FORGOTTEN BOOK: TROUBLE IN BUGLAND by William Kotzwinkle, 1983
This is the 124th in my series of Forgotten Books.
William Kotzwinkle erupted on the literary scene in the early 1970’s with ELEPHANTS BANGS TRAIN and THE FAN MAN and then came to the notice of many fans when DOCTOR RAT won the World Fantasy Award in 1977. I found his work wild, creative and incredibly readable so I bought a large number of his books and there were many to be had.
I particularly enjoyed FATA MORGANA (1977), JACK IN THE BOX (1980), CHRISTMAS AT FONTAINES (1982) and his novelization of ET: The Extraterrestrial (1982) which like Orson Scott Card’s novelization of THE ABYSS, is actually better than the movie. He later wrote a sequel to ET that was OK. However, even a master novelist could do nothing with the story of Superman 3. It was ugly from Day 1.
In 1983 a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore showed up when David R. Godine, Publisher of Boston issued TROUBLE IN BUGLAND: A Collection of Inspector Mantis Mysteries. This slim volume contains five Sherlock Holmes pastiches with two full color Joe Servello illustrations per tale and a host of black and white spot illustrations throughout. It is a book for the serious Holmes fan and yet young adults with a passing knowledge can enjoy it also.
Inspector Mantis is a lean and wiry bug with his coat and cape, deer stalker and pipe. He has no first name referred to in the stories nor is he specifically indicated as being part of a police force. He and his assistant Dr. Hopper occupy some home but it is also not specified.
The first story is “The Case of the Missing Butterfly” wherein young, beautiful circus performer Juliana Butterfly has gone missing from the circus. Dr. Hopper had just seen her performance and was entranced with her beauty. Investigations in unsavory places lead to a stinkbug and other nefarious insects. “The Case of the Frightened Scholar” tells the tale of Professor Booklouse who has ingested the contents of the wrong book and finds himself in possession of a spy’s knowledge and a deadly threat to his life.
“The Case of the Caterpillar’s Head” involves people who have handled the illicitly obtained god of a rave of bloodthirsty termites. The titular object brings death and destruction and termites to all around. “The Case of Headless Monster” is similar to The Hound of the Baskervilles in that a giant monster terrorizes the countryside and Inspector Mantis and Dr. Hopper must find a way to destroy it. Finally, “The Case of the Emperor’s Crown” involves Mantis’ interaction with Walking Stick who regularly beats him at chess and who poses three unsolvable crimes for Mantis to solve.
I enjoyed these stories back in 1983 and I really enjoyed them again this week as I avidly read through them again. You probably would, too.
Copies seem to be readily available for reasonable prices so there is no reason to resist. Besides you need to give yourself something for Christmas, don’t you? Give in.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.