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September 28, 2016

Read along with me: A Night in the Lonesome October


Night In the Lonesome2It began with a dare, or so the story goes.

Roger Zelazny, the award-winning author of the Chronicles of Amber series and a geek deity of science fiction and fantasy, accepted a dare to write a book in which Jack the Ripper was the hero—or at least a sympathetic character. In 1993, A Night in the Lonesome October was published.

The book quickly found its fans, including Zelazny’s friend George R. R. Martin, who called the book “the last great novel by one of the giants of the genre,” and Neil Gaiman, who wrote a short story inspired by the book, “Only the End of the World Again.”

Somehow in the 20 years between the original publication and the 2013 meeting where it was proposed we bring the then out-of-print book back into print as a part of our Rediscovered Classics series, A Night in the Lonesome October had never been on my radar. My status as CRP’s resident sci-fi/fantasy guru and a lover of gothic tales and mystery took a ding, and I read it as soon as I could get my hands on the original 1993 mass market paperback that arrived in the office. The verdict, with apologies and a nod toward Charlotte Brontë and her gothic-esque novel, Jane Eyre:

Reader, I loved it.

It’s long been a tradition for fans to have A Night in the Lonesome October read-alongs during the month of October. The 31 chapters (plus introduction) align with the 31 days in the month, and the time commitment for reading is minimal. Some chapters are as short as 1 page, while the longest is around 20. Since we brought the book back into print in 2014, I have organized a book club with weekly meetups, as well as a building-wide read-along—everyone was encouraged to chronicle his or her read. This October CRP will be chronicling our read-along online using the hashtag–#ANightInTheLonesomeOctober.

The tale is narrated by Jack’s dog, Snuff, and the story unfolds from the POV of the animal familiars of some of the legends of gothic and classic horror. The Count (Dracula), the Good Doctor (Victor Frankenstein), and Larry Talbot (that would be spoiling) appear, as do some real-life bogeymen—the aforementioned Jack (as in the Ripper), and Rastov the “Mad Monk,” who bears more than a passing resemblance to Rasputin. The book chronicles each day in October as the characters (the “Players”) and their familiars prepare for “the Game” that happens literally every once in a Halloween-with-a-full-moon. The rules of the Game, the makeup of the teams, and what exactly will happen on October 31 are revealed as the story progresses. It all comes to a head on Halloween night and chaos (and possibly eldritch horror) ensues.

Lest you think this sounds too scary or too genre-serious and -dependent, let me assure you this book is absolutely enjoyable, satirical, and rather absurd. (The last line of the book takes the cake and runs for the hills.) Think Penny Dreadful meets Lovecraft meets Scooby-Doo, with narration by a very articulate, low-key canine.

If you’re interested in reading along this October, be sure to get a group together or to find a virtual group online. And join in the conversation on Twitter (@ChiReviewPress) and Instagram (@chicagoreviewpress) with #ANightInTheLonesomeOctober

Night in the Lonesome October, A


A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, and illustrated by Gahan Wilson, is available wherever books are sold.

[Get it now $16]


1 Comment

Oct 21, 2016
Blog | Chicago Review Press says:

[…] naturally, I’ve been reading one chapter each day from A Night in the Lonesome October. Graymalk and Snuff’s camaraderie, despite being on opposites sides of the Game, is totally […]

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