Welcome to a new Scottish Terrier and Dog News feature — the weekly dog book club.
It was inspired by my new Kindle, which I bought with the proceeds of my income tax refund last spring and which I love, even if I am a little bitter that I got it just before Amazon introduced the better-looking black Kindles a few weeks later.
But I digress. Here are a few things I love about my Kindle:
If I hear or read about a book that sounds interesting, I can order it instantaneously. This is extremely important for someone like me, who has very little impulse control.
The Kindle is way easier to read than a book, newspaper or magazine on a crowded subway commute as it only takes one hand.
You can put dozens of books on your Kindle and it still weighs next to nothing.
It’s cheaper than buying paper books. No, it’s not cheaper than the library, but if you’re like me and have a library fine problem extending back to your childhood, it’s still a bargain.
Books on the Kindle are easy to annotate.
With the Kindle’s built-in dictionary, you’re more likely to look up those words you’re unsure about.
To get the book club started, I’m going to recommend three books, some of which have been previously featured on the Scottie News:
Bashan and I by Thomas Mann – (Also known as A Man and his Dog) What can I say? It’s a dog story by the guy who won the Nobel Prize for literature. Back in 1923 the New York Times reported that this book had been called “the finest study of the mind of a dog ever written.” Almost a century later, I agree. These days, however, Mann doesn’t get the attention he deserves either for his dog work or anything else. Order Death in Venice: And Seven Other Stories and you’ll get six more stories. The only thing that would have made it better is if Bashan were a Scottie instead of a Pointer.
I was checking out the tweets of various Scottish Terriers on Twitter yesterday when I stumbled across a photo of the book jacket above from @AngusFala. A little research on the author, the late Stuart M. Kaminsky, turned up several interesting facts. Among other things, he wrote more than 50 novels, served as president of the Mystery Writers of America, and inspired Sara Paretsky to dedicate the first novel in her V. I. Warshawski private-eye series to him.
As a mega-fan of the early V.I. books, I’m prepared to put my faith in Paretsky’s dedication. Along with the audio book version of The Fala Factor, which was first published in 1984, there are also several used copies available on Amazon.
The year is 1942, and America is starting to feel the pinch of wartime deprivation. For gumshoe Toby Peters, “doing without” is no big deal; he scrapes by as a private eye by doing the oddest of odd jobs, and he seems to be surrounded by a coterie of curious characters. This time, it’s none other than Eleanor Roosevelt. The First Lady is convinced that the president’s little dog, Fala, has been kidnapped and seeks the aid of Toby to track down the real First Dog. The fun begins: Toby finds himself uncovering a plot to overthrow the government by a crackpot political party known as the New Whigs, dodging whacks from a cop who dislikes him intensely, and being framed for a murder he can’t prove he didn’t commit. As usual, reader Tom Parker gives all characters distinctive low-life voices (except for Eleanor, of course), and his vocal gymnastics adds immensely to the overall enjoyment of another Peters adventure.
If you’ve read the book, feel free to add your opinion in the comments.
Wild Times at the Bed and Biscuit, the second children’s book in an expanding series, features a Scottish Terrier puppy who needs to be trained. Good luck with that, everybody.
Here’s the plot summary:
Ever since Grampa Bender opened his doors (and veterinary skills) to a despondent Canada goose, a cranky muskrat, and two tiny but rebellious fox kits, his animal boarding house has been turned upside down. Luckily, Ernest the mini-pig is on hand to marshal the other animals into being good hosts — but since wild things are, well, wild by nature, it has been trickier than he imagined. Plus Ernest is trying to train Sir Walter, the Scottish terrier puppy who is the newest addition to the family. But what if Sir Walter doesn’t want to be told what to do and decides that running wild like a fox sounds like lots of fun?
The Scottie News was able to obtain an interview with author John Simpson in which he gave us the back story. Mary, the fictional president’s Scottie who is, was modelled on the author’s eponymously named heart dog who died at age seven and is shown above on her last Christmas. “I try to bring her personality out whenever I mention her in my books. It’s a way of keeping her alive. It makes me feel good,” said Simpson, whose latest novel is his second about President David J. Windsor. “Mary was special from the start. ”
Simpson, who has had Scotties for more than 25 years and currently lives with his sixth, seventh and eighth dogs, describes the breed as being “little in size only.”
Author John Simpson with Christopher
And what does Simpson think of the non-fictional Scotties who have occupied the White House? FDR’s “Fala was the most famous dog in the world.” But he didn’t have to put up with what Bush’s Barney did. “I don’t blame him for biting the reporter. You get sick of having mikes shoved in your face.” As for overlooked Miss Beasley, Simpson sees an upside: “She didn’t get dumped on her head by Bush either.”
Order Talons of the Condorhere and see Mary on the book jacket.
That would be David J. Windsor, the fictional lead in Talons of the Condor, an erotic gay political thriller by John Simpson. The author’s bio notes that he is “a Vietnam Era Veteran, former Police Officer of the Year, a Federal Agent, a Federal Magistrate, an armed bodyguard to Saudi Royalty, a senior Federal Government executive, and recipient of awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Treasury.”
He lives with his partner of 35 years and their three Scottish Terriers, which would explain why President Windsor has a Scottie and how the breed made it back to the White House yet again. According to reviewers, President Windsor even takes time out from important matters of state to buy his favourite dog Mary a bed.
Here’s an excerpt from the book to get you in the mood. Meanwhile, Scottie News will try to get an interview with Simpson, who proves once again that real men don’t have to be closeted about their love of small dogs.
I’m a big mystery fan but don’t recall ever hearing of S.S. Van Dine although Philo Vance does ring a bell. But enough about me, here’s some background on the Scottish Terrier-owning author:
He thoroughly enjoyed identifying with his character, the independently wealthy and cultured Philo Vance, to the extent that he quickly began to live like him. Wright partied lavishly and took on eccentric hobbies— owning a Scottish Terrier kennel and breeding exotic fish— and entertained lavishly, falling into a pattern of dangerously outspending his large income. By 1934, with the nation gripped in the Great Depression, literary tastes were turning away from Wright’s aesthetic writing style, favoring grittier hard-boiled realism (a coincidental argument could be made cinematically, for the quality of Wright’s film adaptations dropped precipitously after The Kennel Murder Case (1933), easily considered the best of the series), but he had created a lifestyle he was loathe to change. In any case, by the mid-1930s his popularity had waned considerably and Wright hadn’t or couldn’t adjust to the public’s changing literary taste.
Max is a Scottish terrier who lives a quiet and peaceful life in the glen, but one day he hears the voice of the Maker speaking through a mysterious humming of the reeds telling him to follow the fire cloud. On the way, he meets Al, an Irish cat, and Kate, a West Highland terrier from another part of Scotland, both of whom have also heard the voice of the Maker. After they cross the English Channel, they meet up with Liz, a French cat, and several other animals who are following the fire cloud too, while animals from all over the world have been called as well. The fire cloud leads every one of them to a place in the Middle East where a man named Noah is building a big boat.
Is it just me or does this sound like something Oprah could get into? Can’t you just picture Max jumping on the couch?
The Amazon product description notes: “Author Elizabeth Van Steenwyk offers young readers a glimpse into American history and the life of a U.S. president through the story of a loyal dog. Michael G. Montgomery s full-color illustrations capture the indomitable spirit of Fala and the nation and president who loved him.” For some reason no one sent us a review copy so we’re basing out critique solely on the cover art which we love. And, really, given that it’s an election year, the timing couldn’t be better.