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Literature / A Fable of Tonight

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A Fable of Tonight is a Fantastic Noir series by author Mike Resnick. The first novel in the series, Stalking the Unicorn was published in 1987 as part of the fantasy noir boom that also launched the long-running Garrett, P.I. series and Who Censored Roger Rabbit?.

Private Detective John Justin Mallory is hired by an elf to find a missing unicorn is an alternate version of Manhattan populated by all sorts of magical creatures and ends up running afoul of The Grundy, that world's ultimate crime boss (who also happens to be a demon). In the end, he ends up sacrificing his chance to go home in order to keep the Grundy from entering our world and sets up shop in a world where he is often literally the Only Sane Man.

The series contains three novels:

  1. Stalking the Unicorn
  2. Stalking the Vampire
  3. Stalking the Dragon

There are also numerous short stories, several of which will be collected and published in the upcoming volume Stalking the Zombie.

A Fable of Tonight has examples of:

  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: John and Felina's schtick, even though he denies anything romantic about their relationship.
  • Big Bad: The Grundy, he's not only a crime boss, he's his world's equivalent of Satan.
  • Black-and-White Morality: John is relieved to live in a world where the lines between good and evil are (usually) more clearly defined.
  • Cat Girl: Felina, who often fills in as Mallory's own personal Femme Fatale as well as his "secretary."
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Felina, in Stalking the Dragon she almost gets into a cat-fight with a cell phone over John. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Cloudcuckooland: The alternate Manhattan
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the first book John buys a pistol that spends most of the story just sitting in his pocket. He uses it to kill Flypaper Gillespie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: John Justin Mallory. Felina to a lesser extent.
  • Death Is Cheap: Between vampires, zombies, and who knows what else, few people stay dead in Manhattan for very long. One man in Stalking the Vampire takes extra precautions to make sure he stays dead in order to escape his overbearing wife.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Grundy's main flaw is that he often cannot follow John Justin's reasoning or motivations because he's so completely evil while John is fundamentally decent. It's especially important in the first book because He's utterly incapable of believing or understanding why John would seal away an incredibly powerful magic ruby in his own world, thus trapping himself in the alternate Manhattan. It leaves then at a stalemate for the rest of the series.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The novels each take place over the course of a single night. The short stories sometimes only cover a couple of hours.
  • Full-Name Basis: Most characters constantly refer to John by his first and middle names, while the narration almost always just calls him Mallory.
  • Friendly Enemy: The Grundy considers John this. John isn't nearly as fond of him.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Pretty much all vampires (with a few exceptions) are decent folks just trying to get by. They don't turn people against their will and try to avoid biting people in the first place, preferring to buy blood by the gallon at local blood banks or barring that living on cow's blood obtained at butcher's shops.
  • The Glomp: Felina does this to John all the time.
  • Guile Hero: John Justin usually solves the case without ever throwing a punch or drawing his gun, preferring to bluff and outsmart his enemies into doing a lot of his work for him.
  • Hardboiled Detective: John Justin Mallory
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Each of the novels take place over a major holiday, specifically New Year's Eve, Halloween, and Valentine's Day (respectively).
  • Insistent Terminology: Felina often demands that John "skritch" between her shoulder blades and will become quite petulant if he scratches instead.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Mystery writer Scaly Jim remarks that he might have to adapt John's case into a novel called Stalking The Vampire. John remarks that he thinks that title has been done. Jim retorts that it hasn't in this Manhattan.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Felina. The first book makes it clear how cat-like and flexible she is when she casually sits down and starts licking her own thigh. She also has a habit of lying across John's desk.
  • Only Sane Man: John Justin Mallory. It's noted that in a world as crazy as his sanity has its advantages, and he often uses the insanity surrounding him to his advantage.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They're hairy little troglodytes who live on subway tokens.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: For one thing they can survive in sunlight (though not comfortably) and can live quite comfortably entirely on animal blood. The only hard an fast rule is that they must sleep in their native soil (although their own unwashed sheets will work in a pinch).
  • Real Women Have Curves: Felina is described as having 'curves in places where other girls don't have places'.
  • Retired Badass: Colonel Winnifred Carruthers. John coaxes her out of retirement to be his partner.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Felina for John.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: John repeatedly denies anything that may or may not be going on between him and Felina.
  • Sitting Sexy On A Desk: Felina does this all the time.
  • Trapped in Another World: John at the end of the first book. He accepts it astoundingly quickly.
  • Ship Tease: John Justin between both Winnifred and Felina. He will often treat the former to dinner (in one case intending to do so on Valentine's Day), and (practically) lives with the other in his office despite having an apartment (with her frequently sprawled across his desk, demanding to be "skritched"). He also becomes embarrassed if Felina rubs against him while purring in public.
  • Strictly Formula: Although the plot itself changes from story-to-story there are always a few recurring bits that keep popping up. For example: Every story starts and ends in the office, John consulting the Grundy for any useful input or information (of which he usually receives none), Felina always accompanies John in his investigation (often demanding outrageous amounts of live animals for her to eat in exchange for her cooperation), John encountering a trio of cowardly guards who make excuses rather than facing Felina, and John outwitting his opponents to the point where they don't even put up a fight.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite her constant claims that she will desert him at her earliest convenience Felina sticks with John through thick and thin.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Subverted in the first book as John shoots Flypaper Gillespie as soon as it's convenient.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Grundy considers John Justin this. The feeling isn't mutual.