Sunday, June 25, 2017

This Just In: Jungle Reds Swoon over Spencer Quinn

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We are swooning at Jungle Red today!  You may know our guest as Peter Abrahams, the internationally acclaimed and bestselling thriller writer. (Seriously, one of the best in the world.) Or as Spencer Quinn, the internationally acclaimed and bestseller author of the adorable Chet and Bernie mysteries. And many other terrific books.  (“The Edgar-winning author of 36 novels” as his bio says.)

Yes, I am absolutely unabashedly gushing. He is one of my favorite authors ever.  

And now he (as Spencer Quinn) has a new book out in two days, THE RIGHT SIDE.  It’s a different incredible...well, now I am gushing again.  

HANK:  I'm in the midst of your wonderful book right now (oops, still gushing)--so don't tell me the ending. But I'm fascinated by what you said on your website--how  sometimes a character grabs you and won’t let go. you said: "This character – a figment of your own imagination but not wholly under your power – demands to be brought to life."  So that's what happened with your main character in THE RIGHT SIDE, LeAnne? Tell us about that. who is she, and where did she come from?  

SPENCER QUINN: Publishing - what a crazy business! On the outlet end, it's more and more data and numbers driven all the time, as though the product was sheet steel. We workers back at the inlet end deal in feelings, dreams, emotions, zeitgeist. Strange things go on in that pipeline. LeAnne Hogan came to me suddenly, out of the blue. The Chet and Bernie mysteries - and Bowser and Birdie for kids - which have been occupying me for almost the past 10 years are probably essentially comic in tone. And I love writing them! But what I think happened is that things going on in the world that are not comic came barging in and couldn't be ignored.

 LeAnne lives in this dangerous, baffling, violent world which I must have been grappling with subconsciously and when she popped up in my imagination I knew had to write about her. I'm not saying she's humorless - far from it, I hope - but she's been in terrible situations that brand you forever. In THE RIGHT SIDE, she is forced to solve two mysteries, one macro, one micro.

LeAnne's highly capable of doing that, or at least she was. She's a soldier and a warrior, beloved and respected by her comrades; but then her patrol wanders into a mysterious set-up in an Afghan village, and it all comes undone.

I've explored the idea of a highly capable person forced to carry on with suddenly diminished abilities once before in OBLIVION, but this turned out quite differently. And one of the reasons for the difference is the strange dog who enters LeAnne's life when she really needs her, even if LeAnne doesn't know it at the time.


HANK: But even though you’ve written riveting standalone thrillers, and the smart and (okay, adorable) Chet and Bernie mysteries, and the Bowser and Birdie YAs (and more--I adore your Echo Falls books) --but this book is so different. It has a different tone, and a different...aura. Did it feel different to write it? 


SPENCER QUINN: Good question. That aura thing came up in a conversation with my editor. He said reading the book reminded him of the feeling of getting swept along in a piece of music by Philip Glass. I'm no expert on Philip Glass, but chose to take it as a compliment. There were a lot of technical challenges in the writing - it's part war novel, part mystery, part road book, and moves back and forth in time - but I wasn't really aware of them until I was done. Thank God! Those challenges can be intimidating. Better not to know.

 As for the feeling of writing it - well, I'm not sure. There are always surprises. For example, when I made LeAnne a high-school pole vaulting champion, I had no idea there'd be that scene in Afghanistan where she tries to teach the schoolgirls in their burqas how to pole vault. And how, much later, she tries desperately to remember their names. One thing I do know is that the writing process never gets easier. That seems unfair. After a dentist has filled 1000 cavities or so, autopilot must set in. Why can't we have that?

HANK: Well, it’s good, really, isn’t it? Because to have the joy of a new idea, or a new insight. People have said to me—“After 40 years as a reporter, don’t all stories seem the same? Like how many ways are there to cover a fire?” And that’s so—wrong. Every situation is astonishingly different. In fiction, there are even more possibilities. And having a good idea is the best thing that could ever happen.

