There are books I can’t read with appropriate critical detachment. Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October is one of these. I remember Roger’s excitement when he started writing it. He’d had the idea for a long time, up to and including having Gahan Wilson supply the illustrations. He’d even gone as far as querying Gahan, but at the time the artist was solidly booked and had to decline.
As I recall, Roger told me, Gahan Wilson’s letter declining the project had been very nice. It even included a sketch of Snuff the dog, “Just as I’d imagined him.”
To be honest, Roger was pretty solidly booked at the time, too, so the story that would become A Night in the Lonesome October lay fallow for many years. Eventually, Roger found himself writing the novel – even though he had other commitments. He was very pleased with it and often read me snippets over the phone.
The delight didn’t end once the book was written. Roger had sent me manuscripts of newly completed works before.
(Can you call a photocopy of a typescript a “manuscript”? Anyhow, that’s what I mean.)
This was the first time he seemed eager, even impatient, for me to finish something. It’s a short novel, so I finished my reading pretty quickly. I had a few suggestions, but they were in the context of general delight.
This time Gahan Wilson was able to make time to do the illustrations. Roger was disappointed when, for reasons of marketing, Gahan didn’t also get to do the front cover, but the usual author portrait on the back was replaced with a lively caricature of author and artist as Holmes and Watson. Roger looks almost demonically intent, which is just right, while Gahan Wilson pauses in the middle of sketching a pair of cat’s eyes, as if only just then realizing that they are unaccompanied by a cat.
After the book was completed, Roger read portions of it at various conventions. At one event, when time ran out, he and his audience went and found an empty room. Then Roger finished reading the entire book. The same lively enthusiasm colored Roger’s reading of the book as an audio for Sunset Productions. Roger had read other of his works to be converted into audio versions, but usually the reading sessions went an hour or so at a time. This time both he and the sound engineer were having so much fun they did the entire book in one sitting…
I’m not going to say more about the novel because I don’t want to provide any spoilers, instead I’m going to invite you to join me and my friends Julie Bartel and Tori Hansen as we read A Night in the Lonesome October one chapter a day, each day in October. (There are a prologue and thirty-one chapters, some of which are super short.)
Here’s how this came about… Tori was at my house, painting the cover for Wanderings on Writing. As she painted, we got to discussing good books. I mentioned A Night in the Lonesome October. Tori commented that she’d read it a while back and really liked it. Then she brightened and said, “It’s almost October! I should read it then.”
Memory flashed. I said, “My friend Julie and her husband, Ken, always read A Night in the Lonesome October one chapter a day through October. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Tori agreed that doing this would be fun. “We could talk about it, sort of a book club.”
Problem… I see Tori just about every week, but Julie lives in Utah. So… How about on-line? Should we send e-mails or use Facebook? Wait! Twitter is perfect for this sort of thing. Tori and Julie were already on Twitter and I’d just started…
Excitement! As long as we’re doing this, why not open up the discussion to anyone who wanted to join in?
So that’s what we’re doing. Since everyone can’t read and post every day, we’re welcoming less frequent posts. All we ask is that posters not get ahead of whatever day it is in October and that they include the Twitter hashtag, #LonesomeOctober.
We hope you’ll join us starting October 1. (That’s today!) It’s going to be lots of fun!