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The Nightclerk

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Panther, London, 1968
(first published in the UK by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966)
price: 5/-; 192 pages

dedication: dedicated to the one

The blurb on the back:

Oh, what games they play…!
The Nightclerk, fattest man in American literature, and his consort Katy, possibly the most depraved woman of our promiscuous era –
their Secrets, their Mirrors, Feathers, Silks, Paper Dolls, exquisite Valentines … the Rigorous Training of Mimi the French Maid, the Mystery of Little Lucy
and other erotic outrages all delineated in The Perfectly True Confession of The Nightclerk – Stephen Schneck’s $10,000 award winning novel.

opening lines:
‘…a room? Hey, what do you say, mister? Let’s have a little action here…’
A meaty paw pounded the service bell, but no bellboy jumped for the luggage that wasn’t there.

I assume that this is something of a cult novel in certain quarters – it certainly reads like one. Indeed it reads like that was its very intention, its raison d’etre, its inner core and deepest of deep meaning and mystery as it drags and drapes its shades, its shapes, its scabrous shanks across the pages, flaunting itself at you the reader with its wilful

flaunting of grammar

and syntax, regaling you the observer with its half-told tales of darkness and depravity, its hints of horror and occult ritual, dazzling you the spectator of spectacles such as you have seldom seen even in the slippery slivers of your sleep-time, and pressing its flesh close, close up on your flesh…

…and so on

...and so forth.

It’s all a bit much, to be honest. But then I’m not much of a judge of the arty fringes of Sixties literature in the US – Burroughs left me cold, the Beats bored me and I never got much pleasure from Last Exit To Brooklyn. This fragmented account of a very fat man who works the night-desk at a downtown LA hotel did not, therefore, stand much of a chance with me, but hell, I tried. It was only when I discovered that Mimi the French Maid, whose training I had been promised by the blurb, was actually male that I gave up. It’s a personal thing, but I’m really not interested in sub TVs.

But you probably shouldn’t be listening to me on the subject: check it out for yourself if you’re into this sort of thing. Mr Schneck wrote for the legendary Ramparts magazine and this was his first novel. I don’t know if there were any others.

a self-portrait by Stephen Schneck


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