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A Walking Tour of the Shambles Perfect Paperback – February 15, 2009

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: American Fantasy; 1st edition (February 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0961035269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0961035266
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #847,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Our final short book this month is not a story, it is a travel guide. It gets in here for two very obvious reasons: firstly it is a fictional travel guide, and secondly it is by two of my favorite writers: Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe. I mean, what a pairing!

A Walking Tour of The Shambles is purportedly volume #16 in the Little Walks for Sightseers series. But the publishers preface states that the volume is out of print in the original series, and is suspected of having been suppressed by the Chicago Tourist Commission and the International Brotherhood of Meatworkers. Furthermore, the publishers say, Mr. Gaiman and Mr. Wolfe, both of whom have wives and families that they are very fond of and would not wish to see come to harm, now deny all knowledge of the book.

The Shambles, it seems, is an ancient part of Chicago that was spared by the Great Fire and is now home to all sorts of strange people and is shunned by fearful members of the Chicago Police Department. It is, without doubt, the sort of place that tourists interested in living to see the next dawn should avoid, but it is a place that anyone with a taste for seriously black humor will love reading about. --Emerald City #26

Should you ever find yourself inside the borders of the Shambles, be warned. Walk as quickly as you can, without stopping, looking around too much or speaking to any of the odd inhabitants of the place until you obtain a copy of this indispensable guide. In it, you will discover the best defensive maneuvers against a crocodile, how to avoid being attacked by the denizens of the House of Clocks, and how to keep yourself from being robbed, poisoned or otherwise incapacitated and sold as a treat to fellow unfortunates.

Actually, I'm only joking about the very last part. Just because there's a place called Abattoir Alley, or that there's a barber shop oddly reminiscent of good old Sweeney Todd's doesn't mean you should fear for your life. Really.

Gene Wolfe and Neil Gaiman teamed up to create this humorously creepy look into The Shambles for a recent (April 2002) World Horror Convention. Now available to the general public, A Walking Tour of the Shambles provides some wonderfully pleasant, light reading that manages to give you a tiny bit of a chill now and then. The styles of these two wonderful writers blend so well that you can't tell who is writing which bit, and the tone of the helpful, ever cheerful guidebook writer is wonderfully atmospheric. I loved many of the pieces of advice, such as ''In general, distrust anyone you meet whose teeth are sharper than your own.'' Come to think of it, such things could be applied to any sightseeing adventure.

The humor is very well done, dead-pan and slightly off-hand, never going for the easy jokes. The cover is drawn by Gahan Wilson, with appropriately creepy interior pen and ink drawings by Randy Broecker and Earl Geier. I really enjoyed some of the drawings, which were just like the writing -- clever, the horror hidden just slightly so that you often discover it out of the corner of your eye. From first page to last, they take every opportunity possible to create the atmosphere of a guide book (check out the list of books that Gaiman and Wolfe also wrote -- I'd love to read I Was a Werewolf for the CIA.)

Along with a useful appendix of books for further information and a list of questions and answers (such as ''Do I still have all my credit cards?'') and a list of several... umm... interesting recipes (dandelion and road kill salad, anyone?), I feel A Walking Tour of the Shambles is dead essential for anyone needing to risk their lives by going to the Shambles, or for someone who is trying to decide whether to date a member of the meat worker's union, or to anyone who is a fan of the off-kilter humor of Charles Addams or Edward Gorey. By the way, there actually is a website at and, according to Books in Print and other such reliable sources, none of the books attributed to the authors in the book exist on this plane of reality. Drat. --Cindy Lynn Spear, SF Site

American Fantasy's publication of A Walking Tour of the Shambles by Gene Wolfe and Neil Gaiman is the most hilarious small offering I've seen since Kim Newman's Quetzalcon Programme Booklet (designed by Michael Marshall Smith and published by Stephen Jones.) Quetzalcon was produced in conjunction with the 1997 World Fantasy Convention and American Fantasy brought the whimsical Walking Tour out for World Horror 2002 in Chicago.

