Halloween is approaching, and Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October is a delightful way to spend some of the evenings leading up to it.
The book takes place during a certain October in the late 1800's—a year when the full moon coincided with Halloween—and has one chapter for each day of the month. It's told by a somewhat shaggy dog named Snuff, who is preparing for a certain event that will take place under that full moon. Snuff's not in this all by himself, of course. He's working for, or more accurately with, a strangely familiar fellow named Jack. Jack has a large magic knife, and seems to be of the wizardly persuasion. One gathers that he and Snuff have played this game many times before, and while they do some of the preparations together there are many things that Snuff does on his own.
For example, Snuff's a watch dog, and it's his job to keep an eye on things: specifically, the Thing in the Wardrobe, the Thing in the Steamer Trunk, the Thing in the Circle, and the Things in the Mirror. It's essential he does so, because otherwise the Things might get out of hand.
But he also has to keep an eye on the other players, of whom there are many, including Rastov the Russian monk and his snake Quicklime; the body snatchers Morris and McCab, and their owl; the Count, and his bat; Crazy Jill the witch and her cat, Graymalk. The Great Detective makes an appearance, as does an odd fellow named Larry Talbot. All the players have gathered for this event on the last day of October, when Something will Happen…or, perhaps, won't Happen, depending on how the game goes. Snuff’s not only a watch dog, though he likes being a watch dog much more than what he used to be before Jack gave him this job….
I won't give it away; Zelazny has too much fun letting you in on things little by little.
This is Zelazny's last novel, and one of his most fun, and I don't think it's ever gotten quite the recognition it deserves. It's a little bit horror, a little bit funny, a little bit goofy, and all-in-all a real gem. Oh, and it has illustrations by Gahan Wilson, another name that's less well known now than it used to be. Highly recommended.