


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by William Meikle: 31 Days of A Night in the Lonesome October: Day 22

A Night in the Lonesome October
All is not what it seems…

In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.

Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.

And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.

Author: Roger Zelazny
Illustrator: Gahan Wilson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Gaslamp
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1994
Pages: 280


October 22nd

A long, strange, chapter today. After a round of the house to ensure the ‘things’ are all under control we learn that Snuff has played the game many times, that he is more than he seems and under some kind of curse…and that Jack has told Jill of this, a Closer telling secrets to an Opener this late in the game, a thing unheard of before. Likewise Snuff and Greymalk are getting side-eyed from other familiars for being too close to each other. They’re not ‘playing the game’ properly to some eyes.

Several titbits of info emerge that might be relevant… “Linda Enderby” has been visiting with Larry Talbot again…and the vampire Snuff found staked was not wearing the Count’s magic ring. One of the game’s important artifacts is loose in the wild.

Snuff needs to recalculate his mental map and with Graymalk goes to his dog’s nest on high to scope out the land. He finds what he thinks might be the new center, but it appears to be an unremarkable patch of land. They decide to take a closer look.

This is where things drop far into the twilight zone. Having found a tumble of strangely carved rocks and then almost being killed by a bolt of lightning, Snuff and Graymalk are transported to the Dreamlands, where time has little meaning and reality is fluid, to say the least. After many strange sights, which Graymalk seems familiar with, they meet an ancient cat who claims to have saved them from a worse fate. Graymalk is given a secret, as yet unrevealed, about the end of the game, and Snuff is told there is a sea of blood in his immediate future, which disconcerts our old boy. He looks forward to running with Growler in his own, much simpler, dreamworld.

Things have taken a turn for the Lovecraftian and it appears that the Openers and Closers are indeed contending for the Opening of the Way to allow, or deny, the return of the Great Old Gods of Chaos. Zelazny is on fine form here, especially with the chaotic stuff which always brings to mind the shifting shadows in his Amber books, which are other great favorites of mine. I doubt there’s any chance of a Prince of Amber making an appearance in this game, but you never can tell in the patterns Zelazny weaves. That’s what makes him great.

As for Snuff. The revelation that he is cursed, and much older than he seems, and is in possession of certain ‘magics’ of his own has me wondering if he isn’t also one of the Lovecraftian pantheon, if not a Great Old One, at least one of their many acolytes, perhaps a failed Opener in a long ago game, now trapped and bent to service as a Closer by an ancient curse? Like Snuff himself, I prefer him as a dog.

Several times during this read through I’ve been reminded of the TV series PENNY DREADFUL. The dance that an adjacent in fictional realities cast of characters took in that one was ultimately dark and gothic, and there’s plenty of potential here for this one to go the same way.


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway