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.

Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker and Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker on the CBS TV series All in the Family in 1976. Photo credit: CBS/Landov

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!

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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 https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/08/dog-handler-why-david-handler-included-a-canine-sidekick-comment-sweepstakes 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.

 

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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.

Comments

  1. Peg Nitskoff

    Your dog would like me and I would like this book!

  2. Pat Murphy

    Haven’t read any of the series but it sounds interesting. Imagine having to all research by using a REAL phone and legwork.

  3. sue weatherbee

    Looking forward to reading this!

  4. Anne Scott

    Sounds like a fun book. And especially the sidekick dog!

  5. Rhonda Barkhouse

    I like the Bunkers and dogs!

  6. Deb Philippon

    Thank you for the chance. Wish me luck!

  7. 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.

  8. vicki wurgler

    thanks -I’d love to read this

  9. Terry Pearson

    This one has been on my radar for weeks. Thank you for the chance.

  10. Catherine Myers

    Anything with a dog sidekick is okay by me

  11. Deborah Dumm

    Sounds like a great book.

  12. Marjorie Manharth

    Always wondered why there were those who liked Archie Bunker. Would love to read this book.

  13. Karen Hester

    Thanks for the chance to win

  14. Theresa Clarke

    So if you’re really a cat lover, does that mean you made the dog extra weird in the book? ;p

  15. Sue Farrell

    I’m both a dog and cat lover so they approve of me entering to win your book.

  16. Sue Farrell

    I’m both a dog and cat lover so they approve of me entering to win your book.

  17. Sally Schmidt

    It’s true, if the dog likes you, you must be at least a little bit okay! Thanks for the giveaway.

  18. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  19. Lori Walker

    Want!

  20. Vicki Andrew

    sounds like a good read, TY

  21. Brenda Elsner

    I want to read this book!!!

  22. Linda Peters

    Loved Archie Bunker and it would be great to have this book, thanks

  23. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of David Handler.

  24. Tricha Leary

    I love dogs, have 2

  25. Penny Snyder

    Would love to read this!!!~

  26. Abigail Gibson

    Looking forward to reading this fun mystery!

  27. Lisa Pecora

    Would love a chance to win and read this!

  28. Leela

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  29. Buddy Garrett

    Even a dingbat or a meathead would love this book.

  30. Philip Lawrence

    Sounds like a keeper to me.

  31. Lily Kwan

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  32. Lynda Schoenfelder

    Wow! Would love to win! Thanks!

Comments are closed.