Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, April 18, 2024


 The Last Christmas by F. Paul Wilson  (2019)

More of a How The Hell Did This Slip Under My Radar Book than a Forgotten Book.

I am a big fan of F. Paul Wilson's urban guerilla Repairman Jack, whose saga ended (kind of) with the 2012 publication of the second revised edition of the 1992 book Nightworld.  Since then, Jack has returned in a trilogy about his youth in New Jersey and a trilogy about his adventures as a young man after moving to New York.  Although there has been talk over the years of a Repairman Jack (or Young Jack, or Early Jack) series of graphic novels, they have not come to fruition, except for 2020's Scar-Lip Redux, in which Jack hunts a rakosh.  (A what?  Never mind.  It's something only Repairman Jack fans will understand.)   And then there's The Last Christmas, an interlude in the main Repairman Jack sequence, taking place between Ground Zero (the thirteenth novel in the series) and  Fatal Error (the fourteenth); the events in The Last Christmas take place some five months before the world is scheduled to end.  (What?  Never mind.  It's something only Repairman Jack and Adversary fans will understand.  What?  Adversary?  Where did that come from?  Don't worry about it.  Well, not much.)

Obviously there's a lot to unpack here, especially since the rEpairman Jack series is intertwined with many of Wilson's other novels.

First of all, Jack.  He's a cipher.  No last name, no social security card, no credit card,  no utility bills, no record of him anywhere; nothing, nada, zip.  The most anonymous person you could ever meet.  Medium height, medium weight, run  of the mill brown hair.  Nothing in his appearance stands out.  He makes his living fixing things, often violently.  But Jack is a force for good.  He's one of the good guys and he has a strong moral code.  He also has a fierce determination and dies not back down.  His basic philosophy it to take the fight to the enemy.

There are basically four people of importance in Jack's life.  His girlfriend, Gia; her young daughter, Vicky; Julio, who runs an old-fashioned neighborhood bar that discourages tourists and walk-ins, and Abe, the slovenly owner of Isher Sports Shop.  It is Abe's purpose in life to have every customer who comes into his store to leave without purchasing a thing, because Abe's main business is the huge cache of weapons stored in his basement  (the name of his store is a hint to its real purpose, and a nod to the author's libertarian leanings).  Abe also has many connections and is a fount of secret information, which prove to be a great help to Jack.

Now we have to look deeper into the cosmos.  Somewhere in eternity, there is an eons-long contest (maybe a war, maybe just a game) between two powerful entities.  This is not  matter of 
Evil versus Good, it's more a matter of Evil versus Doesn't Give a Flip.  The reasons for this battle and even the way its being fought are beyond our ken, well above the pay grade of human understanding.  In this battle, Earth is an insignificant piece -- less than a pawn, but if the Evil side wins, life here will be hellish and civilization will end.  The major player for Evil on Earth is someone called the Adversary, who had been taken off the board and trapped for centuries until 1941, when he is released from captivity in The Keep, the first book in Wilson's Adversary Cycle.  Repairman Jack enters the scene i that series' second book, The Tomb, where he was meant to be a one-off character.  (The third book in the series was The Touch; both it and The Tomb were originally not meant to be part of the series but were retrofitted into the Adversary Cycle with the publication of Nightworld.)  The character of Jack demanded  more stories and Wilson the adventures of Repairman Jack with Legacies.

Jack soon finds himself pitted against various supernatural and mundane forces supporting the Adversary.  He eventually meets up with the Adversary's counterpart, the thousands-year-old Glaeken, along with the Lady, a shape-shifting being who appears to be tasked to guiding Jack from his youth in his battle with the cosmic forces, and her equally supernatural Dog. Along the way Jack loses his family one by one, some in the most horrifying ways.

Added to the mix are various other intertwined novels and series written by Wilson, including Black Wind  (a World War II novel focusing on Japan), the Ice Trilogy, Wardenclyffe (which brings Nicola Tesla into the mix), The Peabody-Ozymandius Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium (which introduces the rakosh, among other creatures, and forms the setting for the Horror Writers of America themed anthology Freak Show), The Compendium of Srem, the science fiction future sequence The LaNague Federation; and the recent DUAD duology (which ties in Wardenclyffe and a greatly revised Healer from the LaNague series).  