The authors take the reader on a visit to a very odd historic Chicago neighborhood, the Shambles, a place Fodor would fear to tread. Despite the fact that more rational types claim the area doesn't exist, Mssrs. Wolfe and Gaiman provide a thorough guide to a neighborhood where both Sweeney Todd and the Addams family would feel right at home. They're chock-full of handy advice of what not to miss as well as what to avoid at all costs on your excursion into the eerie environs. Written with punnish glee and an eye for the most demented details of travel tomes (even to the inclusion of recipes and ''Further Reading''), this one is a little gem. With illustrations by Randy Broecker and Earl Geier and a cover by the incomparably weird Gahan Wilson, it's all done up in a well-designed tradepaper. Do buy a copy, but first promise not to divulge the existence of #16 or the whereabouts of anyone involved with it to any law enforcement agencies, the Chicago Tourist Commission, or the Brotherhood of Meatworkers. Otherwise there's no hope we'll ever see Little Walks for Sightseers #17 or possibly anything else other than the bottom of Lake Michigan. --Paula Guran, Cemetery Dance Magazine, #40

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the author of the Award-winning THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, AMERICAN GODS and SANDMAN comic series. He's written just about everything (except a musical comedy--we think--but we wouldn't put it past him), including novels, short stories, children's books, stage plays, television shows (including a BBC mini-series), radio dramas, and much more. His other books include THE DANGEROUS ALPHABET CORALINE, NEVERWHERE, ANGELS & VISITATIONS, STARDUST, and SMOKE AND MIRRORS. Gaiman is certainly one of the most popular and acclaimed authors of Fantastic literature today.

Gene Wolfe has been acclaimed as ''sf's greatest novelist'' (WASHINGTON POST). His novels include: AN EVIL GUEST, PIRATE FREEDOM, THE KNIGHT, THE WIZARD, and many others. He's also a prolific author of short fiction, with the collections STRANGE BIRDS, THE BEST OF GENE WOLFE and others.

More About the Author

I make things up and write them down. Which takes us from comics (like SANDMAN) to novels (like ANANSI BOYS and AMERICAN GODS) to short stories (some are collected in SMOKE AND MIRRORS) and to occasionally movies (like Dave McKean's MIRRORMASK or the NEVERWHERE TV series, or my own short film A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON).

In my spare time I read and sleep and eat and try to keep the blog at more or less up to date.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Terran McCanna on February 26, 2007
Format: Perfect Paperback
For anyone having a quirky, dark sense of humour, as most diehard fans of Gaiman and Wolfe do, this is well worth tracking down. I had a smile on my face the entire way through, and laughed out loud to myself in several places. Despite its brief length, I can honestly say it gave me more entertainment for the dollar than any blockbuster novel I've read in the last several years.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By j-c-m on March 22, 2003
Format: Perfect Paperback
I found A Walking Tour to be amusing and clever, but there isn't much material for the price, which is my only real complaint. Recommended for diehard fans of Wolfe and/or Gaiman.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By P. Hamilton on January 27, 2003
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
...(The list of Wolfe's other books inside the cover doesn't include anything currently in print by the famous sf author). This is a mock sightseers guide to a fictional part of Chicago. While it is well written and entertaining, it is also very short and filled with illustrations, so there is not a whole lot to read. I would recomend it for light reading, however I would not recomend that anyone pay [$$$] for this small amount of literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jaki C. on January 15, 2012
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
I think my title says enough, but I will elaborate for those who may have doubts or are prone to disagree.

It can be a quick read, to be sure, if you allow yourself to thumb through it mechanically, without taking the time to indulge in imagery. And perhaps, offhand, the idea of spending more than a few dollars on a 57 page paperback may not be exactly thrifty, but I challenge any reader of such genre to spend less on something frivolous and enjoy it more.

If you are already a fan of these authors (and perhaps already own everything else written by either one) I assure you, it does not disappoint. If it does then I would argue that there's something to be said of expectations, and knowing when they're being held too high.
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