MEN AT ARMS
A small mystery from the files of
SCRVTATIO PLVS DILIGENS
(We Look Harder)
(*Not a Watch department: the Copyedit Slip-up Inspectors work for The Times)
Page numbers from first-edition 1993 Gollancz hardback.
I completely forgot to mention this to anyone during the recent UK Discworld Convention, but it's perhaps the geekiest thing I've ever done. I checked the annotations at AFP just before clicking "Post" and there's no reference to any of what follows. The Gonne's six-shot capacity is mentioned so often that the error described here is an itch I want to scratch.
(If you're interested, there was a real firearm that worked this way, called a "harmonica gun." I showed pictures to Terry at last year's Irish DWCon and he confirmed that this was indeed what he had in mind. Impressively, Josh Kirby did the back-cover illustration - compare it to the real thing - just from text description.)
[p.60] Hammerhock, the soon-to-be-late dwarf weaponsmith, remarks on the six chambers of the thing he's inspecting.
[p.116] Vimes stared at his reflection – something (1) stung his ear and smashed the glass...There was another tinkle and a half bottle of Bearhugger's exploded (2) on the desk...He hit the floor at the same time as a pock coincided with a hole (3) punched through the wall on one side of the window.
[p.117] Pock. Splinters flew up from a point on the floor (4) where it would undoubtedly have severely inconvenienced anyone lying on the boards cautiously raising a decoy helmet on a stick...Something smashed (5) into the doorframe as the door swung to behind him.
[p.122] Vimes finds a metallic object discarded on the roof of the opera house, from which the five described shots at him have been fired.
[p.126] Carrot finds that Lettice Knibbs has been shot from the same place. Though it was probably the first shot fired, I'm counting this as shot (6) to justify the empty clip (or is it a magazine?) found by Vimes.
[p.133] Vimes examines the object: It looked like a short set of Pan pipes, provided Pan was restricted to six notes, all of them the same.
[p.135] Vimes reiterates his thoughts about the six-shot nature of the weapon and recalls how the shooter got off six shots, even though only five were aimed and described as being at him. (He's obviously counting the one that killed Lettice Knibbs.)
[p.138] The distant figure raised what looked like a stick, holding it like a crossbow. And fired. The first shot (1) zinged off Cuddy's helmet... Detritus blinked. Five more shots, (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) one after the other, punctured his breastplate.
[p.251] Lord Vetinari stood up as he saw the Watch running towards him. That was why the first shot (1) went through his thigh, instead of his chest. Then Carrot cleared the door of the carriage and flung himself across the man, which is why the next shot (2) went through Carrot...A third shot (3) knocked a chip out of Detritus, who slammed into the carriage, knocking it on its side and severing the traces...Vimes slid to a halt behind the overturned carriage. Another shot (4) spanged off the cobbles near his arm.
[p.252] A shot (5) hit the carriage wheel above Vimes' head, making it spin... "We wait for one more shot," (Vimes) said. "And then we run for proper cover." Vimes visualises the gonne, once more emphasising its six-shot nature and wondering how fast it can reload.
[p.258] (Colon) didn't even look around, which saved his life. His dive for the floor and the explosion (6) of the gonne behind him happened at exactly the same time. This is the sixth shot, and from Vimes' subsequent actions, he heard it clearly.
There isn't another shot at Colon (because the gonne is empty) and instead Cruces hits him before his escape. But he has clearly reloaded by the time Vimes catches up with him.
[p.264] "Captain Vimes? One thing a good Assassin learns is—" There was a thunderous explosion, (1) and the lamp disintegrated. "—never stand near the light." Vimes hit the floor and rolled. Another shot (2) hit a foot away, and he felt the splash of cold water.
[p.266] The gun jerked and fired (3?) at the same moment as Carrot leapt sideways...The gonne fired four times. (3?, 4, 5, 6) It didn’t miss once. She hit the man heavily, knocking him backwards. Vimes rose in an explosion of spray. "Six shots! That's six shots, you bastard! I’ve got you now!"
(This is one of possibly two very distant references to the first James Bond film, Dr. No. A Bad Guy empties his revolver into a sheet-covered fake Bond. Real Bond then confronts him and orders him to drop the gun, which he does. Bond then seems to allow the Bad Guy (who thinks he's being subtle) to pick up the gun again, but this time he gets nothing but a click. Whereupon Bond says, "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six," and shoots the Bad Guy. In fact he shoots him twice (though I've seen one TV showing where this is cut) and the second shot is a coldly deliberate 'execution' shot. This made it memorable, because examples of screen Bond being as nasty as his book counterpart are rare (deliberately not saving Bad Guys from the consequences of their own Badness doesn’t count) and I can think of only two: "I never miss" in The World is Not Enough and "Yes, considerably," in the reboot Casino Royale.)
I'm taking shot (3?) apparently at Carrot to also be the first of the four shots at Angua, making Vimes' total a correct one. He pursues Cruces and catches up as
[p.268] Cruces was lying a few feet away, fighting for breath and hammering another rack of pipes into the gonne. Vimes grapples with him and
Now we’ll start to count:
[p.268] The gonne exploded. (1)There was a tongue of red fire, a firework stink and a zing-zing noise from three walls. Something struck Vimes' helmet and zinged away towards the ceiling.
After which, Vimes has possession of the gonne...
[p.269] (Vimes) swore afterwards that he didn't pull the trigger. It moved of its own accord, pulling his finger with it. The gonne slammed into his shoulder (2) and a six-inch hole appeared in the wall by the Assassin's head, spraying him with plaster...He brought the gonne around, not aware of thinking, and let the trigger pull his finger again. (3) A large area of the door and frame became a splinter-bordered hole...Vimes managed to haul the barrel upwards just as it fired, (4) and the shot took away a lot of ceiling...Doors were opening. Doors closed again after the gonne fired again, (5) smashing a chandelier...Vimes shot the lock off, (6) kicked at the door and then fought the gonne long enough to duck.
Note that Vimes doesn't reload and, unlike Cruces after [p.264] he isn't 'off-camera' with an opportunity to do so at any time during the rest of the scene.
[p.272] Vimes drops the gonne. Fourteen lines later, Cruces picks it up. There's still no mention of reloading, but then Carrot runs Cruces through with his sword—
[p.273] And he died. The gonne fell from his hands, and fired at the floor. There was silence. (That makes 7)
Did I miscount somewhere along the line? I don't think so, but if I did – or if indeed this was an error since corrected, let me know!
One other question, and that possible second Dr. No reference: did Carrot hear and count those six shots, then – fully justified by Angua’s death – perform a Bond-style execution on another man with an empty gonne? Which then suggests, was the last shot and consequent miscount added at an editor's request, to prevent Carrot sullying his Nice reputation? (But remember that Good is not the same as Nice, and Personal is not the same as Important.)
There's only one person who can answer that, and I'm not asking, because he's got a sword too!