Almost all of these are referred to in one way or another in The Last Christmas.  One entering this novel unawares might be left scratching his or her head.

Anyway, on to the novel.

Jack is hired by two scientists to locate a lost animal, a specimen created by a secret government lab, half wolf and half human.  The animal, supposedly escaped while being transported across New York City has had an electronic locater embedded, so locating it should be easy.  Capturing it is a different story.  Of course, the scientist are lying.  The "wolfman" is a convicted murderer named Quinnell, who had been perhaps unfairly jailed by government officials in a hush-up.  Quinnell was dying of cancer and the scientists offered him $500,000 to experiment on him -- an experiment that was bound to kill him, but Quinnell had a wife and a three-year-old daughter to think of.  The experiment not only altered Quinnell's physical appearance, it also began clouding his mind with feral thoughts.  While on the loose, he killed to teenagers who tried to set him on fire, as well as a local pedophiliac targeting his daughter.  The scientist, BTW, kept the money, and Quinnell's wife is dead broke and about to lose their house.

At the same time, Jack is hired by the mysterious Madame de Medici to guard a strange looking object, the Bagaq, one of seven articles from prehistory assumed to possess supernatural powers.  A billionaire named Roland Apfel had illegal possession of the object which had been stolen from her Egyptian estate during an earthquake,  Madame de Medici regained possession of it and now Allard wants it back at any cost -- he is dying and believes it will heal him.  Jack takes the object and stores it with Abe.

Tier Hill is a private detective, a Mohawk Indian, and an expert tracker.  He is hired by Apfel to trail the Madame and locate the Bagaq.  Hill finds that Jack has been given the item.  He is then tasked to get the artifact back, by any means necessary.  Apfel sends his bodyguard Albert Poncia to go with Hill, instructing Poncia to kill Hill and Jack -- as well as any other witnesses, ncluding Gia and Vicky -- once the Bagaq is recovered.  

We also learn that Hill can hear painful noises coming from the Sheep Meadow that no one else can.  It turns out that these are coordinated signals presaging the Year Zero events in Nightworld.  the signals are being tracked by Burbank, a 118-year-old "watcher," and a friend of Madame de Medici.  Madame de Medici, turns out to be an eons-old person who hold knowledge of the Secret History of the Universe.  At the end of the book, we discover Madame de Medici's true identity but Jack does not.

For some reason, Glaeken has begun aging horribly and is now in a weakened condition.  The Lady, too, has become inform; her Dog has been killed.  Glaeken must keep his condition a secret or the Adversary will become aware of it and strike much earlier than expected.  Jack must keep these things secret while dealing with traitorous scientists, government conspiracies, the violent and unpredictable creature that was Guinnell, and the murderous Poncia...and a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

Yeah.  So all this would be a bit confusing to any newbie coming on to the book.  And there are a number of threads that don't do much for this particular story, but tie into what is to come in the series.  But the action is fast.  The thrills are real.  The stakes are high.  And it's always great to see Repairman Jack on the job.

I mentioned that author's libertarian stance earlier.  It's a philosophy that informs some of the best thriller books and films, from James Bond to westerns.  It is great for the one man against large odds type of conflict that steers much popular entertainment, the "in this case, the end might justify the means" type type of meme.  I enjoy that type of fantasy wish-fulfillment in my reading, I really do.  In real life, however, it is the type of philosophy that people tend to drop around their second or third year of college, much like the works of Ayn Rand.  Wilson's libertarian bent seldom bothers me, unless he gets on his high horse about socialized medicine (Wilson is a medical doctor).  He does that very briefly in this book and it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Not enough to detract from the rest of the novel, mind you.  But.  I.  Just.  Wish.  He.  Wouldn't.


  1. I thought about Ayn Rand immediately. And I read her at eighteen and was mesmerized until my future husband set me right.

    1. Back when Paul Ryan became Speaker of the House, he would mention (brag, actually) how much Ayn Rand had influenced him. My only thought was, "Geez, what a jamook! And this guy is supposed to be an adult?")