Monday, October 03, 2005

Still Life with Hate Mail

Another busy weekend. I dropped into the Great Lakes Booksellers Association convention, and had a chance to meet some wonderful book folks, and then dropped in the Joliet Authorfest, and got to meet more wonderful book folks. For more about Joliet, visit author Randy Richardson's blog. Randy's first novel, LOST IN THE IVY (a murder mystery centering around Wrigley Field) just came out.

While at GLBA, I mentioned to some Hyperion folks that I saw WHISKEY SOUR remaindered, and if it would be possible to purchase copies. I was told that WHISKEY has not been remaindered yet. Instead, 499 copies have been sold at a discount because they were slightly damaged, had torn covers, etc.

So I'm still full price, baby!

On another note, I received my very first Hate Email today. It needs a little set up.

I wrote a Harry McGlade short story called WHELP WANTED, in which Jack's obnoxious ex-partner must track down a stolen Sharpei. Harry, being an idiot, finds a Collie instead, and tries to pass it off as the Sharpei. It doesn't work, and Harry eventually stumbles across the right dog and unites it with its owner.

This is broad comedy, about as subtle as sitting on a hot stove. You can download a free pdf file by going HERE.

Here's how the story ends:

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There was more playful wrestling, and he actually kissed his dog on the mouth.

“Kind of unsanitary, isn’t it?” I said.

“Are you kidding? A dog’s saliva is full of antiseptic properties.”

“I was speaking for the dog.”

Thorpe laughed. “Friendship transcends species, Mr. McGlade. Speaking of which, where’s that Collie you found?"

"It's back at my apartment."

"See? You’ve made a new friend, yourself."

"Nope. I’ve got a six o’clock appointment at the animal shelter. I’m getting him gassed."

Thorpe shot me surprised look.

"Mr. McGlade! After this whole ordeal, don’t you see what amazing companions canines are? A dog can enrich your life! All you have to do is give him a chance."

I mulled it over. How bad could it be, having a friend who never borrowed money, stole your girl, or talked behind your back?

"You know what, Mr. Thorpe? I may just give it a shot."

When I got home a few hours later, I discovered my new best friend had chewed the padding off of my leather couch.

I made it to the shelter an hour before my scheduled appointment.






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Now whether you found that final line amusing or not, I'm guessing you still recognized it as a joke. It had the set-up. It had the defying of reader expectation. It had the absurd image. It had the familiarity.

In short, it was recognizable as comedy.

This is the letter I received:

I just finished listening to your short story that was included on the Bloody Mary CD I purchased and am appalled by the ending. I work for a non profit no kill dog rescue - how could you write something like that. It's ideas like that - that give others the idea it's OKAY to just dump a dog off. Do some research before you write something as awful as that we have had more than 100 golden retrievers come through our organization in the past year maybe those people read your book and thought that it was okay to just dump and dog and never try to work with it. I will NEVER read or purchase another one of your books. I usually give my Books on CD to our local library this one goes in the trash.

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My initial reaction was disbelief. It's well known in the mystery/thriller community that you don't kill animals, because a certain segment of the popululation hates that. Which is fine with me. I've got two dogs (that I rescued from shelters) and while I try not to censor myself while I write, I can understand why hurting animals in stories is distasteful.

But apparently you also can't joke about killing animals. WHELP WANTED has zero violence. It's a parody of the private eye genre. And not only were no animals harmed in the writing of the story, no animals were actually harmed IN the story---it was just alluded to, as a joke.

I was halfway into an apologetic letter, when I realized that I wasn't sorry at all. That's how WHELP WANTED should have ended. It was a story about AKC show dog owners, and how obsessed they are with their pets. After 4000 words of describing people loving dogs, I wanted it to end on that sarcastic note---a complete about-face---which shows Harry for the jerk he is.

So instead of apologizing, I sent this email:

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I'm posting your letter anonymously on my blog. Is there a rescue shelter website you'd like me to add that my readers can visit?

Harry McGlade, the protagonist of that story, is an obnoxious idiot. Surely you must have picked that up, listening to the whole story. No one would ever imitate Harry, nor would any stupid thing he did give anyone ideas.

Would you feel better knowing that after Harry's dog was euthanized, he ate it so nothing went to waste?

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For those of you who would like to know more about helping animals, go to www.petfinder.com, www.animalshelter.org, and www.aspca.org. There are a lot of loving, wonderful pets out there that need a home, so next time you're thinking of adopting, go to a shelter.

Also, pound for pound, dogs have more protein and half the fat of beef.