Tenebrionidae — Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay


A version of my earlier rolling review of this work that started in its context here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/26/and-at-my-back-i-always-hear-scott-nicolay/


Someone or grizzly cowboy on a train, named Dumont? Wounded in the head? Physically or mentally wounded?
With caring Missy. His dog?
His girl Tigger had not turned up? Chased by Shadow Riders who knew what happened to Tigger? Words of this text morphing in my eyes like the letters of prehensile Graffiti — in the place where they first attacked? Nah, none of any of that. Don’t doubt it.

Read up to…
“….holding some big pieces back, he could tell that easy. Made it all hard to follow but main thing was he could see…”


“but the whole story confused him anyway.”

Am I too old to read this? Fersure. The backstory, the violent men against Du-Mont, the running from the squat, drugs, foster kids, the guitar case, and much else all above my head. Read up to: “The junker he was riding was just siding out to let a faster train pass.” Let faster, maybe better, readers overtake me, but I’ll still be shunting around here till you come back and tell me whether it’s worth continuing the reading of it.


I wonder whether ‘Missy’ should sound like a shortening of Miscegenate?


“The hobo bible to hop outs.”

Crew change, reader story change, am still shunting with the first one, although I feel I’m crazily following over the tops of its words, but not jumping any of them I swear, even more dangerous perhaps than how Dumont’s pursuers are following over the tops of train cars!….

I note Miscegenate Missy ‘huddles’ with him ‘out of sight’, the bit I now stop at.


“He massaged the tips of her ears to calm her and whispered —Smart girl, yes you’re a smart girl—“

I am now suddenly captivated, if not captured, by the Dumont rite of passage on trains & tracks, hopping between, shitting between like the bully in the Croaker, a Ligottian faded washed-out factory land in a “shit economy” world, with no workers in sight, and his relationship with Missy, I am sure more concerned with once deworming her and clipping her nails than anything else; she ups her leg at a hydrant as he tries a cubicle where things float in the bowl YOU DON’T REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT! But you do want to look into that toilet bowl, if you love the words describing it.
Who is pursuing him, Shadow Riders, Bulls? Still not clear. Hopefully no plot spoilers in my episodic reading of this work, a reading method that seems to suit it — I tentatively started it in this way at first because I didn’t like it, but now I still revisit it sporadically because I DO!


“Missy meanwhile whimpered and hugged his leg, sleek flank pressing against his calf. The structures around them lost definition and stretched like taffy,… […] The trains were still trains though…”

Well, I learnt here that if you can count the nuts on a train hub it is safe to hop on the moving train with this work’s mix of balance and traction and momentum and equilibrium as we now reach Dumont’s battle with a Rider called Ratch, a similar mix of ricochet, involving scrotum and balls exquisition. And the existing cut that needs a doctor. I feel pain through the words. Also I noticed consciously for the first time that another pursuing Rider is ‘Worm’…
And what is that subsuming ‘blot of blackness’.
I continue to have a love-hate relationship with this work called Tenebrionidae while my attitude to lók’aa’ch’égai was more a hate-heavy side to such a balance.



“He stroked her sleek black fur and she rolled on her back, offered her belly, legs quivering with unrestrained joy while he scratched her. He knew they could go on like this forever but it was time to hop off so he stopped. She arched to lick his hand and he leaned over, hugged her once quick tight. She licked his cheek, his ear. His intended laugh emerged as a grunt and he released her after a final squeeze.”

Sorry to quote so much, but in view of this work’s later ending, it is important that Miscegenate Missy Incarnate is deemed vicarious Dumont’s own re-Incarnate when the high green towers appear from the train, after his fight with the last Shadow Rider who might once have lived inside Joseph Conrad’s head.

Guitar, and all, ‘freight train, freight train’, a song I heard when I was a small boy in the 1950s, as Dumont thinks of himself as a small boy towards the amazing climax of this work.

Massive stuff left to last by my choice of reading order, this being some of a mighty book’s strongest writing — here about a retail town and some chittering gutterpunks whom YOU WILL NEVER FORGET, and my own ‘crew change’, my own last bone to wedge open the door, yup, yup, that tarry cluster of bones as monster and later as your trusty weapon in a fight, YOU WILL ALSO NEVER FORGET. 

“same way as a slug—a slug the size of a rhinoceros.” — “the large dark beetles that came and went, occupied on cryptic errands known only to themselves.” — “the lines seesawed left and right and the size of the type itself shrank and swelled in his tired and crusty eyes.” — “Green again, a vast unbroken curtain of high dark pines.”

These final sections of the story containing some of this book’s strongest and most meaningful passages — a darkly wild ‘for its own sake’ ability to summon the resurrection of spirit from the darkest sump. But also to enjoy sinking back into it!


Cross-referenced the Dumont story deciding when to hop trains with the Roald Dahl and Conan Doyle here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26609-2/#comment-15649

Cf Tenebrionidae with the ‘glory beetles’ here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26614-2/#comment-15652

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