Dreaming of Thalabert

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There are two very good Gaiman fan sites, The Gaiman Archive , and The Dreaming.  Both feature updates as to Mr. Gaimanís activities, as well as transcripts of interviews, reviews, and links to other fan sites. It was one of these links that led me to three fascinating audio files at scifi.comís Seeing Ear Theatre.  Here, you can find a number of works of science fiction and fantasy; some read by the authors themselves, and others given the full dramatic treatment, complete with actors and sound effects, a la old time radio.

Of his short tale, ChivalryGaiman said, ďWhen I do live readings, I tend to start with this story. Itís a very friendly story and I enjoy reading it aloud.Ē Itís a gentle, humorous narrative about the widow Mrs. Whitaker, who finds the Holy Grail in a second hand store. Before you can say Camelot, Sir Galaad (no Ďhí between Ďaís, according to Neil) appears at her door, complete with credentials signed by King Arthur himself, telling her of his Holy Quest for the Grail. The ensuing negotiations for the relic make for entertaining listening, or a charming read if you have a copy of Smoke and Mirrors.

Then there is the reading of a chapter from the ďfairy tale for adults,Ē Stardust, giving yet more evidence of Gaimanís way with words and a handsome voice as well. But perhaps the most delicious treat is the dramatic presentation of Murder Mysteries, another short story from the Smoke and Mirrors collection, and especially noteworthy for the presence of the accomplished actor Brian Dennehy.  As the title hints, this is a mystery set within a mystery, and the core story tells of the first crime, a murder in Heaven itself. Here, the author revisits yet another setting, the Silver City and its host of Angels, and one character in particular, Lucifer, who played a prominent role in The Sandman from time to time. Although a little over 75 minutes in length, Murder Mysteries moves along at a good pace, especially when Dennehy takes center stage. As Gaiman explained in his introduction in Smoke and Mirrors, ďI tried to play fair with the detective part of the story. There are clues everywhere. Thereís even one in the title.Ē

This yearís survey of this underrated Syrah only gives further evidence as to why it has a prominent place in the "cellar from hell." No, itís not up to the standards of Jabouletís more prestigious (and pricier) Hermitage La Chapelle or Cote Rotie Les Jumelles, but itís not exactly a weak sister either. And although the price has risen $7 or $8 in some places over the past five years, Domaine de Thalabert remains on of the best buys of what has sadly become the lower mid-range of Northern Rhone prices.

For my money, Murder Mysteries is as good as Gaiman gets, even when compared to his novels and the best story arcs from The Sandman.  Chilling, unsettling and disturbing all come to mind as apt descriptors of this nightmare, and could just as easily be transposed to much of his best work. Deep and multi-layered (much like the featured wine), it reveals more with each visit, whether in print or audio version, giving convincing testimony to the considerable talents of this most gifted storyteller.

Is it any wonder that Iím not alone in anxiously awaiting the release of Neil Gaimanís next novel, American Gods, due out in the late spring or early summer of 2001?

And is it any wonder that I canít wait for a taste of the 1998 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert as well?

I donít think so!


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© George Heritier

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Neil Gaiman photo © 1998 by Kelli Bickman,