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I'm trying to track down a novel I read in my junior high days, which would put it at mid-to-late 80s. I don't remember the overall plot of the novel, but I remember the protagonist ended up matching wits against Death in various games - including a bowling match, of all things. The kid was being helped by a group of weird characters & creatures, and the rules of the world he was in were all screwy. It definitely had a fantasy genre bent to it - wasn't sci/fi or drama. It also wasn't a "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" book, which I absolutely loved at the time - it was a regular novel with a linear plot.

I was a big fan of AD&D at the time, so I'm thinking it might have been set in the Planescape "universe", which would have explained all the weird characters & rules of reality. I've had no luck finding it based on that, however. I've also had no luck searching for "bowling" + "death"... all I get are a bunch of weird news reports about people dying while bowling.

Does the "bowling with death" thing ring a bell for anyone?

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I'm pretty sure you are taking about Craig Shaw Gardner's books about the apprentice wizard 'Wuntvor' and his exploits.

The cover from the last book shows the scene that you are remembering: Bowling with Death


First, the Exploits of Ebenezum
[Warning: The above is a TVTropes link; you can lose hours following it.]

Then, the Wanderings of Wuntvor
[Warning: The above is a TVTropes link; you can lose hours following it.]

Wuntvor was helped by a number of unusual characters, including

  • Hendrek -- a Mercenary with an enchanted Club ('Headbasher', a weapon no man could own, but only rent... Smilin' Brax the salesdemon showed up regularly attempting to collect) that 'drinks the memories of men.' Known for saying 'Doom!' a lot.
  • The 'Dealer of Death' -- a very talented (if not very bright) assassin
  • Hubert -- the dragon who wants to break into Vaudeville
  • Snarks -- a demon who was kicked from the Netherhells because he could only speak the truth (as I recall, his mother was scared by a politician or possibly a group of lawyers while carrying him)
  • Cuthbert -- our Hero's magical sword (from A Night in the Netherhells on); a great magic sword, but VERY squeamish and reluctant to be used. And it talks; mostly trying to convince the hero to please put it back in the sheath unused.
  • Tap -- A Brownie who was always trying to help with magic that involved shoes.
  • Ebenezum -- our Hero's Master; a phenomenal wizard, currently cursed to be allergic to magic. Known for often saying 'Indeed!' in response to nearly anything.

Death himself was out to get Wuntvor, having identified him as the 'Eternal Apprentice'; basically a Trope from such stories. You first encounter him in the first book, as I recall.. Repeated exposure to our Hero (and the hero's habit of somehow surviving) is what drives Death to realize what the hero must be, and become obsessed with destroying him.

Also, there is Guxx Unfuffadoo, the rhyming demon lord responsible for Ebenezum's malady in the first place, the main recurrent villain thru the books.

One possible clincher...
Do you remember him casting a spell that involved whistling four bars "The Happy Woodcutter's Song", making various gestures and resulted in cascades of Fish falling upon everyone? It (and variations on it, for example, the first time in book 1, it produced Butterflies) appear in many of the books.

  • Bingo! I think that's it - the character descriptions ring a few bells. – Omegacron Feb 20 '14 at 4:10
1

Well, this probably isn't it, but I read the first of these books early on as well called On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, and they feature the character of Death throughout. The first book came out in 1983. the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony

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