Posts Tagged ‘chet’

Chet and Me


September 20th, 2023 Posted 8:08 am

Back to reader questions tomorrow but meanwhile I’m delighted to have been included in the special Animals in Mystery issue of Mystery Readers Journal. Lots of good stuff in there! Here’s Chet and Me, my little contribution:
People often lie to others, sometimes lie to themselves, but never lie to their dogs. That thought came to me early on in the writing of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, which will reach number fourteen with the publication of Up On The Woof Top in October. Fourteen and counting. Although Chet isn’t doing the counting, since he doesn’t go beyond two.
Whoa. Better back up a bit. The Chet and Bernie mysteries steal the set-up devised by Conan Doyle, where the master detective’s sidekick tells the story in the first person. But there are differences. For one, Bernie, the detective, is no master, except in the eyes of Chet. Second, Chet, the sidekick, is not a physician. He’s not even human. He’s a dog—in fact, a K‑9 school washout. And you couldn’t really call him a sidekick, since he’s a full partner. Plus it turns out that in many ways Bernie is indeed a master detective. Are we clear now?
I didn’t think so. Blame my wife. She was the one who said, “You should do something with dogs.” Excuse me? Hadn’t I often had dogs in my novels—Buster, say, in Oblivion, or Nigel in The Tutor? But those were dogs in supporting, trot-on roles, and you never saw inside them. So therefore… my wife meant something else, like… a dog narrator! A dog narrator! Why hadn’t I thought of that? But one thing I’ve learned over the course of writing forty-six novels: It never pays to mull over the source of inspiration. Didn’t Chuck Close say inspiration is for amateurs? Or was it Chuck Jones? No matter. Within fifteen minutes of my wife’s suggestion, I’d gone over to the office and written the first page of what became Dog On It, first in the series. And now’s a good time to deal with a question I’ve fielded many times: Should the series be read in any particular order? Answer: that’s a question Chet would never ask.
If the Chet and Bernie series works, it’s for one reason: Chet is not a talking dog. He’s as canine as I can make him. He doesn’t know anything a dog wouldn’t know, although of course he’s accumulated lots of special and even unusual knowledge from his law enforcement background. So: he narrates but does not talk. Everything the reader learns about the story comes from him, which for one thing means entering a world where the senses of smell and hearing are just as or at times more important than the visual sense.
The plotting of a traditional mystery novel has similarities to the solving of real crimes. A chain of clues is constructed and a logical conclusion is drawn. Well, Chet can’t do any of that. And even if he could he might sniff a Cheeto behind a fridge at a key moment and miss something important. Yes, dear reader, he’s an unreliable narrator! As though I’d gotten an MFA in creative writing. Which I did not! Instead I just wrote. But the introduction of an unreliable narrator into the strict mystery format blew up the whole thing, and all sorts of fun began to happen. What’s fun for the writer isn’t necessarily fun for the reader, of course. That’s where self-discipline comes in.
Once I was on a panel and an audience member asked about writer’s block. The other panelists bemoaned it but—knocking on wood—I said I’d never had it. If I feel a blockage looming I step back and remind myself of the beating heart of the story, the spirit of the book, and then a narrative route always suggests itself. The beating heart of the Chet and Bernie mysteries? That’s an easy one. It’s the love between Chet and Bernie.
Which sort of brings us back to where we started. People don’t lie to their dogs. While it’s true that not everyone talks to their dogs, lots do, myself included. “Nice day, huh, Dottie?” Or “Hey, Pearl, where did I put the car keys?” Bernie talks to Chet, revealing things he reveals to no one else, so in this simple, direct way, we get to know him better than anyone in his life. It’s analogous to Shakespeare’s soliloquies, where Hamlet, say, turns to the audience and spills his guts. But that’s so artificial. My way is better. If Shakespeare had married my wife instead of Anne Hathaway, there’s no telling what he might have accomplished.

