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Witch Queen of Lochlann by George Henry…
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Witch Queen of Lochlann (1969)

by George Henry Smith

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Our hero is a a private eye, an occult bookstore owner, a swordsman, a middle guard for the Green Bay packers, and a OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST IN DISCUS.

Oh, and the most powerful wizard in North America. Where magic doesn't work.

He wants to fight cars. With a sword.

Oh, boy.

Duffus January . . . henceforth known as Doofus . . . is introduced to us with what must surely rank amongst the great first lines in the fantasy genre, "Peggy O'Shea was my favorite manicurist." In short order, he

A) Admits he forgets his manicurist's hair color because he spends all his time looking down her cleavage.
B) Asks her out while also asking he to sweep up all his hair and nails into a bag for him.
C) Admits to her that he thinks airplanes are a conspiracy theory.

I wonder why she doesn't say "yes?"

Doofus is a man out of time. He wants to be Conan, but he's stuck in a world with his hated nemesis: cars. Yes, he hates and distrusts technology, and cars are the focus of all his hate, watching with "their hooded eyes" and waiting to pounce with "those fang-like teeth they call grills." Let's give some examples.

"It was a big ominous Cadillac, with spear-like protrusions at the rear. I could feel the malevolence in its glance.. Its teeth-like grill was grinning in hate and its tiger paws were gripping the pavement in preparation for a leap."

He dearly wishes he was born in another time, experimenting with magic even though it doesn't work and he knows it. He's dearly working on a Persian spell that "would render any woman incapable of saying no." He calls it a counter-virginity spell.

There's definitely 1969-era gender roles on display here.

As the inevitable dame walks into his office, he's totally ready for a trip to another reality. He confides to his new client that his fondest wish is to grab his family two-handed sword, don his mail-order helmet and chain, and stand on a street corner, fighting cars.

"There would be the scream of dying machinery, and [it] would be lying there with its hood, motor, and chassis cleaved open, it blood turning the street black, and . . ."

Soon, he is dispensing such wonderful advice as:

""There is no real magic," I said. "Trust in the Stone of Solomon."

Luckily enough for our planet, he is whipped into a fantasy world before the lunatic gives in to the urge. A quick trip to the Grand Central Station between dimensions, and Doofus in unleashed on the poor sword-and-sorcery realm.

He's a dumpster fire of a main character, but I can't help watch how he tramples things under his sardonic, sandaled feet. An admitted bully ("just like Fin MacCool," he claims), he viciously beats the crew of a small boat during a terrified mutiny before ordering the captain to full speed ahead.

"You've killed half my crew," the captain replies haplessly.

Doofus is a mess, yet it is a weirdly consistent mess. It's fun to watch the living trainwreck with a sense of fun play the hero, wooing both of two prospective witch-queen sisters as they hunt for their MacGuffin.

There's a sense of humor, lots of weirdly applied Celtic myth, and one genuinely great pulp deathtrap/jail cell escape. I was sure that I was going to hate Doofus for all his obvious flaws, but he kind of transforms into the fantasy equivalent of Evil Dead's Ash. I was smiling when I finished the book.

All right, Doofus. You get three stars at 159 pages. Any more and you would've overstayed your welcome.

Wait.

There isn't a trilogy of this somewhere, is there? ( )
  K.t.Katzmann | Apr 18, 2016 |
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