The Armageddon Rag

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The Armageddon Rag is a mystery-fantasy novel by American author George R. R. Martin, first co-published in 1983 in hardcover by both Poseidon Press and The Nemo Press. The Nemo version was a special signed, numbered, and slipcased collector's limited edition of 526 copies (of which 26 were lettered A-Z). It had different dust jacket artwork showcasing the Nazgûl's West Mesa concert poster, illustrated binding endpapers, and various end-of-chapter illustrations by 1960s underground comix and rock and roll concert poster artist Victor Moscoso.[1]

The novel contains subdued and hidden fantasy elements and is structured in the form of a murder mystery;[2] it is also a meditation on the rock music era of the 1960s (and its associated culture) and what became of both by the mid-1980s. Martin has described the book as probably his most ambitious and experimental novel but "a total commercial disaster" that almost destroyed his career.[3] Nevertheless, The Armageddon Rag was nominated for both the Locus Award and World Fantasy Awards in 1984. Despite its initial commercial failure the novel remains in print.[4]

The novel contains a detailed account of the history and repertoire of its imaginary rock band, including concert set lists and album track timings. Each of the novel's chapter headings open with actual famous rock lyrics, whose meanings resonate throughout that chapter.


Frustrated former hippie novelist Sandy Blair becomes involved in the investigation of the brutal murder of rock promoter Jamie Lynch, whose heart had been torn from his body.[5]:389 Lynch, a much-hated rock promoter had been found dead in a small town in Maine, the victim of a ritualistic murder.[5]:389 Lynch had managed several bands, including the legendary rock and roll group, the Nazgûl (named for the demonic creatures in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings). He was found dead on the tenth anniversary of the Nazgûl's break up, his bloody body placed on top of the band's West Mesa concert poster; during that concert at West Mesa, New Mexico, the Nazgûl's lead singer Patrick Henry "Hobbit" Hobbins had been mysteriously murdered.

Lynch's high-profile death soon opens the door for a Nazgûl reunion tour, which slowly begins to eerily mirror the events of their original West Mesa tour. With Lynch out of the way, and a disastrous act of arson forcing the remaining three members of the Nazgûl to go on a reunion tour, which is promoted by a rich man named Edan Morse.[5]:389 The mysterious Morse may or may not had been a left-wing revolutionary in the 1970s noted for his ultra-violent way of doing things.[5]:389 Morse produces a young man who is a doppelganger for Hobbins who plans on making into the lead singer of the reunited Nazgûl, despite the fact the doppelganger's musical talents are sub-par and he lacks any charisma.[5]:389 Interviewing the surviving members of the band while tracking down his old friends from the 1960s, Blair meditates on the meaning of the flower power generation as he crisscrosses the U. S. He eventually becomes the Nazgûl's press agent and is soon swept up in the frenzy of their successful reunion tour and an oncoming supernatural convergence, whose nature he must uncover in order to solve the murders of Lynch and Hobbins. Blair comes to suspect that Morse wants to bring the Nazgûl together to perform an occult ritual that will unleash a dark supernatural power upon the world, an act of revenge against a world that has spurned the idealism of the late 1960s counter-culture.[5]:389–390


The novel was a commercial disaster, and led Martin to withdraw from writing fiction for several years and focus on television.[6]

Critical response[edit]

Algis Budrys described the novel as "a powerful and fundamental fantasy in which the central haunt is not the shade of a departed person, but of a time." He concluded that "directed at a highly controversial area though it may be, it is about something so many of us care so deeply about."[1]


  1. ^ a b "Books", F&SF, March 1984, p. 40-2.
  2. ^ Katharine Mills. "The Armageddon Rag: A review by Katharine Mills". Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  3. ^ "PW talks with George R.R. Martin of hybrids and cliches". Publishers Weekly. 2005-10-05. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  4. ^ "1984 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f D'Amassa, Don "Martin, George" pages 388-390 from St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers edited by David Pringle, Detroit: St. James Press, 1997.
  6. ^ George R. R. Martin, George R. R. (13 March 2012). GEORGE R.R. MARTIN | Master Class | Higher Learning. (Interview). TIFF. Toronto. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 

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