Disciple of the Dog

Disciple of the Dog

4.1 10
by R. Scott Bakker

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A crime thriller from an acclaimed master of speculative fiction

"And you wonder why I'm cynical. I've literally ‘seen it all before.' The truth is we all have, every single one of us past the age of, say, twenty-five. The only difference is that I remember."

No matter how hard he drinks, gambles, or womanizes, Disciple Manning

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A crime thriller from an acclaimed master of speculative fiction

"And you wonder why I'm cynical. I've literally ‘seen it all before.' The truth is we all have, every single one of us past the age of, say, twenty-five. The only difference is that I remember."

No matter how hard he drinks, gambles, or womanizes, Disciple Manning simply cannot forget: not a word spoken, not an image glimpsed, not a pain suffered. Disciple Manning has total recall. Whatever he hears, he can remember with 100% accuracy. He can play it back in his head for an infinite number of times without a single change. This ability makes him a dangerously unorthodox private investigator.

When a New Jersey couple hires Manning to find their daughter, who joined a religious cult before vanishing in a small rust-belt town called Ruddick, he finds himself embroiled in a mystery that will pit his unnatural ability to remember against his desperate desire to forget.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
The missing-­person case that takes Diss to a Rust Belt town in Pennsylvania gives this arch cynic…the opportunity to match wits with both the professorial guru of an end-of-days cult and an evangelist preacher of the fire-and-brimstone persuasion. These exchanges are bracing for all parties involved, including readers who can appreciate a private eye adept at the Socratic method.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The cleverness Bakker displayed in his Prince of Nothing fantasy trilogy (The Darkness That Comes Before, etc.) is lacking in this suspense novel introducing Disciple Manning, a Newark, N.J., PI who can remember everything he has ever heard. Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour hire Manning to track down their missing 21-year-old daughter, Jennifer, who's joined a New Age cult known as the Framers, dropped out of nursing school, and is possibly now living at "the Compound," an old horse farm in southeastern Pennsylvania that serves as the cult's retreat. The Framers' leader, former Berkeley philosophy professor Xenophon Baars, has persuaded his followers that the world is more than five billion years older than it is and is about to end. Manning heads to the Compound in search of Jennifer, though he suspects she's already dead. A crude, off-putting hero with a flatulence problem may leave few readers eager for a sequel. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“Someone said that reading a Jim Thompson novel was like being locked up in a fallout shelter with a brilliant, chatty, fast-talking maniac.  Meet your new companion: Disciple Manning.”—Jim Sallis, New York Times bestselling author of Salt of a River

“Even without the benefit—or would that be hindrance—of total recall, this is a book I’ll remember for a long time. And enjoyable as it was, when the details fade I look forward to rereading and loving it again.”—Bob Fingerman, award-winning author of Bottom Feeder and Pariah

“Beautifully viscious and painfully, darkly human, Bakker's Disciple of the Dog is the kind of book that makes a lot of other noir look like it was written by Sunday School teachers.”—Brian Evenson, award-winning author of Last Days

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Tom Doherty Associates
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Disciple of the Dog

By R. Scott Bakker

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2010 R. Scott Bakker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2536-5


Track One


My father always claimed I had an attitude problem. "You're too dismissive," he once told me. "Too quick to judge. Life is bigger than you know."

To which I replied, "C'mon, Dad. That's just stupid talk."

That was June 13, 1981. A good day.

For some mysterious reason, maybe genetic, maybe environmental, maybe some combination of the two, I am doubtful and irreverent through and through. Show me a picture of your newborn I'll ask you if you're holding it upside down. Tell me you've won the lottery and I'll give you the number of my coke dealer. Show me a flag and I see kinky sheets on a hooker's bed. I never commit, not to the big things, and certainly not to the little. It's not that I'm evil or anything; it's just that no matter how hard I try, I never think what I should. Where everyone sees a Merge sign, I read Detour.

A true-blue individual — that's what I am.

You would think that would make me popular, you know, home of the brave, land of the free, all that crap. But such is not the case, alas. Truth is, the only kind of individualism Americans believe in is the one that numbs the sting of name tags, or that makes a trip to the mall an exercise in self-creation. The consumer kind.

The false kind.

And who knows? Maybe that's the way it should be.

Ignore the Merge sign long enough, and sooner or later somebody gets killed.

* * *

I'm what you would call a cynic.

This isn't to be confused with a skeptic. Skeptics don't believe in anything, because they care too much. For them the dignity of truth lies perpetually beyond slobs like us humans. We're just not qualified.

