While reading Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October I kept wondering how it could be made into a movie. The challenge is not so much the talking dog, cat, bat, or rat (they are demon sidekicks, of course), but how Zelazny let their dialogues provide the main flow of the story. The reader needs to rely on the dog named Snuff, and his powers of observation, because he is the one narrating what is happening each day of October, leading up to the eventful battle royale that will take place on Halloween; but his owner is Jack the Ripper, so there is some question as to his sense of good versus evil nose sniffing to be sure.
That pending battle, with the apocalyptic tendencies, will be waged by the openers and the closers. The openers are more the bad players and the closers are more the good players, but since Saucy Jack, along with Snuff, are on the good players side, using the term "good" requires some stretching. Count Dracula is also in the game, but no one really knows which side he'll be on when push comes to shove as those slimy, multi-tentacled monstrosities, looking for a new footfold into our dimension, make their move on Halloween night. And so the game begins in this Victorian period piece, played over each day, with each demon sidekick doing a lot of the legwork, trying to figure out who will be an opener or a closer, and how the lines of power are being drawn in the neighborhood. As the maneuverings for power take place, Sherlock Holmes (referred to as the Great Detective), dons disguise and guile to reveal the mystery emanating from the deadly game. Even Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, puts down all fours, providing assistance to Snuff. What part Talbot will play at the end can go a tail wag either way, but he proves invaluable to Snuff. If Lon Chaney Jr. keeps popping into your head as you read, you will already know how Talbot will play it.
Snuff is rather stiff-lipped and steely pawed and clever at gaining information while strategically sharing it. Mostly with Graymalk the cat as the two strike up an unlikely alliance. Each helps the other out of bad spots as the days move closer to the eventful night. Zelazny keeps his words and paragraphs stiff-lipped too, and there is a prim tempo to each chapter; one chapter for each day in October, with the first one putting the reader imediately into the story with little fanfare.
Interesting little tidbits of the uncanny wind up in odd places. There's Jack's monsters trapped in a mirror and furniture, always looking to escape; a human sacrifice is chained, awaiting her doom; a tour of a Lovecraftian dreamscape where ancient beings wait patiently to walk the earth again, and murder most fowl when the going gets rough. Zelazny writes it all as matter of factly as possible, with close calls, bodies turning up, and the tools of the dark arts trade slowly revealing themselves. His economy of words creates a magical opening all by itself, wherein the reader can infer much and imbue each player in this great game, either good or bad, with feelings and intentions, even if that player crawls, flys, howls or walks on two legs by night. His description of Dracula's actions, merely a few drops of blood worth, is more chilling than any of the recent Universal endeavors for the ruddy Count. Perhaps Universal should look into doing the movie version? This would make quite a monster rally indeed for the big screen.