The Wolfe Chronicles

( 1 )


A brilliantly constructed and darkly humorous novel.

The Wolfe Chronicles follows the fortunes of James Wolfe, an actor obsessed with portraying the final moments in the life of his famous namesake and general at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

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A brilliantly constructed and darkly humorous novel.

The Wolfe Chronicles follows the fortunes of James Wolfe, an actor obsessed with portraying the final moments in the life of his famous namesake and general at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930756915
  • Publisher:, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2000

First Chapter

Before being elevated to my present lofty position, I had actually been thinking about hiring someone of unimpeachable conscientiousness to tack a printed notice to every single laundromat bulletin board and telephone pole in Qu‚bec City:
Now I can admit that the bit about the Bard would have been a complete, if harmless fabrication, for one doesn't get ahead in showbusiness by selling oneself short. Besides, if any misunderstanding had ensued, it might have been nipped in the bud the moment any impresario or art lover were to take advantage of one of the fringe of detachable phone numbers that would of course have accompanied my scrupulously scripted and practically irresistible announcement.
It seemed to me that my employer was out to get me, and that it was only a matter of time before he succeeded in heaving me out the door sans ceremonie just as he had done to Attila the Hun (and one or two others over the years, as I recall) whose practically only infraction was to fall asleep on the job a few times. (Of course one wishes to remain alert hour after grueling hour, but sometimes it's simply not possible after imbibing a few gins, as we are entitled, plus a Valium when medically indicated.) There occurred a mere spate of warnings which were subject to misinterpretation, then catastrophe! Without so much as an opportunity to improve, the poor Hun found himself out on his ear and his buns. Thank goodness for our hard-won three-year severance plan. But if the boss could find it in his cold, cold heart to thus treat a regular family man who had just signed a lengthy lease on a brand new Firefly, what chance did I have? No, I was keeping all my options open, just in case. Of course I would always remain in my chosen field; one can't help being a thespian, once it's gotten in the blood.
The Director maintained that contrary to wax museum policy, I was frequently seen to move my lips 'in a provocative manner unbecoming a significant historical figure of national standing'. That's what the sour grapevine was predicting would appear on my latest and perhaps last evaluation. (A quick call to Jojo's Psychic Hotline proved not unpleasant, but rather inconclusive.) He could not accuse me of worse, because of course nothing can actually be heard through the thick safety glass of the exhibits (which in this case would be practically opaque if not for the odd squirt of enhanced Windex unselfishly applied by my dear and dedicated wife H‚lŠne). My men claimed to be firmly behind me and swore that they always scrupulously honored our code of silence, but I suspected the odd momentary lapse of circumspection resulting in a leak of misheard information, perhaps in the midst of the bantering water-cooler braggadocio in which both Bruno and Rom‚o unfortunately indulged. In any case, Jean de Brebeuf seemed of the opinion that I sometimes used foul language while on the job. Never mind which terms he believed I kept repeating over and over in a most emphatic (if mute) manner, he also alleged that I invariably did so while engaged in- prepare- 'scowling'. Scowling, if you can believe it. As an experienced actor, of long-standing, it is not to boast when I point out, as I did, that I am no doubt more intimately familiar with the scowl (not to mention first cousins sneer, snivel, snicker, and snort), than the vast majority of the population (for example, how many are aware that a seemingly simple glower calls for the use of a set of notoriously lazy labial muscles and can require months of strict training in front of a reflective surface to pull off comme il faut?), but in any case, most professionals as seasoned as myself have better things to do than indulge in idle face-play just to pass the time. And with my extensive lifetime career tutelage, I felt confident in pointing out that, except for a virtually indiscernible trembling of the upper lip on some occasions when I contemplated the awesome burden of my role, I was in complete control of my facial expressions at all times. I wisely did not mention that this included those occasions when I allowed myself a power-doze with eyes wide open while I dreamed REM-free reveries of a strictly historical nature.
But that's not all. Jean de Brebeuf also politely reminded me (he blithely employed his considerable, likely inherited skills in the refined art of social civility as a subtle taunt to one unfortunately endowed of lesser faculties of politesse through no fault of his own) that, if possible, on no account should I maintain an open mouth during working hours, even to facilitate breathing in the event of a miserable cold. I thought I knew why. It was because I possessed hardly any teeth, a situation which has even yet to be completely rectified. I never knew the underlying reason for the deficit; they just more or less disappeared one by one, and not even in the exact order of their initial appearance. For a time I courted an absurd expectation that a standby set might arise to fill the gaps, but I soon stopped holding my breath. Now I challenged my boss (to no avail, alas) with what I considered to be a promising rejoinder. "Excuse me," I shot back. "How is it that you can so smugly surmise facts regarding General Wolfe's confidential dental situation at the exact hour of his hideously untimely death on the Plains of Abraham on that fateful forenoon so long ago, even if the reverberations are still being felt today? It seems to me that the General might have been prevented from boasting any more molars, canines, or crumbling bicuspids than my humble self. No? Especially given the (let's-face-it) pathetic rudimentary state of dentistry in those days..." He fixed me with that familiar de Brebeufian expression of patient incredulity and mild bemusement as I recklessly attempted a doomed coup de grace. "For the record," I asked, "have you ever come across a depiction of James Wolfe at the exact moment of his death with his mouth wide open?" I knew that I had engaged in a calculated gamble, but I considered the image to be so grotesque and undignified as to seem impossibly farfetched.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," he replied. "Oil on canvas, approximately three feet by four feet, circa 1768. At the Tate Gallery in London. Of course I'm referring to the lesser-known work on the subject by Benjamin West, also entitled 'The Death of General Wolfe' In this somewhat more somber depiction than his better-known effort (as in the other, he places a quite unnecessary mob of mourners at the scene, when of course we know that only three were present, including the soon-to-succumb subject of your own not inconsiderable efforts) we see a stricken Wolfe lying on the grass with mouth ajar, perhaps in the act of expelling his last breath as he is attended to by a pair of shocked and stunned underlings. In his paintings West is notorious for adding figures, but never extra teeth, and careful use of a magnifying glass revealed almost a full set of natural, if discolored ones, with the exception of an upper molar. Scholars believe that the busy artist didn't bother about it because he expected the eye of the viewer to be attracted immediately to the violence of the ghastly bullet wound to the chest, and of course he was right. So except for that little lapse, everything looked remarkably hunky-dory in the Wolfian dental department."

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2001


    Funny, witty, brilliant!

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