Tales within Tales within Tales…

I love books that don’t exist.

You know what they are: characters in novels read them. They’re imaginary books that exist only in the universe that’s created in the novel you’re currently reading. A character, looking across a river, might have in her hand, The Gulf: When to Get Divorced. Another character might find a book in a mysterious, dimly-lit curio shop. He opens the book . . . and that’s the last anyone sees of him. The book’s title: Don’t Open This Book.

They push the plot along, or indicate theme, or are just there because the author felt like adding a little something.

My novel-in-rewrite-purgatory, The Enigma Club, is a 3/4 adventure, 1/4 comedy story about the era of pulp adventure, and I’ve filled it with mentions of imaginary books that reflect both the golden age of adventure, but also the antiquated post-Victorian era that spawned the pulps. They’d publish any kind of crap back then.

Safari to Hoboken
Where the Dung Beetles Dwell
Haunted Biergartens (Holzer & Grolsch)
Don’t You Believe It! (rare copy of Mr. Ripley’s first book — quite the unsuccessful)
Roadside Gondwanaland
Who Discovered the Mogo?
Without a Nightlight in the Jungle (by our own Dr. Dickie Denton)
Enchanted Poems and Assorted Vowels
Palace of a Thousand Toothless Harem Girls
The Banana — America’s Friend!

One of the first notes I made in 1996 when I started the novel was about the ape-man who was the Enigma Club’s benefactor, as well as a focal point to reel in readers’ disbelief. He was a Tarzan clone who was not as dumb as George of the Jungle . . . but was close. Tarzan had adventures. My jungle lord has misadventures. He began life as Ka-Gor, but that name was not only unfunny, but also very close — too close — to Ki-Gor, a real pulp jungle lord of the ’40s. So, after much serious deliberation, I switched Ka-Gor to . . .

Scrotar.

Scrotar the Pendulous.

And, to make this world of the Enigma Club as real as possible, I’ve come up with about 700 titles — and synopses — of Scrotar’s adventures, as published in every other issue of the Enigma Club All-Adventure Magazine from 1914 to 1953. My lovely wife and muse, Maria, helped me come up with some of them, but I think she still prefers Ka-Gor over Scrotar. She’s nuts.

Scrotar Aboard the Ghost Yacht
Scrotar and the Scrotarettes
Scrotar and the Trojans
Wanted: Scrotar . . . Dead or Alive
Scrotar and the Odd-Tasting Brownies
Judge, Jury and Scrotar
Sing a Song of Scrotar
Moo Goo Gai Scrotar
“Die, Scrotar, Die!”
Smell the Spoor of Scrotar

The Challenge of Scrotar
The Algebra Master covets Scrotar’s Golden Slide Rule. Best line: “‘Pi,’ the mathematician shouted. ‘Not pie!’”

Scrotar the Challenged
Scrotar follows a faint trail to Korocca, where a poisonous snake cult throws him into their diabolical Maze of Monochromatic Sand.

Scrotar the Magnanimous
Scrotar throws a banquet for homeless jungle animals and gets a prize . . . from the Volcano Death-King!

The reason I explain all this to you is that books that don’t exist are really fun, and the New York Times has a cool article online that talks all about them. Go there . . . and keep reading . . .

. . . in the name of Scrotar!