Sunday, August 08, 2010
R.A. MacAvoy; Tea with the Black Dragon (Bantam; 1983; ISBN 0-553-23205-3; cover by Pauline Ellison and e-reads.com; 1999; ISBN 0-7592-0801-8; no cover art).
Way back at the Dawn of Time, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the internet was the Arpanet, a new author came to my attention that grabbed my attention in a way that few others have done in the field of fantasy. Peter S. Beagle was one such author, Tim Powers was another such author.
(The problem I have with much of fantasy is that so much of it seems to be the same. So many lost princes or princesses hidden in farmyards, waiting for the old wizard to come and awaken them to their true destiny. Or epic quests where small parties fight the evil overlord in a desperate struggle to save their world. Etc. Warmed-over Tolkien, or rehashed D&D adventures.)
(Sure, I know there is good stuff out there. But it is so hard to find. Maybe I should have stuck with the field more, found the "urban fantasy" or "dark fantasy" or "magical realism" as it surfaced (as this seems to fit the likes of Beagle, Powers, and now folks like Glen Cook, David Drake or newcomers like John Lambshead). But for a few jewels, Powers, Beagle and that discovery from 1983, MacAvoy, the field passed me by.)
Tea with the Black Dragon is a slim book. Barely a novel, as a matter of fact. You can read it in one sitting (as I did today, re-reading it for the first time in many years). Martha Macnamara (no capital N) has come to San Francisco from New York to meet up with her daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth has indicated that she is in trouble, but has not said what over. While at her hotel, Martha meets up with the mysterious Mayland Long, widely read, mysteriously Oriental and maybe not human. She enlists his help, the story moves from fantasy/philosophy to pure crime and detection to fantasy/romance.
And all throughout, pure magic.
I only read a little bit more of MacAvoy's work (including the sequel to this book, Twisting the Rope). She seemed to move into more traditional pathways and fantasy tropes and then vanished. Recently she has surfaced again, at Subterranean Press, with In Between (a story that sounds like it could be as good as Tea with the Black Dragon was). I'll have to dig around for all that is in between, and hope that she will return to the field with more gems.