Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: A Night in the Lonesome October-fest

I believe this chapter is my friend Jen's favorite, and I can see why. 

     Following lunch at Jill's place, to which Bubo was also invited, having finally acknowledged Graymalk to be a cat of a different category, I took a walk back to the ruin of the Good Doctor's place.  The meal had had an almost elegiac quality to it, Jack having asked outright whether she'd consider switching, Jill having admitted to a conflict in her sympathies now, but being determined to play the Game through as she'd started.  It felt odd to be dining with the enemy and to care that much about them.  So I took a walk afterwards, more for something to do while being alone than for any pressing purpose.  I took my time in going.  The charred ruin still smelled strongly; and though I circled it many times, I could see no bones or other signs of dead humans within.  I wandered over to the barn then, wondering whether the experiment man might have returned to it to hide.

"Elegiac" is the adjective form of elegy. I don't know if I've ever seen it written down before. (Other than the two dozen or so times I've read it in Lonesome October, of course.) It refers to something that has the characteristics of an elegy, being mournful, melancholy and contemplative. 

I'm also pleased that the Good Doctor and his assistant might have survived. 

While investigating the barn, Snuff comes across Needle and learns a little bit

      "Now I've learned that the Good Doctor was never in it, I've found the point of manifestation, the big hill with the fallen stones."
   "Really.  Now that's interesting.  What else is new?"
     "Rastov and Owen are dead.  Quicklime and Cheeter went back to the woods."

     "Yes, I'd heard that."

     "So it seems someone's killing openers."
     "Rastov was a closer."

     "I think Owen talked him into switching."

     "No, he tried but he didn't succeed."
     "How do you know that?"

     "I used to get into Owen's place through Cheeter's attic hole and listen to them talk.  I was there the night before Rastov was killed.  They were drinking and quoting everybody from Thomas Paine to Nietzsche at each other, but Rastov didn't switch."

     "Interesting.  You sound as if you're still in the Game."
     There came a faint sound from below, just as he said, "Oh, I am, Get down!  Flat!"

 It's the vicar with his crossbow and he has Snuff dead to rights, but before he can execute him...

   And then there was a shadow in the doorway at his back.
  "Why, Vicar Roberts, whatever are you doing with that archaic weapon?" came the wonderfully controlled falsetto of the Great Detective in his Linda Enderby guise.

  The vicar hesitated, then turned.

   "Madam," he said, "I was about to perform a community service by dispatching a vicious brute which even now is preparing to attack us."
 I began wagging my tail immediately and put on my idiot slobbering hound expression, tongue hanging out and all.
 "That hardly seems a vicious beast to me," the voice of the lady stated, as the Great Detective moved in quickly, passing between the vicar and myself to effectively block a shot.  "That's just old Snuff.  Everybody knows Snuff.  Not a mean bone in his body.  Good Snuff!  Good dog!"

  The old hand-on-head business followed, patting.  I responded as if it were the greatest invention since free lunch.
 "Whatever made you think him antisocial?"
  "Madam, that was the creature that almost tore my ear off."
 "I am certain you must be mistaken, sir.  I cannot conceive of this animal as behaving aggressively, except possibly in self-defense."
  The vicar's face was quite red and his shoulders looked very tense.  For a moment I thought he might actually try angling in a shot at me, anyhow.

That's so wonderful. I think it's another one of those perfect passages, such as the ending of the chapter with the vivisectionists, where there's no way at all to improve it.

This is also the scene that makes me think that William H. Macy could do a good job as the vicar. As a friend noted, he'd have to gain weight for the role, but this scene makes me think of Macy's tantrum  Fargo, where he demolishes his office because he can't fleece the old couple. I could imagine him smothering impotent rage as the vicar, who really is a small, sad little man.

Unable to kill Snuff, he sulks off. The best part is when he tells Linda Enderby that he enjoyed the cookies she baked for him, and Linda asks him if his daughter also liked them, and you just know that he ate all the cookies himself. That cad! I think that's why he's such a great villain, because he's so petty in much of his villainy. 

After the vicar leaves, the Great Detective drops all pretenses and tells Snuff that he knows what's going on. Snuff plays dumb.

     I sat down and scratched my left ear with my hind leg.
  "That is not going to work with me, Snuff," he said.  "I know that you are not just a dumb dog, a subhuman intelligence.  I have learned a great deal concerning the affairs of this month, this place, the people engaged in the enterprise which I believe you refer to as 'the Game.'"

     I paused in my scratching to study his face.
 "I interviewed both the inebriated Russian and the equally distracted Welshman on their ways home from the pub one night, in my guise as a jovial traveler in commercial sales.  I have spoken with the Gipsies, with your neighbors, with all of the principals involved in this matter of purported metaphysical conflict, yes, I know it to be that, and I have observed many things which permitted me to deduce the outlines of a dark picture."
  I yawned in the rude way dogs sometimes do.  He smiled.
 "No good, Snuff," he said.  "You can dispense with the mannerisms.  I am certain that you understand every word I am saying, and you must be curious as to the extent of my knowledge of the ceremony to be conducted here on All Hallows' Eve and my intentions concerning it."

Snuff gives him the nod and the Great Detective outlines his intent. 
"...A great number of crimes have apparently been committed by nearly everyone involved in this 'Game,' as you call it.  Many of them would be virtually impossible to demonstrate in court, but I have neither a client who requires that I find a way of doing so, nor inclination to pursue such matters for my own amusement.  Technically, I am here only as a friend of the Yard, for purposes of investigating the likely murder of a police officer.  And this matter will be dealt with in due time.  Since my arrival in this place, however, I have been more and more impressed by the unusual goings-on, until, at length, largely because of Mr. Talbot's strange condition and that of the one known as the Count, I have become convinced that there is something truly unnatural involved.  While I dislike such a conclusion, recent personal experiences have also led me to accept its validity..."

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

I like the voice Zelazny gives the Great Detective. He tells Snuff that the vicar plans to sacrifice Lynette, but Snuff informs him, through letters in the dust, that Larry Talbot will be attempting her rescue. The Great Detective is still concerned, because he's not sure that Larry has his dosage down properly and might be mindless on the full moon, and the vicar also knows that there is a werewolf is involved, so he stole that the silver candlesticks back from Jean Valjean and melted them into silver bullets. He says that the only role he can see for himself is a backup for Larry, but that he needs to know where the ceremony will take place. And Snuff shows him. 


  1. It is my favorite chapter!

  2. Another, and larger drawback to Macy playing the vicar... Even at their lowest and most vile, his characters seem to be, for lack of a better term, loveable.