Read Recently — February 2005

A Praed Street Dossier by August Derleth

A short book about the Solar Pons series of Holmes Pastiches by Derleth. He writes about the origins of the characters, both in terms of how he created them, and in terms of their in-book histories. He discusses how he came to choose Praed street as the locale for Pons’ home base. And he discusses how he came up with the stories in the series.

The rest of the book is fiction: several pages from Dr. Parker’s diary, including one that explains a throwaway line in The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians, and two SFian adventures written with Mack Reynolds, not available anywhere else.

Only of interest to fans of Solar Pons, of which I am one.

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

I didn’t really want to read this book. However, in a discussion on a mailing list the topic “chocolate books” came up, and this was the only one I could think of, so I claimed I was reading it. So then I felt I had to. It’s an honour thing.

A short digression into psychology, especially the psychology of writing, is necessary. Toys, nursery rhymes, and, these days, cartoons and comic books, are among the first characters we are exposed to. Those of us who write, or, before we write, tell stories, are often driven to include these characters in our first works. C. S. Lewis, for example, before he created Narnia created Boxen, based on games he and his brother played with their toys. I’m sure you can come up with examples from your own juvenalia, if you look.

Some writers, of course, carry that fascination foreward into their adulthood. ‘That city full of toys/toons that I created when I was a kid,’ they think, ‘I wonder how it would really work? What kind of food would they eat? Where would it come from? Would it need sewers? Police? What laws would they enforce?’ And then they write a novel or award-winning motion picture. These people are inevitably sick freaks.

Which brings us to the book. A lad named Jack leaves his home and the clockwork factory where he works behind and heads for the big city, avoiding certain doom on the way. What Jack doesn’t realise is that he is heading to Toy City, for Toy Town, where living toys . . . live. And work. And occasionally get murdered. Jack falls in with a teddy bear named Eddie (not the teddy famous from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), who was the teddy bear of famous, supposedly fictional detective Bill Winkie, who has now vanished upon receiving a big pre-payment for an investigation. Eddie, who insists he was the brains of the outfit (for all that his brains are sawdust), needs a partner to do the physical work, and Jack can fit the bill handily. They are soon investigating the murder of Humpty Dumpty.

It seems that Toy City is home to Nursery Rhyme characters as well as toys. The Nursery Rhyme characters, who prefer to be called “Preadolescent Poetic Personalities”, are the old rich of the city. Little Boy Blue is a fashion designer, owner of the line, “Oh Boy!” Mother Goose runs an upscale whorehouse (she now prefers to be called Madame Goose). Jack Spratt runs a line of Lean-cuisine restaurants, while his wife (now ex-wife), Nadine, runs a chain of high-fat fast-food restaurants. And so on, and they are all being murdered in highly ironic ways. Humpty Dumpty, for instance was boiled for three minutes in his own swimming pool. Little Boy Blue was . . . well, the murderer found an ironic and amusing use for his old shepherd’s crook. And so on. At each crime scene, our unlikely heroes find a hollow chocolate bunny . . . .

This is a weird and funny book, written with a great deal of imagination. The writer is obviously a sick freak.


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