FORGOTTEN BOOK: STALKING THE ZOMBIE by Mike Resnick, 2012
This is the 142nd in my series of Forgotten Books.
I believe I have mentioned before that I like Mike Resnick’s work – both the long and the short. He did his time in the hack pits and learned the writing lessons well. It was like, one day (after about 20 years) he was a force to be contended with.
When he writes serious work like IVORY or Bully! It is a story well worth your time and consideration. When he writes humorous stuff like this book or its predecessors STALKING THE UNICORN (1987), STALKING THE VAMPIRE (2008), and STALKING THE DRAGON (2009) you just need to let yourself go wild.
The thing that drew me to this book initially was that Mike was the Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, last year’s World Science Fiction Convention. This collection was published in limited edition for that show and Lawrence Person, book collecting fanatic that he is, offered to pick one up for me there.
The introduction by Connie Willis tells why I chose this book. Both Willis and Resnick are fans of Craig Rice, a very forgotten humorous mystery writer of the 1930’s and 1940’s. His character, detective John Justin Mallory is an unabashed tribute to Rice’s attorney John James Malone, who with his friends Jake Justus and Helene Brand Justus drink more, smoke more, and have more outrageous fun solving screwball mysteries than you can imagine.
In the STALKING books, detective Mallory has jumped between worlds, from our mundane world to a world of magic, demons, leprechauns, and all sorts of beasties, including a large feline cat type creature that talks to him (about food and scritches) and otherwise ignores him. Malone is the only private detective in the Manhattan phone book so he gets the interesting cases.
Sometimes the cases put him at odds with the Grundy. The biggest, baddest demon on the East Coast who has vowed to kill Mallory. But Mallory is not afraid of the Grundy and always speaks the truth to him, which has earned the demon’s respect. Sometimes this means he will help Mallory (though reminding him of the impending death, though never specifying when it will occur), sometimes he delights in not telling him information he needs. Of the eight short stories in this volume, the Grundy appears in 7 (if I remember correctly) and is mentioned obliquely in the other.
So, in these stories we have Mallory trying to discover who is fixing the pink elephant races at the track in “Post Time in Pink” and in “The Long and Short of It” he is helping the world’s tallest man and the world’s shortest man who both stand 6 feet tall when introduced to Mallory and who have a love life that would make Casanova jealous as well as 47 husbands. Then there is the case of “The Blue Nosed Reindeer” which has gone missing from Saint Nick and is his only protection from Surface to Air Missiles which it can detect.
Other fun stories include “The Amorous Broom” in which one of the Grundy’s trophies decides that it is in love with Mallory and leaves the Grundy’s collection. You don’t get to be the biggest, baddest demon on the East Coast by letting people take things from you, even if you don’t want them. In “Shell Game” Mallory is hired to find a missing lamia egg, the last in the world, for John F. Kennedy. “Card Shark” involves a large fish and tarot cards. And of course the title story involves finding a dead politician who really enjoyed life but discovers that he just can’t enjoy being dead or a zombie/
The supporting cast is quite fun. Colonel Winnifred Carruthers is Mallory’s partner in the Mallory and Carruthers Agency. A former big game hunter, she has contacts all over the place. She is also a demon at drawing underwear on the pinups that Mallory posts on the office. Felina, the cat girl, is always looking for food or scritches, not scratches. She is also very good to have around when encountering the leprechauns, gremlins, and other demons that frequently make up security forces and goon squads. When she appears, everyone develops lumbago or takes all the accumulated sick leave/vacation even if they have none.
If you can find the book, it is well worth your time. Hardback copies are available online. I did not see a paperback edition listed. I enjoyed it immensely; however, your mileage may vary.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.