A cynic, on the other hand, doesn't believe in anything because he doesn't care enough. I mean, really, who gives a fuck?


My name is Disciple Manning. A stupid name, I know — pretty much what you would expect from stupid-talking parents. When people ask me my name, I simply say Diss, Diss Manning. When they make funny with their faces, I lie and tell them I was named after my father, Datt Manning. I usually get a laugh out of dat. If I don't, if I still get the funny stuff, you know, the What-fucking-planet-are-you-from? look, then I hit them, hard — unless they happen to be a cop, in which case I just keep kissing ass.

The one thing you need to remember about me is that I don't forget.



According to the doctors, it's driving me crazy.

* * *

And this is why I find myself sitting down and writing. My latest therapist thinks my problem isn't what I remember so much as how. She's a big believer in the power of stories. She thinks hammering my more toxic memories into narrative form will give them some kind of psychologically redemptive meaning.

Sounds foofy, I know. I've always thought writing is just the human genius for bullshit raised to an art form. But she's cute, and there's a wisdom you get after botching as many suicide attempts as I have. Putting pen to paper just doesn't seem that big a deal after putting knife to skin.

Nothing does, really. Strange knowledge, that.

Otherwise, I'm like pretty much everyone else. I used to have all these grandiose goals and ambitions, an abiding conviction that I was the master of my own destiny, blah-blah-blah. But life just kept happening, you know? And the ad hoc decisions piled up and up and up, until I found myself stranded on a mountain not of my own making. You see, it's convenience that drives the species, not in any grand sense but in the most squalid way you could possibly imagine. Say your wife starts coming home late on a regular basis, and you get this kind of queasy feeling in your gut, like on some parallel plane of existence you just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl. So what do you do? Say nothing. Follow the ruts. Keep your eyes on the habituated prize. Only ten years to go on the mortgage!

It's these kinds of decisions that define who we are, by and large. The small kind. The lazy kind. And then one day you wake up, and the distance between your youthful hope and your middle-aged actuality yawns like a tiger on the wrong side of the cage. What happened? you ask yourself, but you know. It's written into the meat of you, all those little concessions to your weaker nature.

Trust me, dude, I know. I spy on you. I see you all the time. Gambling away your wife's savings, giving a hand job to your husband's best friend. I'm the guy who hands the envelope to your spouse so that he or she can give it to the divorce lawyer, or even worse, confront you with it. I'm the archivist of your lesser self — you know, the side of you that calls the shots between official engagements. I'm the bastard who makes your secrets real. Disciple Manning, the sole proprietor of Manning Investigations, based out of Newark, New Jersey.

That's right. I'm a private detective. A dick. The part-time security guard of the investigative world.

A real winner.


Track Two



When Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour first came to my office, I assumed it would be yet one more missing kid gig, and I was right. When a couple comes in together, it generally has something to do with either a parent or a kid — usually the latter, but you would be surprised at how many grandmas go off the rails gambling, and how many grandpas climb on the rails — the snorting kind. Especially these days.

My agency lies on one of those streets where ratty sidewalk frontages from the twenties alternate with strip malls set behind lines of anemic trees. The kind of place where Mom grips Junior's hand a little extra tight. Pawnshops. Cut-rate pedicures and hairdressing. A bar that booms on welfare check day, and another bar that somehow ekes by on nothing at all — just lingers. Same-day loans. The world's most grungy IHOP.

All that's missing is a methadone clinic.

My kingdom consists of a narrow, thousand-square-foot retail slot strategically situated between a souvlaki stand and a porn shop — so when the air doesn't reek of charred lamb, it smells like cheap lubricants. My office lies at the back, next to the all-important copy-slash-smoking room. I have my desk positioned so that I can either pretend nobody's home or, with a simple crane of my neck, glimpse anyone unfortunate enough to wander in. This is precisely what I did when I heard the cowbell on my entrance cough and clunk — apparently it has a crack in it — at precisely 11:48 A.M. on Monday.

I first glimpsed the Bonjours standing side by side before my secretary, Kimberley, in the reception area, which I have shrewdly decorated with water stains and a chipped plaster ceiling. Jonathan Bonjour was heavyset. I would have thought of him as fat, but I have this mind-set where I begin flattering people mentally the instant they walk in the door. The well-practiced lie always comes off the best. I knew instantly that he was a lawyer simply because his suit fit. Since no two people pack on weight the same way, it's pretty much impossible for fat guys to find suits that fit off the rack.

