As a consequence of reading The Merchant Princes, I have picked up my old friend and lost habit of Amber, the Zelazny multiverse books he began cranking out in the sixties after Lord of Light. I read and reread these books as a kid, along with the seventies DeCamp/Howard Conan books, whatever Moorcock I could find, and Lieber’s elegant Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser material.

I’ve had the luxury of long, contemplative rereads of everything Moorcock and Lieber ever wrote, and Lieber’s fantasy pair take the cake for elegant, self-aware literary work. That said, I adore Moorcock deeply and when he puts his mind to it he writes a deeper book than Fritz ever chose to.

The last time I took a run at Zelazny’s Amber books, I was put off by what tonight seems to be the witty conceit at the heart of the work: he writes in the authentic American pulp crime voice (a genre he had pursued) while applying it directly to both then-fresh Campbellian narrative and still-fresh multiversal theses. It’s a lead pipe cinch.

Except somehow last time the inherent dames-and-devils tropes of the prose and posture just put me off, the casual American sexism and so forth. I couldn’t plow through.

This week, however, I’m more amused by the intentional collision of cod-medieval speech address and hard-bitten tough guys treating amnesia with fisticuffs. When I first read it, I would not even have been aware that the material was an engineered genre crossbreed.

Anyway, wish me luck. I aim to stick with it through the classic half and bail later.