Highlight of the Lonesome Night: October 1st

The Macabre Republic screams huzzah! After eleven long months of waiting, the high holiday season is upon us at last. I have lots of posts planned for October, including the nightly run of this new feature.

Highlight of the Lonesome Night delves into the beloved 1993 dark fantasy novel A Night in the Lonesome October. Roger Zelazny’s inventive and sometimes irreverent variation on a Cthulhu Mythos tale features an epic cast of historical and fictional characters (from classic monsters to famous supersleuths) engaged in a secret, month-long magical battle of cosmic import–a murderous contest set to culminate on a full-moon, late-19th Century Halloween night. This autumnal treat of a story has remained popular three decades after its first publication; to this day, fans are known to return to the narrative and reread one of its calendar-coordinated chapters every night in October. I plan to follow suit, but also go one step further with this blog feature. For the next thirty-one nights, I will highlight what I believe to be the best element of each chapter of Zelazny’s book. And so, first up is:


October 1st

As October and the story commences, Zelazny’s narrator, the articulate watchdog Snuff, patrols the London-skirting house rented by his master Jack. Snuff keeps tabs on various eldritch entities imprisoned throughout the house: the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, the Things in the Mirror, the Thing in the Steamer Trunk. At this early point, the reader has no idea what Jack and his faithful companion Snuff are up to, or why they are holding such Things captive. But clearly the creatures are determined to break free. The Thing in the Circle seductively shapeshifts into “a lady dog of attractive person and very friendly disposition,” but when Snuff refuses to be enticed, it intones, “You’ll get yours, mutt.” Similarly, the Thing in the Wardrobe floats the promise of a juicy bone, but cries “Up yours, hound” after the bribe fails, and then proceeds to spout even “more abusive language.” Such outré situation and unusual/off-color dialogue constitutes the highlight of the first chapter, and signals Zelazny’s willingness to strike a comedic note even as he evokes the cosmic horror of the dreadfully serious H.P. Lovecraft.


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