Speaking of good ideas...this sense you have about dogs, and their place in the world, and in people’s lives. There’s a dog on the cover of THE RIGHT SIDE—did the dog appear to you when LeAnn did?  (And we won’t tell the dog’s name.)

SQ: Well, I knew from the start that I wanted a dog in the story - but not a narrating dog! THE RIGHT SIDE is all third-person close. And this dog had to have been through something bad - although we never know exactly what - and like LeAnne, bears the scar. And like her, the dog is not in a cuddly mood, at least in the present. As for the future, I hope readers see the ending as an up note.
  
HANK: there’s such a layer of melancholy and sorrow and loss at the beginning of the book. Was that difficult—more difficult than writing always is anyway—to write?

SQ: The truth is the parts of a story with heightened emotions, like the beginning of THE RIGHT SIDE, and heightened action, are easier to write, at least for me. It's the getting to them that's hard, often a slog. In this book, I tried to simply jettison most of that slogging.

HANK: Jettison the slogging! Ah. My new mantra.  Talk about that title—so multi-layered! Did the story come first, or the title?

SQ: The moment I picked the side of LeAnne's face that would be damaged, I had the title; and all the metaphoric ripples got set in motion. 

HANK: And not to bury the lede, but you have reached blurb nirvana. Stephen King said “Brilliant. Deeply felt, but totally under control. I loved it.” Not to be sappy, but okay. How did you feel when you read that? The totally under control part is so fabulous. And, yeah, brilliant is good.

SQ: I was very glad to see this blurb. The implication is so right: simply having the deep feeling is not enough. Someone (and of course it's the same dude!) who's almost stern has to be at the controls. 

HANK:  That’s such a terrific image—flying high, but under control. Have a great time with the new book! So exciting.

 So, Reds and readers, who’s your favorite dog in fiction?  

And a copy of THE RIGHT SIDE to one lucky commenter!      

  
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Peter Abrahams is the Edgar award winning author of thirty-six novels.  Among his acclaimed crime thrillers are Oblivion and The Fan (filmed starring Robert De Niro). Under the name Spencer Quinn, he writes the New York Times bestselling Chet and Bernie mysteries and the middle-grade Bowser and Birdie series. The Right Side – the story of a wounded female vet – comes out June 27, 2017.

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72 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Spencer. “The Right Side” sounds quite compelling; I’ll be watching for it . . . .

    My favorite dog in fiction? You mean I have to pick just one?
    Clifford . . . Pearl the Wonder Dog . . . Asta . . . Nana . . . Lassie.

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    1. Oh, Asta! Such a cool dog--but I can't remember---did Asta actually DO anything?

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  2. Congratulations on the new book, Peter. It sounds very interesting. I've read several of the Chet and Bernie mysteries, and I've been reading dog stories since Albert Payson Terhune back in grade school, but I am very intrigued by the combination of a veteran and a (non-narrating) dog. There is such a lot of work--some scientific, some not so much--going on right now exploring dogs' ability to help veterans with PTSD. Add in all the work on animal cognition, and I think it would be a fertile field to explore as a writer. I volunteer with a dog rescue group, and we often say that you get the dog you need. Dogs are so closely attuned to our moods and actions that a well paired human and dog team can work almost seamlessly together, whether they are herding sheep, or just getting through the day. Do you have a dog yourself? And do you have a particular breed you like to write about?

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    1. Gigi , so wonderful! What kind of a dog rescue group?

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    2. It's called All Border Collie Rescue, focusing, of course, on border collies and bc mixes. They are very smart, active dogs, and can be either the most amazing dog you've ever had, or the biggest pain in the patootie you could imagine. The trick is not to let them get so bored they go off and find ways to amuse themselves. Some folks get them because they saw "Babe" or maybe read about Chet in one of Peter/Spencer's books, but the dogs get out of hand and wind up surrendered at shelters. We take them in, foster them, civilize them, and then find them good homes with people who understand what they're getting into. I foster, but I also help transport, since the group covers most of Texas and parts of Oklahoma. One of my own dogs was pulled from a shelter in central Oklahoma, and I drove up to get her for a foster in the Dallas area. We were in love with each other by the time we crossed the Red River back into Texas.

