Aug 17 2017 2:15pm

Dog Handler: Why David Handler Included a Canine Sidekick

Read David Handler's exclusive guest post about why he included his sidekick dog Lulu in his acclaimed Stewart Hoag mystery series, then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the long-awaited return of Hoagy and Lulu in The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes!

I confess. I never intended to give a sidekick to Stewart Hoag, that major American novelist turned major burn-out case turned preeminent ghostwriter of celebrity memoirs. And I definitely never planned to give him a sidekick with short legs, long ears, and a taste for 9Lives mackerel for cats and very strange basset hounds.

This was back in 1985 when I was a very young writer. After I’d drafted the first 50 pages of the first Hoagy novel, The Man Who Died Laughing, I sent them to my agent, the late Roberta Pryor. It was my first stab at crime fiction, and I was hungry for feedback. Roberta kindly gave me hers: she hated it. Thought that Hoagy was a bitter, dislikeable loser. “No one will spend their hard-earned money on this,” she informed me. “They can already get it at home for free.”

Two different forces then converged to give the crime fiction world one of its most beloved canines. After I spoke to Roberta, my mind headed straight for the Edith Bunker Principle. I was still writing sitcoms in those days, and one of the most famous sitcom characters of the recent past had been Archie Bunker of All in the Family. Archie was a totally horrible person—a racist, sexist, homophobic boor—and yet, we were curiously fond of him. Why? Because we adored his sweetie of a wife, Edith, and Edith genuinely loved him. This meant that Archie had to be a good guy inside, and so we forgave him his gruff exterior.

Meanwhile, a few weeks after I spoke to Roberta, I was visiting friends with a farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley who were babysitting a basketful of basset hound puppies. They had already chosen to keep one and had named him Lulu, which ardent fans of The Honeymooners will recall was the name of Ed Norton’s childhood dog.

That settled it. I decided to apply the Edith Bunker Principle to Hoagy and give him a faithful, neurotic basset hound named Lulu. As I rewrote the opening chapters, I discovered that Hoagy instantly became more likable. I also discovered that Lulu had the potential to function as a valuable crime-solving partner. She could hear and smell things that Hoagy couldn’t. She had unerring instincts about people. If Lulu didn’t like someone, then you could be sure that she had a damned good reason.

I’m no expert on the subject of canine heroes in crime literature—maybe because I’ve never thought of Lulu as a dog. I write her as a person who doesn’t talk but understands everything that’s being said. A person who has a large, wet black nose and bad breath.

Naturally, I am a huge fan of Asta, Nick and Nora’s wire-haired terrier in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. But the only other dog in crime literature who has ever made a major impression on me is Toby, the lop-eared scent hound that Sherlock Holmes sends Dr. Watson to borrow from Mr. Sherman at No. 3 Pinchin Lane in The Sign of Four, which has been my favorite Holmes novel since I was ten years old. Toby can track the scent of creosote through the streets of London like nobody’s business. I was immediately captivated by him and still think of him often when I’m working on a Hoagy novel. Toby reminds me that Lulu must serve a vital plot function in every book. I have to make use of her unique set of skills. She’s not just there to provide glamour.

After I completed the manuscript for The Man Who Died Laughing, Roberta sold it to a mystery editor at Bantam named Kate Miciak, and it was nominated for an Anthony Award. I wrote eight Hoagy and Lulu novels for Kate, including The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald, my Edgar winner. Years later, Kate confessed to me that she wouldn’t have bought The Man Who Died Laughing if it hadn’t been for Lulu.

I moved on from Hoagy in 1997. Ever since then, I’ve received gazillions of letters and e-mails asking me when Lulu was coming back. Not Hoagy. Lulu. In truth, it never occurred to me that it would ever happen. But thanks to a generous invitation by Dan Mallory of Morrow Books, Hoagy and Lulu are indeed back, after a brief 20-year hiatus, in The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Before you start to panic, I assure you that they haven’t aged 20 years, which would be particularly awkward in Lulu’s case. The novel is set in the year 1992, which is the era when I originally wrote them. It’s also an era before there was e-mail, cell phones, the internet, viral videos, Facebook, Twitter … trust me, I had so much fun writing this book.

The one question that I’ve always been asked ever since I began the Hoagy series is whether I own a basset hound myself. I never have. In fact, I’m not a dog person at all. I’m a cat person. I suppose that makes me a bit odd, but we already knew that, didn’t we?

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 17, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 2:14 p.m. ET August 29, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

