on 18 June 1999
This was the first Fritz Leiber book that I ever read, and titled as THE KNIGHT AND KNAVE OF SWORDS. C.J. Cherryh points out in an Interzone interview, that F.L. had a wonderful talent for delivering the contents of his stories with such a sophisticated, slickness that you didn't know it was coming till it happened. One of the better examples of this quality is in the story, THE MOUSER GOES BELOW. There is a section where The Mouser is privy to a pain and pleasure scene between the rat-queen, Hisvet, and her two maids, threesie and foursie. At the climax to this, The Mouser, being highly stimulated by the action is accosted by Death's sister, Pain, who relieves him drop, by excruciating drop. It's the way that the Pain character is reintroduced from earlier, and then used within a switch of related contexts. The former being comically erotic, the latter, a piece of pure horror. Sequences such as this, clearly demonstrate why F.L. was such a highly awarded writer, as is detailed in the dust jacket.
My only gripe with this publication is the omission of the last few pages that ended THE CURSE OF THE SMALLS AND THE STARS in THE KNIGHT AND KNAVE OF SWORDS version, which I was familiar with. I think it would have been more complete with that addition, as it completes the story more agreeably, instead of leaving it slightly hanging.