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  3. Good news for GIgi Norwood! Karen Dionne has selected you as the winner of The Marsh Kings Daughter, hooray! Email me through my website and I will send you the book!

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    1. Woot! I'm really looking forward to reading it.

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  4. Oh, Peter, this sounds so good. I loved OBLIVION... I always use it as an example of the unreliable narrator, the guy who doesn't know he's losing his mind. Getting your book now...

    I don't have dogs and yet somehow they show up in all my books. What's that all about?

    Favorite dogs in fiction? I'm embarrassed to say, what comes to mind is the dog they keep trying to kill in A FISH NAMED WANDA. In real life, Lucy's dog Tonka is irresistible.

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  5. Swooning here too! Love all of Peter's and Spencer's books, and especially enjoyed the Echo Falls books. But wow, what a departure this new one is from Bernie and Chet. I'm wondering if you and/or your publisher struggled at all with using the name Spencer Quinn on the book?

    Hallie, Tonka says thank you:)

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    1. Hi Roberta! There was back and forth on that question. Is that the part of the writing business I enjoy? No!

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    2. Yes, I can see the argument for both ways! And there's no real answer… but since the book is fabulous, it doesn't matter!

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  6. I have 2 dogs - Audrey and Pearl. They're my crack research team. Audrey's a golden retriever/Bernese mix and Pearl's a pure golden.

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  7. Good morning Peter, when you write for a younger audience, do you consciously or unconsciously control the vocabulary level? The Right Side was just added to my TBR corral, can't wait til it gets to me.
    Favorite fictional dog? At the moment there is a pack inside me clamoring, barking and demanding choose ME.. Mutt, the half wolf, partner of Kate Shugak won.

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    1. Unconsciously. With the Bowser and Birdie middle-grade series I did learn that "hell" is enough to get a book excluded from the Scholastic list in some parts of the country.

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    2. Really? That is so interesting… Who'd have thought? did you change it in the e-book?

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    3. This happened in the first draft, so yes, "hell" got deep 6'd.

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    4. Got to love first drafts! And so pleased you figured it out, right?

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  8. I would have to say my favorite dog of fiction is Chet. I do love him! I also adore Snoopy but he doesn't speak to me in quite the same way. I expect The Right Side to show up in my mailbox Tuesday afternoon. Can't wait!

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    1. There is a certain timelessness about Snoopy. But didn't he become an insurance pitchdog? But I am a Chet fan, too…

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  9. Promise me, Peter, the dog doesn't die, right?

    My favorite fictional dog has to be Neil the St. Bernard of Topper fame. However for pure theater and incredible story, it doesn't get better for me than Greyfriars Bobby. Truth wins.

    Did you know the Greyfriars are Franciscans?

    Best ever real life dogs are my darlings, Toby, AKA Toby Sue since his castration, and Penny Lane.

    Ann who is about to walk the dogs in 70 degree weather in Rochester. Let's all hear it for living on the tundra.

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    1. (Spoiler alert) I promise! In fact, I believe that having the dog die in literature is kind of a cheap way for a writer to turn on the emotional faucet.

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    2. You cannot kill the dog. I agree… Easy short cut way to bring on the tears. But you can have the dog almost die, right, and then get better? :-)

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    3. You sure can! Although I haven't done that with Chet. He's never gotten sick - but he has had some close calls - with a gator, for example, in THE SOUND AND THE FURRY.

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    4. I was biting my nails in the scene in the first book where Chet was at the shelter, about to be euthanized. Even though I knew he was a narrator, and there were future books! One recent, critically acclaimed literary novel lost me when the dog died, even though I'd been enjoying it up until then. There was no point to that death.

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    5. I often wonder at myself, being more upset at an animal death that at the poor soul whol got murdered.

