The funniest line I’ve read in a novel in a long, long time appeared in The Devil You Know by Mike Carey. It’s a detective novel only our detective, Felix Castor, is a freelance exorcist who, in classic gumshoe fashion, gets caught up in a case that is bigger and more deadly than it first appears. In order to understand the excerpt you need to know that Castor’s weapon of choice is a tin whistle, which he uses to control and dispel ghosts. (It makes sense in the book.) In this scene, he’s been seduced by a succubus named Juliet. He’s lost his flute in the scuffle and so has resorted to simply whistling to hold her off.
As Juliet went down in a fetal crouch, I crashed to my knees on the floor. The impact jarred me enough to make my breath hiccup out of me, and although it was only for a moment, the succubus drew strength enough from the brief stammer of silence to recover and straighten up again. I caught the tune at the head of the next bar and quickened the rhythm. She froze in place again, glaring down at me.
That was when a metallic glint from under the bed caught my eye. I scrambled down on all fours and came up holding my whistle. Juliet’s eyes widened. Still whistling through my teeth, I set the mouthpiece of the tin whistle to my lips and came up on one knee in a Jon Anderson battle stance.
Here’s the thing, though: I think he means Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and not Jon Anderson of Yes. Because 1., Jon Anderson doesn’t play the flute and 2., Jon doesn’t possess a battle stance that’s half as formidable as Ian’s. I know that if I were facing down a succubus and I had to choose an ally from a pool consisting of the lead singers of ’70s progrock bands named Anderson, I’d much prefer to have Ian by my side rather than Jon. (Of course, given my druthers, I’d take Rick Wakeman over either one. It’s the wizard robes, you see.) By the way, given how iconic that image of Ian Anderson is, you’d think it would be easier to find a picture of him down on one knee. Here he is in an equally iconic (and battle-stancy) pose.