It is now one week to Christmas, and a bit under two weeks to the end of The List. On the 30th, we shall see how our pre-order volume measures up against everyone else’s–I’m expecting a bit of jump in everybody else’s pre-order volume over the Christmas holidays as they meet up with distant relatives they haven’t spoken to all year, so nothing is for certain just yet. Anything can happen.
Competing in The List … well, that puts one in mind of a certain sport, doesn’t it?
Except the jousting in this List is done with pages. (And did you know that the official state sport of Maryland is jousting?)
Eric Peterkin, the hero of “Murder at the Veterans’ Club”, doesn’t joust, but he does have dreams of Arthurian chivalry. The novel compares him to Sir Pellinore, one of King Arthur’s knights of the round table: according to legend, Sir Pellinore’s primary hobby was the pursuit of the mythical Questing Beast, a creature with the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the feet of a deer, and a constant sound in its belly described as like “thirty brace of hounds a’questing”–hence its name. (Apparently the verb “to quest” once meant “to bark”. Think of that the next time you read of heroes gone a’questing.)
The comparison is rooted in Eric’s Quixotic need to go chasing after something–anything!–and, in the novel, his “Questing Beast” is the identity of the murderer. Just as Sir Pellinore isn’t happy unless he’s out chasing his Beast, Eric won’t be happy unless he’s doing the same. Not that he’d ever admit it, of course….