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    6. When you got Chet tangled up with that gator, it almost broke my heart! To see him in such a situation was very difficult. I counted on you to take care of him since I couldn't help! And now, leaving us all on the edge waiting for Bernie to get better ( because I could not bear his separation from Chet) is agonizing. Chet definitely got my vote for the best because he is so relatable and innocent, in spite of his tough guy personna?

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  10. And just so you all know. I am sitting in the Pittsburgh airport, where I have been since 6:30 this morning. After having gotten up at five. I mean, five! And am now Waiting waiting waiting for a plane that was supposed to take off at 7:25. And is now scheduled to depart at 10:10. 1010 was when I was supposed to arrive in Boston. I am trying to pretend it is not happening. And I am too tired to be angry :-) Just saying.

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    1. I got tired just reading of your plight. Actually I'm headed to the tennis court pretty soon. A beautiful day on Cape Cod!

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    2. Flight Plight. Maybe I'll use the time to write a children's book! Oh well… Have fun! I'm sitting in the airport reading Magpie Murders. And really wishing there was such a thing as a person who could watch my bags and my Power outlet position while I get some coffee -- I really think this is an opportunity for capitalism. Have people in the airport who will guard your spot and stuff while you do airport errands. Or like, waiting area room service!

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    3. Hank! I would love to see you write a children's book 😊

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    4. Well, that is so nice of you! There is one burbling in my brain… We shall see. Xxxxx

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  11. Donna Andrews writes about a "lunchmeat" dog named Spike. A small, yappy dog with a crocodile jaw. My standard poodles (who regularly appear in my stories) consider anything that small annoying.

    Hank, start writing a story "Airport." Use the new TSA guidelines (remove all books from bags) to get started. What are people around you reading and how did they get it through security?

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    1. Ooh! I seen a woman reading Commonwealth. And everyone else is on phones… No! There's a man with an actual magazine. I can't tell what it is
      But that is a fun story idea… Or just make it the wacky TSA agent who decides to tell people to remove all books. And see what they do. Xxx

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  12. Good Morning! Peter, congratulations on your new book. It sounds fascinating, and I love that there's a dog involved. My favorite dog in fiction? I'm sure there have been many others, but I love Jack in the Little House Book. Yes, he does die, but it's not a plot device since he's based on a real dog.

    I also love the dogs in Deb's books, especially the little cocker spaniel as I have one, and I loved her book that featured the search-and-rescue dog (blanking on the title at the moment).

    Hank, I love your idea of a person or room to watch your stuff in airports. I hate dragging everything around or losing your spot at the charging station to get a tea or a newspaper. Hope you get out of Pittsburgh soon!

    Enjoy your tennis, Peter. It certainly is a beautiful day on Cape Cod!

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    1. There used to be storage lockers at bus stations. Why are there no storage lockers at airports?

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    2. MaryC, thank you, and that book is No Mark Upon Her. The dogs in the book are Finn, a black lab, and Tosh, a German shepherd. (Always try to get the shepherds in somewhere.)

      A cocker spaniel was my first much-loved dog as an adult, which is why I gave Geordie to Gemma--and isn't he a sweetie?

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    3. No lockers at airports due to Federal Security concerns. I am not sure, but I think the ban applies to all terminals including bus, train, & air.

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  13. I'm in the middle of that book right now, with a review coming on Tuesday. I'm really enjoying it!

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    1. Can't wait to read it! Your review I mean… Let us know where to find it!

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  14. This is wonderful. The Chet and Bernie series is my favorite of all. I have a dog, Bogie, who I adore and who is just like Chet, wise, wonderful and special, who I call the sage. Congratulations on this compelling novel.

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  15. I am captivated with the Chet & Bernie mysteries. What a great duo. They are extraordinary. Chet has to be my favorite dog since he is unique and like a human. This book sounds like a treasure.

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    1. Many thanks. I enjoy every minute of writing Chet and Bernie.

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    2. Yes, Chet and Bernie are really quite special !

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  16. Sorry about the travel woes, Hank! Ugh!

    Love the premise for The Riht Side! Side note I used to work with Nick Hysong - winner of the pole vaulting gold in the summer games in Australia in 2000. Great guy who gave me a new appreciation for the sport!