THE RIGHT SIDE: A Note From The Author


December 13th, 2016 Posted 7:45 am

Sometimes – and they’re often the best times in what my grandmother always called “the writing game” – a character grabs you and won’t let go. This character – a figment of your own imagination but not wholly under your power – demands to be brought to life, and in the case of LeAnne Hogan, the main character in THE RIGHT SIDE (coming June 27), will bring herself to life with or without your help. So – I helped! By now I’ve written many novels, but never one like this, neither in the experience of the writing or in the resulting novel. There’s a take-off point in any novel (except bad ones), a moment somewhere along the line where the story becomes airborne. In the case of THE RIGHT SIDE, I had the feeling of being airborne even before the start, like one of those high-flying planes that separates from the belly of a bomber at fifty thousand feet.

LeAnne’s a warrior, although I wouldn’t call her a lover of war. She’s more of a protector, a lover of duty, the tip of a necessary spear most of us prefer not to think about. LeAnne said things that surprised me, amazed me, shocked me at times, and I wasn’t even sure what I thought of her until the very last few lines. My favorite ending of any of my books: am I allowed to say that?

Duty, war, damage external and internal, trust, love: they’re all important in THE RIGHT SIDE. There’s also the smell of Afghanistan in a stateside closet, a secret affair, a missing child – and a dog. Not a narrating dog, and to give the dog’s name here would be a spoiler. I can say this dog has a powerful personality, and a deeply mysterious soul. THE RIGHT SIDE is different from the Chet and Bernie novels, but I believe C&B fans will like it just as much – or more! – if in a somewhat different way.

Here’s the cover:

Barnes & Noble:
Google Play:


I Vant To Sock Your Blahd


October 29th, 2010 Posted 8:59 am

Count Dracula appeared right in our house! Walking down the hall with his arms raised up high! He was way taller than I’d imagined. Of course I attacked him right away – homeland security is my job. But it was only Bernie – I found out just a bit too late – trying on his Halloween costume. No one told me Halloween was coming. I like all the holidays – Thanksgiving especially – but not Halloween. What gets into people on Halloween? You tell me.


Noir (From Thereby Hangs A Tail)


January 22nd, 2010 Posted 9:12 am

“Chill, Thurman,” said Crash. “You’re gonna screw up the whole – “

“No one tells me to chill,” Thurman said. And all at once he took a big roundhouse swing at Crash. I wouldn’t have thought Crash capable of moving real fast, but he was. He ducked, just like that, almost quicker than I could see. I’ve only had one encounter with a duck, and it didn’t duck at all, attacked me, in fact, so I don’t get the ducking thing; but that’s another story. Thurman swung. Crash ducked. And Thurman’s huge fist caught Disco square on the chin. He toppled over and lay still.

Thurman moved on Crash. Crash backed away, ending up against the RV, no place to go. “A hundred and seventy-five bucks or you’re next,” he said.

“Don’t have that kind of bread right now,” Crash said. “And this is a real bad time for you to – “

“Then I’m takin’ the dog,” Thurman said. He wheeled around toward me. I growled. I hated the choke chain and never forgot things like that.

“Not an option,” Bernie said.

Thurman faced Bernie. “You stay out of this,” he said. “The dog’s bought and paid for.”

Bernie moved slightly, stepping between me and Thurman. “When did this happen?” he said.

“None of your business. Take my word for it.”

“And where?”

“Don’t hear too good, do you, pal?” said Thurman.

“Anywhere near Red Butte, by any chance?” Bernie said.

“You lookin’ for trouble?” Thurman’s eye twitch got going.

“Trouble’s already here,” Bernie said. “Now the only question is how it gets handled.”

Down on the ground, Disco moaned and began to stir.

“You’ll get handled, you don’t get out of my way,” said Thurman.

Bernie didn’t budge. “And I hear just fine, by the way,” he said. Huh? Bernie really thought that? “Sharp enough to pick up the sound of a loser.”

Thurman’s mouth opened. All that black hairy beard and then a very red tongue in the middle: it had a strange effect on me, made me feel like scrapping. At the same time, I noticed Crash sidling toward the cab of the RV. I sidled over with him. He looked at me and mouthed some word. Mouthed, like with no sound. What was I supposed to make of that? I had enough trouble with ordinary sounded-out words; if you weren’t careful, you could get impatient with humans sometimes. I showed Crash my teeth, didn’t know what else to do. He stopped sidling.

Admin: to see the Little Detective Agency business card, please scroll down to January 16.

Also, to Megan and Lisa Trotter – no mailing addresses have come in yet, re sending out your pop quiz prizes.


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