Doc Stoeger is the editor of the Carmel Clarion, Carmel City’s weekly newspaper, put to bed on Thursday night and released on Friday. On this particular Thursday night, the paper is looking extremely void of news and Doc complains that he wishes something would happen on a Thursday night to give him a hot story. As well as being editor of the local paper, Doc is also an aficionado of the works of Lewis Carroll and enjoys nothing more than spouting verse in Smiley’s bar when work is over. The Lewis Carroll references become very important to the storyline and are scattered liberally throughout the book.
Before the night is half over, Doc’s wishes come true, as he is absolutely deluged with exciting stories that would make terrific reading the next morning. From bank robbers, to a factory fire, to the capture of a criminal gang. But as quickly as they break, the stories evaporate leaving him with the prospect of delivering a newspaper with nothing worthwhile to read.
In the midst of his newspaper worries, Doc is visited by a man calling himself Yehudi Smith – a name of great significance to a Lewis Carroll fan. Yehudi seems to know a great deal about Doc and about his fascination with Lewis Carroll and he invites Doc to accompany him later that night on a hunt for the Jabberwock. As surreal as this prospect seems, Doc is convinced that the prospect isn’t as crazy as it first seems, so he agrees to go.
This is just the start of an amazing night for Doc Stoeger. Before the night is through, he finds himself in an unbelievably hopeless predicament on the run from the police, desperately trying to make sense of the night’s events. It seems that the story goes off the rails and heads into the realms of fantasy, but the key to the whole story is hidden in the fact that, although everything that happens seems impossibly fantastic, when logic is applied and reasoned out carefully, the events become part of a very clever plot.
This is a brilliantly constructed book combining the strange and, at times, nonsensical talents of Lewis Carroll’s brilliance with a scathingly clever mystery. This is the first book I have read by Fredric Brown, but I am now hopelessly and helplessly hooked.
And just as a teaser, here is an important verse of Lewis Carroll’s that has a rather special meaning in Night of the Jabberwock:
As I was climbing up the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish that man would go away