    Congrats on the release of your book, Spencer! Really looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Thanks! One of my daughters did some pole vaulting in high school - that's what first got me interested. You never know what's going to be grist for the mill.

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  17. Spencer, congratulations on your new book. It is now on my TBR list. And welcome to Jungle Reds!

    Hank, I have many favorites! Current favorites include Captain Haviland from the Books by the Bay series by Ellery Adams and Jook from Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Grew up watching Lassie movies and Benji movies.


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    1. ? Is it Peter Abrahams or Spencer Quinn? My apologies if I got your name wrong!

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    2. Both or either! No wrong answer.

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  18. Spencer/Peter, I'd been reading about this book with great anticipation and hoping one of my co-REDS would have you to guest. Now must go and order the book!

    My favorite fictional dog (other than the dogs in my own books, lol) is Mouse, Harry Dresden's dog in Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books. Mouse, for those who aren't familiar with the books, is enormous, shaggy, and at least somewhat magical.

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    1. And my fictional dog is Diva, Jake's golden retriever . She's a love… But sometimes likes Jakes mom better. Because Jake's mom keeps treats in her pocket.

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  19. Good morning, Peter! Hope your tennis game went well! What's next up for you in terms of your books? Are you returning to a series?

    The dogs that come to mind for me are Old Dan and Little Ann from "Where the Red Fern Grows." I haven't read that book in a long time, but I seem to remember lots of tears were shed while reading it!

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    1. My tennis game - first real doubles match since I started replacing joints - went pretty well! Thanks for asking, Ingrid. Next up is a new Chet and Bernie. Also I'm starting a new series for Scholastic (middle-grade).

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    2. A New series? A new series? What what what? Tell all!

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  20. Favorite dog? I love them all! Tulip in Jenn's latest book. Sweetie Pie in Carolyn Haines' Bones books. Spike and Mouse, absolutely. Dandie Gilver's Bunty. Hamish MacBeth's Lugs. Those are off the top of my head. I know I am leaving out a lot of very important dogs.

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  21. Honestly, it's Chet. I have read ALL of the novels he has narrated, and I can't get enough. A new favorite is Martin on the TV series, "Downward Dog" (which has already been cancelled after an 8-episode first season--BOO!). Martin is a narrator, too, and although his mouth moves slightly, he's not the same as a "talking dog" (which would be too much). I love the fact that Spencer/Peter and the writers on the TV show are able to imagine what the dog is thinking, from his limited perspective.

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    1. Oh… When the new Chet and Bernie comes out, we'll talk with Spencer about how he does that!

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  22. The Right Side sounds like just the book I was looking for to add to my summer reading list.

    My favorite fictional dog? Definitely Ladadog from Jean Kerr's Please Don't Eat the Daisies.

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    1. Ladadog! I haven't thought about that in years!

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  23. The Right Side sounds like a very special book - it's definitely on my TBR list (and it comes out on Tuesday - Congratulations!!) My favorite dog has always been from a book I read in fourth grade: Champion Dog: Prince Tom by Jean Fritz, which is a true story about a cocker spaniel who goes on, against many odds, to be the first American Cocker Spaniel to win First in Show (I think). I read that book so many times that I wore it out. My daughter just gave me The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances for my birthday, so maybe I'll find another favorite dog in that ~ And didn't James Thurber write about a dog?

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    1. Celia, Celia! I loved that book, I madly loved Chsmpon Dog Prince Tom! Thank you so much for reminding me of that… I almost teared up, thinking about it.

      Yes, James Thurber drew that fabulous melancholy dog. As illustrations? Or cartoons? But I don't know if It had a name… Do you?

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    2. Champion I mean. I am typing too fast!

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  24. Oh, talking dog. Does anyone remember Cleo the bassett hound from The People's Choice? Old, old TV show with Jackie Cooper. Anyway Cleo always had pithy comments, or thoughts actually.

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  25. I really enjoyed my visit here! Many thanks to Hank (and hello to Hallie!).

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