I wrote this thinking it was what was wanted for a Sins of the Fathers on-line interview. It was rejected but I wanted to share it with someone, so it’s today’s blog..
My detective, J. P. (Jonas Piedmont) Beaumont, has been in my writing life for decades. Early on, I gave him my birthday as his birthday so I’d be able to remember it for both of us. Incidentally, we both turn 75 next month. Because Beau’s father died in a motorcycle accident before his parents married, he was raised by a single mom in the aftermath of World War II.
With only a high school diploma, his mother supported the family by working as a seamstress. They lived in an apartment over a bakery in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. As a consequence, he didn’t have pets growing up, not a dog or a cat or even so much as a goldfish. And that continued into adulthood. Since he’d never had a pet, he had no idea what he was missing.
Then, in the last book, Proof of Life, all that changed. His wife, Mel, is the newly-appointed police chief in Bellingham, Washington. In the aftermath of a domestic violence incident, a family in her jurisdiction goes into a shelter situation, but they are unable to take their dog, Rambo, with them. As a result, Mel comes dragging home with the dog—an immense Irish wolfhound—with the news that she and Beau are going to foster the animal until the family is able to move into permanent housing.
Occasionally, people ask me if characters in my books are based on real people. Over the course of the book, Beau learns that Rambo’s real name is actually Lucy. In the process of creating Rambo/Lucy I drew on two separate dogs in my life. The first was Boney, a tiny pound puppy who, much to our astonishemnt, grew to be an Irish wolfhound and Stormy Girl, our grandson’s dog who, tragically, died of canine melanoma earlier this year at age 5. Lucy’s unblinking and very disturbing black-eyed stare is all Storm’s. On road trips, Lucy’s love of riding in the back seat with her head resting on the driver’s shoulder is all Bony. (By the way, Bony shows up as Davy Ladd’s dog in Hour of the Hunter.)
In Proof of Life Beau, a lifelong non-dog person, is reluctantly dragged into being placed in charge of a dog, and not just a little dog, either—a huge dog. That results in a pretty steep learning curve for both of them. Toward the end of the book, when Lucy is severely injured, he’s thrust into the equally unfmailiar territory of being a canine care-giver. When Lucy’s original family decides that they won’t be able to take her with them when they leave the shelter, Lucy becomes a permanent part of Beau’s life. His relief at that outcome shows he really does love Lucy!
And that’s where things stand when Sins of the Fathers begins. Beau has gone from being a reluctant dog owner to being a willing one. He has learned to enjoy the company Lucy’s presence offers him as he transitions from his days of being a sworn police officer to being a private investigator. There was no such thing as a Frisbee when Beau was growing up in Ballard, but Lucy loves chasing Frisbees, and he has learned to throw them. When standing on her hind legs, she’s tall enough to peer over the top of their six foot tall wooden fence (That was Stormy!) so it’s a good thing she’s been through the extensive training program at Bothell’s Academy for Canine Behavior. (Also a real place by the way. I may write fiction, but I’m too lazy to make up EVERYTHING!)
I once read an early book from a now namebrand author where a dog was included in the story, but he was there for the sole purpose of dying in a house fire at the end of the book. It was the the author’s way of showing just how bad the bad guy really was. People who read crime fiction expect a certain amount of mayhem because bad guys do bad things to people and to animals. In one of my books, Exit Wounds, the victim happens to be an animal hoarder and seventeen dogs die in her overheated mobile home as a result of her murder. My problem with the book I mentioned previously was that in the course of the story nobody paid any attention to the dog. No one fed it or played with it. When the family left home for a number of days, the dog was left on its own with no mention of a dog sitter anywhere in sight.
My position is that, if authors are going to put kids or animals in their books, someone needs to provide for them when they’re off screen. In Lucy’s case, that person is Beau. He’s the one who’s put in charge of walking her, picking up after her, playing with her, and feeding her. In the process, he learns that there are a whole lot of other caring dog owners out there in the world, including the homeless guy who lives in the fire-escape alcove of the church next door to Beau’s downtown Seattle highrise.
I’ve been a dog person all my life since I dragged a stray puppy named Daisy home from Greenway School in Bisbee, Arizona, when I was in first grade. Over the years I’ve learned a lot of surprising things about dogs. For instance, they are excellent at telling time. Our current miniature dachshunds, Mary and Jojo, come to us with unwavering eye contact and chomping on obnoxious squeaky toys at the stroke of 8 AM and 3:30 PM. That’s their meal time, and they know it.
Over the course of Sins of the Fathers, Beau is forced to come to terms with the idea that Lucy definintely has a mind of her own. The only question ends up being what is he going to do about it. Don’t expect me to tell you the answer to that question. You’ll have to read the book.
This message is brought to you and approved of by Daisy, Huck, Sunny, Specks, Azaelea, Scratch, Bootsy, Barney, Bony, Nikki, Tess, Agatha, Daphne, Bella, Mary, and Jojo.