Buy at Barnes and NobleBuy at Amazon



David Handler is an Edgar Award winner and Anthony, Derringer, and Dilys Award finalist. He has written extensively for television and films. David lives in a two-hundred-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
2. maryc
Would love to win a copy of this book - thanks for the chance.
John Smith
3. jsmith2jsmith
I never liked either Bunker, but dogs are nice!
Linda Leonard
5. linsleo1
Already like Lulu (and Hoagy) even though I haven't read any of the books starring these characters. Enjoyed reading the story of how Lulu became Hoagy's sidekick. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.
Pat Dupuy
7. Pat D
There's nothing like a dog to humanize you. If a dog likes you, you've got it made!
10. Shannon Baas
I would like this.
Sandy Klocinski
12. attea2d
Sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance to win
20. K. Martin
Unfamiliar with this author, so if I won this book, it would be a first. Look forward to reading his work (if I win).
Anna Mills
22. Anna Mills
A canine sidekick, what a delight! Not to mention the eye problem. Ha!
23. kRoss
I love stories with dogs, especially Lulu.
Kathy Bubb
24. bubbette
Would love to win! Either way, it's going on my must-read list!!
25. Donald Forsythe 64
Love the side kick!
Marisa Young
28. Risa
How can you go wrong with a dog in a book? Would love to win.
Kim Salmi
29. Coffeebean
Lulu and Hoagy sound like my kind of crime solving duo ...fingers crossed for a win ..or should I say paws lol
Darlene Slocum
30. darandsam
I love reading about smart animals. More people should pay attention to them.
teresa sopher
31. tas58
These were really good books. Haven't visited them in awhile. It could be fun.
33. mprimo1
Loved all of my dogs. Looking forward to reading this book
35. smitten
Who doesn't like including one's own dog in his book!
36. Kiera Thomas
Sounds like a really good book! I would love to win a copy!
Lorraine Bowen
37. rainey54
Who ever told you dogs can't talk???? Would love to read this new book in the series.
Lori Provenzano
38. Mountainesque
Must admit I'm a sucker for a memorable animal protagonist, and Lulu definitely counts among their number. Absolute plus when trying to sniff out a good story!
Carolyn Sherve
39. CWS
I found reading how having a dog makes an unlikeable person more likeable. Very interesting!
Donna McCoy
This is a perfect book to read. It will be my first of your books to read.
I liked the Bunkers and think a little pup in the story is great.
Thanks for the giveaway.
Donna McCoy
This is a perfect book to read. It will be my first of your books to read.
I liked the Bunkers and think a little pup in the story is great.
Thanks for the giveaway.
Portia Asher
45. pixie
I need a good book. This may be it..
susan beamon
47. susanbeamon
I am a cat person, but I don't mind dogs. I like just about any detective series where there is an animal who helps solve the crime. I don't really care what type of animal, just so long as it fits into the story.
Joanne Mielczarski
48. jtmswim
Congratulations on the new book - would love to win a copy.
Barbara Bolam
49. Toodles
How could you not win with a detective with a dog?
Barbara Bolam
50. Toodles
How could you not win with a detective with a dog?
Alicia Sargant
51. asarge
sounds like a great read. would love to win
Sarah Langin
52. lang0601
Awesome book that I would love to win!
Carol Lawman
55. juju2cat
There's nothing odd about being a cat person; I like dogs but they're much like children and need a lot more attention!
56. Douglass Paul Abramson
Sounds interesting
Crystal Blackburn
57. lovesmysteries
I would love to win a copy of this book. I love mysteries that have animals as characters.
Janice Milliken
61. msjiva
It was interesting to learn that you repeated a technique you learned while writing a sitcom!
Janice Milliken
61. msjiva
It was interesting to learn that you repeated a technique you learned while writing a sitcom!
65. Polly Barlow
I agree with #47 Susan Beamon. I too am a cat person who enjoys feline mysteries but would like to read one which has an intelligent well-mannered dog who helps his owner solve a mystery.
Margit Curtright
66. margitc
Thanks for the contest! I think I'd enjoy this book
68. carol g
Look forward to reading this book!
69. john mc
I love a good mystery
Connie Williamson
70. angelbun
This sounds like a book I'd love to read!
71. boycelll
I could get to like this type of mystery book.
72. boycelll
I could get to like this type of mystery book.
Marybeth Mank
73. Gr8chefmb
This sounds like a lovely book to read. BTW-I think every great detective needs to have some sort of sidekick whether it's human, feline or canine. Of course, my pick would be feline because I am a cat person but also because I am a huge fan of Lillian Jackson Braun and Shirley Rosseau Murphy amongst others. :-)
Mary Ann Woods
75. puttputt1198eve
Love reading about the genesis of charcters. Haven't read any of David Handler's books yet but I'm certainly interested now!
Susan Morris
76. Samfor3
Thank you for the chance to read the latest Hoagy and Lulu episode!
Meredith Miller
77. meredithfl
Love that a cat person is writing dog stories!
Saundra K. Warren
78. shortiew
Animals make most books more interesting I think
Anita Yancey
79. rosewood780
It sounds like a fun and interesting book. Thanks for this chance to win it.
80. Peg Nitskoff
Your dog would like me and I would like this book!
Pat Murphy
81. murphyp2011
Haven't read any of the series but it sounds interesting. Imagine having to all research by using a REAL phone and legwork.
Anne Scott
83. sonnetdog
Sounds like a fun book. And especially the sidekick dog!
Deb Philippon
85. DebP
Thank you for the chance. Wish me luck!
86. helen martin
I love Hoagy and Lulu. So glad they are back. I was very happy to see that there is a new book. I've read all the previous titles. Hope you decide to keep them coming. I know readers can be very demanding. They want more and more books they really enjoy. Your books are my favorites.
Terry Pearson
88. hippiechick1955
This one has been on my radar for weeks. Thank you for the chance.
Catherine Myers
89. ktpotat
Anything with a dog sidekick is okay by me
Marjorie Manharth
91. mmanharth
Always wondered why there were those who liked Archie Bunker. Would love to read this book.
Theresa Clarke
93. Luminous Angel
So if you're really a cat lover, does that mean you made the dog extra weird in the book? ;p
Sue Farrell
94. Suekey12
I'm both a dog and cat lover so they approve of me entering to win your book.
Sue Farrell
94. Suekey12
I'm both a dog and cat lover so they approve of me entering to win your book.
Sally Schmidt
95. bigcootie
It's true, if the dog likes you, you must be at least a little bit okay! Thanks for the giveaway.
Linda Peters
100. linnett
Loved Archie Bunker and it would be great to have this book, thanks
Abigail Gibson
104. luvlife4ever
Looking forward to reading this fun mystery!
106. Leela
Thanks for the giveaway!
Buddy Garrett
107. garrettsambo
Even a dingbat or a meathead would love this book.
110. Lynda Schoenfelder
Wow! Would love to win! Thanks!
Post a comment