Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Vulpes Random: Jurassic Jesuits

dinosAlix Montague has written a solemnly ludicrous narrative of the adventures of four nineteenth-century Jesuit priests shipwrecked off the coast of South America, in fine High Victorian style. Into the Valley purports to be the account (written on scavenged paper) of these nervous but forward-facing missionaries as they struggle to survive, and to avoid being eaten by dinosaurs.

I thoroughly enjoy this serial story. It’s written by someone I know (Alix Montague is a pseudonym) whose writing is so assured, and the situations blessedly enjoyable. I also enjoy the confident grasp of literary history. A story of avoiding being eaten by velociraptor can either be written as if by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, or by Jules Verne, and the Jules Verne method is working extremely well so far. Perhaps a few more exclamation marks might capture the Vernian enthusiasm, but (also) perhaps Montague is channelling Phineas Fogg rather than Captain Hatteras. The four priests – Fathers Spada, Olivero, Dalmasso and the so far unnamed narrator and scribe – bicker quietly as they trudge through leaf litter and dangling lianas, and occasionally forget their calling so far as to grumble about each other out loud in a most unChristian way. The excitement of the marauding dinosaurs is described as an exhausted daily and bloodstained report, in which their proper appreciation of the miraculous creations of God is regrettably forgotten in the panting hurry to secure the cave opening with a really big stone. And then Father Spada runs out into the night, so we’re now following his adventures (evisceration with grim gusto), and have to wait impatiently to be returned to the nervous narrator in the cave of trembling.

The cherry on the cake is the paratextual ‘editor’, who apparently discovered the diary and is publishing its extracts. He, Brigadier-General Sir George A M F McPhail, has also written books of his own, and I do enjoy seeing what Ripping Yarns title Montague will come up with next. Up the Congo with Cross-Bow was good; Through Rhodesia with Revolver was better. How about Into Guam with Gunpowder next?

Into the Valley: the Diary So Far, and its first sequel, Sebastiano Spada, can be read here.

About Kate

Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher, and publisher (, in and on British literary history. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence.

5 comments on “Vulpes Random: Jurassic Jesuits

  1. Cathy746books
    September 10, 2015

    This sounds intriguing. I do enjoy the notion of a ‘found’ narrative.

  2. Jackie
    September 12, 2015

    Wait, wait, are they killing the dinosaurs?

  3. Alix Montague
    September 13, 2015

    Hello Kate, and thank you so much for your fabulous review. I shall have “solemnly ludicrous” engraved on my tombstone. I’m so glad you like my stories.

    Jackie, if it’s any reassurance, as one who wept for the faithful velociraptors in Jurassic World I would not have my Jesuits go about slaughtering them en masse. However, it is a dog-eat-dog (raptor-eat-cleric) situation, and this does lead to some unpleasant confrontations, not all of them on a fair footing. The current score is dinosaurs 1 – Society of Jesus 1.

  4. ABB
    September 14, 2015

    This is a hoot! Looking forward to the next episode. With a nod to Professor Challenger.

  5. Jackie
    September 18, 2015

    Thanks for explaining, Alix, I’m glad the dinos are holding their own!

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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