Mrs. Bonjour — Amanda — was overweight as well, but in that healthy, pear-shaped way that seems to drive death row inmates crazy. The curls of her hair shimmered violet on black in the light panning through my office's front window, and her lips were pert and poppy red, what you might expect to find on an Alabama stenographer rather than a New Jersey lawyer's wife. Her skin was real pale. Side by side, the two of them fairly shouted good genes and easy living — a testament to the American Dream.

So of course something tragic had to have happened.

I basically have two routines that I use when introducing myself to new clients. Either I play Remington, razor sharp on the outside but warm and slippery within, or I play Columbo, a mob of yarn tangled about concealed razors. Appearances being everything, I opted for the Remington approach, sauntered out to lean against the doorframe. I smiled at the couple with solemn confidence, said, "Please ... Kimberley, do show them in." I suppose the debonair image I cut jarred with the smell of baba ghanouj that happened to occupy the aromatic high ground at that particular moment, but the Bonjours seemed too freaked out to really care.

Once in my office, Jonathan Bonjour shook my hand with the inky ease of people who habitually press the flesh. His face was tanned and handsome above his jowls, and his blue eyes possessed a canniness that I immediately recognized. I've yet to meet a lawyer who wasn't a cynic of some description. You spend your life pretending to believe assholes and you're bound to start seeing shit everywhere you look. Just another hazard of the trade.

I could tell that he recognized something in my eyes as well. Weird, all these little moments that pass between people. For most everybody, they slip into oblivion, but me, I catch them like flies.

Amanda Bonjour was an entirely different story. To her, I was something out of a bad movie, yet another sign that her life had gone from badness to madness. When I reached out to shake her hand, she almost flinched, as though instinctively loath to confirm what the greater part of her refused to believe. Everyone knows that touching something makes it real.

To spare her any embarrassment, I turned my outstretched hand into a Please-take-a-seat gesture. What can I say? She was a customer, and I was wearing a name tag.

She kind of plumped into the seat next to her husband's then immediately started crying. I hate to admit it, but that was the precise moment I decided to charge them my highest rate. Ugly, I know, but the doctor said this whole storytelling thing would be, and I quote, "little more than a self-aggrandizing exercise in futility" unless I'm brutally honest.

After fumbling through the introductions, Jonathan Bonjour got to the point.

"It's our daughter, Mr. Manning. She's missing."

Even though I expected he would say as much, I found myself slightly winded. I really don't know why, given that I had heard the words "she's missing" more times than somebody like you would care to remember. It's like the planes hitting the World Trade Center: you see it over and over and over, until it carries about as much punch as a movie trailer, and then one night you see it and wham! it steals your breath, and you sweat horror, as though part of your soul had been on that plane, and had only now remembered.

She's missing. ...

"What's her name?" I asked.

"Jennifer," Mrs. Bonjour said, a wisp of reverence in her tone. She snuffled.

"Jenni," her husband added. "That's, ah ... what, ah ... what everyone calls her."

I'm not what you would call the sympathetic sort — I remember too much of my own pain to concern myself with hurts that others will eventually forget — but something cracked through Mr. Bonjour's modulated voice, something primal, and something within me answered in an empathetic rush. For an instant I could literally feel the teetering possibilities gnawing at my heart. I could see the empty bedroom down the hall, the door neither opened nor closed, the bar of accusing light gleaming across the hardwood floor. I could hear the silence emanating from the girlish running shoes abandoned next to the doorjamb. ...

The Bonjour house, I knew, was becoming a museum to "last times." Clothes stacked on the corner of the bed. Jeans crumpled in a corner. Old cell phone half-buried in the change bowl.

"Do you have a picture?" I asked, my voice rough enough to be embarrassing.

Amanda Bonjour immediately leaned forward, a four-by-six glossy in her hand. She stared at me intently as I lifted it.

And I could feel it, the magic of names humming up out of the photo. She would have been just another generic, beautiful face otherwise, something to focus the momentary lust of consumers. Long blond hair, straight enough to summon memories of Marcia Brady. Full lips. Straight teeth. Thumbs and fingers spread wide in a Here-I-am! pose. Happiness hesitating in her sparkling blue eyes.

I knew instantly that she hadn't run away — she was too attractive. Runaways are almost always plain or downright ugly, as intent to escape the damnation of photos like these as the judgment of peers, parents, what have you. Beautiful people generally lack the motive required to stage their own disappearance. On the contrary, beautiful people tend to be about appearances.

I should know.

