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Night Watch

Annotations | Information | Quotes

+ Night Watch has a number of influences from the book and musical Les Miserables, but these are a lot less obvious than e.g. the usage of The Phantom of the Opera in Maskerade (sometimes they are mirror inversions of themes rather than straight references).

Some of the parallels include the fact that in Les Miserables the plot concerns Jean Valjean, who is being pursued by an officer of the law many years before the start of the book/musical, which mirrors what happens to Carcer in Night Watch.

In LM, Jean Valjean is essentially a good man whose crime is the theft of a loaf of bread. Carcer is a murdererous murderous psychopath (who later claims that his original crime was stealing a loaf of bread).

Javert, the policeman in LM, is concerned only with justice, which he defines as the punishment of the guilty. Vimes, the policeman in NW, is equally obsessed by justice, but he defines it as the protection of the innocent.

In LM, Javert attempts to join the revolutionaries on the barricades as a means to betray and defeat them. Vimes organises the building of the barricades as a means of protecting the people.

Valjean tries to save a prostitute, Fantine, and when she dies he promises to take care of her daughter. Vimes is saved by a prostitute, Rosie Palm (who will later become famous for having "daughters").

In both LM and NW, a street urchin plays a role in the rebellion. LM's Gavroche dies, while Nobby survives.

Both rebellions (certainly in the musical version of LM) are "led" by impassioned revolutionaries in frilly shirts who take a long time to die.

Having said all that, it is of course eminently possible that Terry never intended any of these specific references -- his sources of inspiration can just as easily have been other revolutionary settings, from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities to the actual Paris Commune of 1871, and everything in between.

+ [title] Night Watch

The working title for this book was The Nature of the Beast, but this was discarded when Frances Fyfield published a book with exactly that title in the UK in late 2001.

+ [cover] Paul Kidby's cover parodies the famous Rembrandt painting commonly known as The Night Watch.

+ [p. 16] "Sammies, they were called, [...]"

Sir Robert Peel, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and 1840s, is best remembered for the organisation of a metropolitan police force in London, operating out of Scotland Yard. The colloquial term for police in Britain, 'bobbies', is taken from Peel's name, as is 'Peelers', an older nickname.

+ [p. 22] "'None of that "comic gravedigger" stuff.'"

A nod to Shakespeare's gravediggers in Hamlet.

+ [p. 26] "'[...] the only species I've heard of there in any numbers are the kvetch, sir.'"

Kvetch is a Yiddish verb meaning to complain or gripe.

+ [p. 40] "They said afterwards that the bolt of lightning hit a clockmaker's shop in the Street of Cunning Artificers, stopping all the clocks at that instant."

Refers to the events in Thief of Time.

+ [p. 82] "The Abbot of the History Monks (the Men In Saffron, No Such Monastery... they had many names) [...]"

"Men In Saffron" is a reference to the "Men in Black", possibly inspired by the movie of that name (which Terry has expressed a liking for), but more likely directly referring to the original, mythical federal hush-up agents the movie is named after. "No Such Agency" is how in our world the American NSA (National Security Agency) is jokingly referred to, because of their reputation for extreme secrecy and paranoia.

+ [p. 85] "'The man couldn't talk and chew gum at the same time.'"

Supposedly Lyndon Johnson once said that President Ford couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time, after which the bowdlerised version of the phrase became common, but I am not sure if the saying originates with him, or if, in fact, he ever actually said it.

+ [p. 131] "Morphic Street, 9 o'clock tonight. Password: swordfish. Swordfish? Every password was swordfish!"

A reference to the 1932 Marx Brothers' movie Horsefeathers, in which 'Swordfish' was the password for entering the speakeasy, and passed into history as the archetypical password.

+ [p. 148] "For a moment, the tiger burned brightly."

A passing reference to William Blake's poem 'The Tyger' (see the annotation for p. 46 of The Last Continent ).

+ [p. 156] "'Turned out he didn't know the ginger beer trick.'"

There has been much confusion on alt.fan.pratchett concerning what exactly constitutes the 'ginger beer trick', and which bodily orifices are involved. Terry says:

"To save debate running wild: I've heard this attributed to the Mexican police as a cheap way of getting a suspect to talk and which, happily, does not leave a mark. The carbonated beverage of choice was Coca-Cola. Hint: expanding bubbles, and the sensitivity of the sinuses.

I seem to recall a brief shot of something very like this in the movie Traffic."

Both Amnesty Internation and Human Rights Watch confirm that this kind of torture is regularly reported as being used by the Mexican police.

+ [p. 165] "The Dolly Sisters Massacre"

Reminiscent of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which a cavalry charge into a crowd killed eleven people and injured over 400 others, including many women and children. Local magistrates had been afraid the meeting organised by people asking for repeal of the Corn Laws (which had led to high bread prices) would turn into a riot, and prematurely sent in the cavalry -- led by a nincompoop -- with drawn sabres to break up the meeting.

Terry says:

"It was Peterloo that I had in mind, as discussed here some time ago. But as a general rule, when things look bad there's always some dickhead who can make them worse."

+ [p. 209] "Leggy Gaskin"

This is actually Herbert Gaskin, whose funeral occurs just before the start of Guards! Guards!: "It had been a hard day for the Watch. There had been the funeral of Herbert Gaskin, for one thing."

It is also mentioned he died because he ran too fast and actually caught up with the criminal he was chasing -- hence, presumably, the nickname 'Leggy'. His widow also gets a mention in Men at Arms.

+ [p. 224] "Dark sarcasm ought to be taught in schools, he thought."

From the lyrics to Pink Floyd's classic hit 'Another Brick in the Wall':

We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers, leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

+ [p. 229] "'I regret that I have only one life to lay down for Whalebone Lane!'"

From a famous quote attributed to American revolutionary Nathan Hale before he was executed as a spy by the British army in 1776: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country".

+ [p. 230] "Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that's who."

Another reference to the question made famous by the The Shadow radio series. See also the annotation for p. 289 of The Truth .

+ [p. 243] "'That's right!' he said. 'The people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims!'"

This is in fact one of the sayings of Chairman Mao.

+ [p. 359] "'Carcer, we'll take you to the Tanty, one gallows, no waiting, and you can dance the hemp fandango.'"

Vimes' speech here resonates with the kind of speech Judge Roy Bean used to make. Bean was a barkeeper turned hanging judge and self-proclaimed "Law West of the Pecos", who set up court in Texas, and was known for his colourful ('dubious' and 'arbitrary' would also be good words here...) judgements. He famously fined a corpse $40 for carrying a concealed weapon, for instance.

When asked if Vimes' speech was inspired by Roy Bean, Terry said:

"I've seen several variations on the quote, but I was certainly after the same general cadence, yes.

To the best of my recollection the quote does not appear in The Life and Times of JRB movie (1972) but may have turned up somewhere else.

[later] Ah...the only version of the quote I can find in my books here is different in details and rather more poetic. It's also on the Web:

'You have been tried by twelve good men and true, not of your peers but as high above you as heaven is of hell, and they have said you are guilty. Time will pass and seasons will come and go. Spring with its wavin' green grass and heaps of sweet-smellin' flowers on every hill and in every dale. Then sultry Summer, with her shimmerin' heat-waves on the baked horizon. And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin' brown and golden under a sinkin' sun. And finally Winter, with its bitin', whinin' wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow. But you won't be here to see any of 'em; not by a damn sight, because it's the order of this court that you be took to the nearest tree and hanged by the neck til you're dead, dead, dead, you olive-colored son of a billy goat.' "


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