Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sniffing butts at Bouchercon

So I'm on the plane coming home from Bouchercon, drinking my little bottle of five-dollar wine and digging into John D. MacDonald's "Nightmare In Pink." I'm chilling out, enjoying Travis McGee's trip to Manhattan when I come across this in Chapter 4:

I whisked the soot off the wall by the entrance steps and sat and waited for her, and watched the office people bring their anxious dogs out. You could almost hear the dogs sigh as they reached the handiest pole. There was a preponderance of poodles.

This is the most desperate breed there is. They are just a little too bright for the servile role of dogdom. So their loneliness is a little more excrutiating, their welcomes more frantic, their desire to please a little more intense. They seem to think if they could just do everything right, they wouldn't have to be locked up in silence -- pacing, sleeping, brooding, enduring the swollen bladder. That's what they try to talk about. One day there will appear a super-poodle, one almost as bright as the most stupid alley cat, and he will figure it out. He will suddenly realize his loneliness is merely a by-product of his being used to ease the loneliness of his Owner. He'll tell the others. He'll leave messages. And some dark night they'll all start chewing throats.

God, I love that passage. I am relatively new to the MacDonald books, so I am still discovering his delicious little digressions. This one made me howl in laughter. Not because it's so spot-on about poodles but because it made me think of the poodles I had met in Madison.

Now, I'm new to the dog world. I've had cats all my life and just a couple years ago got my first dog, so I am still deciphering the odd psychology of the canine brain. And maybe it was the cheap wine or post-conference fatigue, but I found myself thinking of all the dogs I had met over the weekend. Poodles, pugs, pekes, great danes. We were all there at Bouchercon, lapping drinks at the Concourse bar, nipping at each other's flanks on panels, sniffing butts in the hospitality suites. We're not cats. Cats will band together if they have to, but they don't really enjoy it. But dogs? They revel in other dogs and their dogness.

Lots of dogs at Bouchercon...

I saw big roving packs of golden retrievers, romping indiscriminately with all breeds. They were slopperly happy to just be at the dog park, man.

I saw regal afghans, confident in their beauty and talent, but who never looked down their snouts at anyone. They picked up the tab for everyone at the pub.

I saw hyperactive jack russells, jumping from table to table, eager to please on a panel or at a party. They charmed with their freshness and vitality, making you wish them a long life.

I saw plenty of pugs, the great and gregarious fans, sweet and smart, ready to give their love for a signature in their treasured first edition. God, you want to take them all home with you.

But then there were those poodles. Edgy, brilliant writers who, like MacDonald's Manhattan poodles, believe that if they could just do everything right, if they just keep trying to transcend the pack, they would get the commercial success that's their due.

And one night, I saw a clique of chihuahuas, trembling together in their self-congratulatory pack, waiting to nip at the ankles of those who pass by because they felt tiny and overlooked.

But the poodles and chihuahuas were the misfits. The rest of us? Wizened award-winning sharpeis dispensing advice, German shepherds on patrol for new agents, curly-earred cockers seducing with their big brown eyes over the rim of their Cosmos. Old dogs, young pups, and all the rest of us mutts, we were just trying to connect in that great, primal, canine way. I don't know about you, but I had a doggone good time.


Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Kris:

Loved the John D. MacDonald passage. He's one of my faves. If I remember correctly, Nightmare in Pink gets REALLY freaky in the middle. Good stuff.

8:58 AM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...


Yeah, "Pink" finds Travis caught in drug (LSD?) mind experiements. I am new to the McD canon but this one was not was I expected...more plotted, even thriller-ish.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

My favorite John D. is probably "The Green Ripper," although I was find of "The Deep Blue Goodbye."

Young pups and sly dogs, ey?

Mark Terry

Whose office manager, "Frodo," says, "Woof!"

3:12 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Oh nice!
Enjoyed the metaphor.
Thank you.

8:07 AM  

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