"She's not a runaway," I said, looking up to meet the Bonjours' gaze. "What is she? Nineteen? Twenty in this photo?"

"Nineteen," Mrs. Bonjour said in a small voice.

"And that would make her?"

"Twenty-one." Her breath was tight, deep-sea-diver deliberate. "She's twenty-one now."

I set the photo against the base of my desk lamp so that I could reference her face and her parents with a single glance. I graced them with a sage nod, then leaned back in my chair with an open-handed gesture. "So ... what happened?"

The story they told me sounded like something cribbed from the Biography Channel. Flattering and negativity-free. You see, people always make cases. Always. Rather than simply describe things, they pitch them this way and that. So when the Bonjours said that Jennifer was a curious girl, an overachiever, and so on, they were literally offering evidence of the adequacy of their parenting skills, while at the same time saying, She wasn't the kind of girl who ... They wanted me to know that whatever it was that had happened to their precious daughter had precious little to do with them. And when they mentioned her "weakness for musicians," they were saying that, as perfectly as she had been raised, she exhibited a dispositional vulnerability to untoward influences — so to speak.

If I was surprised when they mentioned the cult, it was because I had expected drugs to be the culprit — simply because they almost always are when beautiful kids take roads not marked in their parents' road atlas. According to Mrs. Bonjour, she had found Them online as a high school student, first becoming, without the knowledge of Mom and Dad, a "long-distance associate," then graduating to become a "text messenger" in her first year of college. At some point she began attending weekend retreats, which cut ever more deeply into her visits home, until she dropped out of her nursing program altogether and moved into the Compound — a place just outside a Rust Belt town called Ruddick in southeastern Pennsylvania.

"These people," I asked. "What do they call themselves?" So far the Bonjours had only referred to the cult as either They or Them, spoken in tones of Stone Age superstition.

Both faces became pensive and sour. I half expected one of them to whisper Voldemort or Sauron or something.

"They call themselves the Framers," Amanda eventually said.

"Never heard of them. What do they believe?"

She pulled a face. "That the world, this world, isn't really ... real."

"Isn't that religion in general?" I cracked before I could stop myself.

"You explain it," she said crossly to her husband. "Jon has a philosophy degree," she explained, saying philosophy degree the way others say drinking problem.

"They're one of those New Age, human potential things," Jonathan said. "What's called a charismatic cult."

As I subsequently learned on the Web, this meant they had organized themselves around the revelations of a single, power-monopolizing individual — apparently a very bad sign as far as cults go.

"The leader's name," he continued, "is Xenophon Baars. He's a former philosophy professor out of Berkeley, believe it or not. ..."

"You make it sound as if he should know better."

"He should know better."

"Maybe he does. ..."

"Of course he does!" Mrs. Bonjour cried. "The whole thing is a murderous con!"

Whether it was the savagery of her interruption or the implications of that word murderous, the outburst left an embarrassing chill in its wake.

"What my wife means," Mr. Bonjour said stiffly, "is that the cult's beliefs are too ... extreme for anyone with Baars's education to seriously entertain. We think he's simply duping these people for money and, ah ... sex."

"What do you mean by 'extreme'?"

"They think the world is about to end," he said, his tone as blank as his face.


Excerpted from Disciple of the Dog by R. Scott Bakker. Copyright © 2010 R. Scott Bakker. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Disciple of the Dog 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
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dharmakirti More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Newark, New Jersey private investigator Disciple Manning has the uncanny ability to remember everything he hears or sees exactly like an instant replay. When he says he seen it all or heard it all, he can play back the tape in his head. Worried about their twenty-one years old daughter, Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour hire Manning to find the missing Jennifer, who joined the New Age cult Framers founded by former Berkley university Professor Xenophon Baars. Amanda left the nursing school she attended and presumably resides within the Framers' "Compound"; that is if she still lives, which Manning doubts. Manning drives to the converted Pennsylvania farm Compound to learn the fate of Amanda. Instead he finds out that Baars believes the world is coming to an end shortly. His obsessed followers blindly do what he tells them to do in preparation for the end of days. Readers will either love or hate Disciple who is a sort of younger and gross version of The Old Man (played by Victor Wong) in the Golden Child. Thus, he is definitely different as a hero and not just because he has the uncanny total recall skill; farting and nose picking in public is part of his repertoire as a cynic who not only sees and hears it all he remembers it all. The fate of Amanda is engaging and twisting, and Baars fascinating in a Reverend Jim Jones of Guyana way. However, this plot is owned by the king of gas who can smell up a paragraph with one release. Harriet Klausner