Saturday, November 23, 2013

“Hope You Guess My Name”

As part of the semicentennial commemoration of the assassination of JFK, the radio today, after playing Kennedy’s “Clear and Present Danger” speech about the missiles in Cuba, segued into a song I haven’t listened to in years:  the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”, with its refrain

            Pleased to meet you -- Hope you guess my name!

The transition seemed jarring, until the song came to the verse

            I shouted out, ‘Who killed the Kennedys?”
            when after all, it was You - And - Me.

Now, ever since the very first time I heard it, that line has struck me as extremely lame, on several levels.  But there is no point critiquing it [*], since, after all, it is the Devil speaking:  The Prince of Lies.

[*] I’ll do so anyway.  Along with the line “For every cop is a criminal, / and allllll the sinners -- saints!”, it was well-calibrated to appeal to the sentiments of the layabout, shop-lifting hippies of the day.
One pictures the late-night rap sessions, amid the cannabis vapors --
            “Yeh-h, man -- we allll killed Kennedy!”
            “Far out, man …”    ]


Those unfamiliar with both the ecclesiastical and the folk take on the diabolistic tradition, will think nothing of that apparently pointless aside, “Hope you guess my name”.   But it is rooted in the nature of that master dissembler’s wiles and ways.  And that refrain, it now strikes me, likes at the back of the series of mystery stories I published awhile back, first in magazines and then collected in logical (indeed, theological) sequence,  as a book, I Don’t Do Divorce Cases.  They start of reasonably conventionally, but row progressively more strange, until one of them, a Miltonic memory, appears in the meter of Paradise Lost. 
In each, the detective, Michael Xavier Murphy, an outwardly lapsed or at least slovenly Catholic, must solve some little problem or other, assisted by his younger brother Joey, typically involving a purportedly missing person;  but each case is overspanned by a meta-problematic:  to guess the name of the Agent behind the client.  As the series progresses, the cloven hoof of Clootie projects ever more insolently out from beneath the hem of his sable mantle.  As, in the story, “The Temptation of Murphy”:

After he’s gone, Joey stares at me, something’s occurred to him.  ‘Hey Murphy -- we never even asked the name of our client!’
Bitterly:  “Whaddaya wann know ‘is name for, Joey?  You know who he is.

Anyhow, I commend them to your attention.  Further particulars here:

A subsequent story, published separately for Kindle and Nook, involving direct confrontation with His Satanic Majesty (a battle to which Murphy proves here unequal, since it involves another soul than his own, and must call in aid from a very special sort of specialist), can be sampled here:

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