Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Spencer Quinn.
Quinn is the pseudonym for award-winning author Peter Abrahams, who will visit R.J. Julia this Thursday evening, October 3rd, to present his newest mystery, The Sound and the Furry (Atria Books, $25.00), featuring canine narrator Chet and his human partner P.I. Bernie Little. (See event details below.) Earlier entries in the series have reached New York Times bestseller status and are much beloved among enthusiastic readers. Quinn lives on Cape Cod with his dogs, Audrey and Pearl, and is currently at work on his next novel.
The Sound and the Furry is the author’s sixth book to feature Chet and Bernie and was published earlier this month. The New York Journal of Books praised, “Spencer Quinn’s masterful job of having a canine narrator isn’t cutesy, nor does it grow tiresome, a tribute to his wordsmithing.” Further, Publishers Weekly heralded earlier entries as “Outstanding …intelligent writing and on-the-mark pacing and tone,” while Booklist exalted, “…A not-to-be-missed series.”
From the publisher:
When Chet and Bernie happen upon a prison work crew that includes Frenchie Boutette, an old criminal pal they sent up the river, getting a new case is the last thing they expect. But Frenchie, who comes from an old Louisiana family full of black sheep, needs help finding his one law-abiding relative, his brother Ralph, a reclusive inventor who has gone missing with his houseboat. Though he’s tempted to take another job (with a big payday) in Alaska, Bernie decides to set course for the bayous of Louisiana, a trip that will introduce Chet to a world of sights, smells, and tastes that are like nothing he’s ever encountered.
Out in bayou country, Chet and Bernie meet the no-good Boutette family and their ancient enemies, the maybe-even-worse Robideaus, and at first it seems as if Ralph’s disappearance is connected to a dispute over a load of stolen shrimp. But when Chet uncovers a buried clue, the investigation heads in a dangerous new direction involving the oil business and an impending environmental catastrophe. The more Chet and Bernie discover about Ralph, the more treacherous the job becomes, and soon they’re fighting not only Big Oil, but also shadowy black ops figures, a violent biker gang from back home, and Iko—a legendary bayou gator with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Meanwhile, deep under the Gulf, the pressure just keeps building.
With top-notch suspense, humor, and genuine insight into the ways our canine companions think and behave—all set against a rollicking new Louisiana backdrop—The Sound and the Furry will make you howl in delight.
Now, the author known as Spencer Quinn solves a few mysteries of his own …
1) Tell us about the inspiration for your new novel, THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. Also, what are the challenges that a writer encounters as a series progresses?
I suddenly pictured Chet (canine narrator of the Chet and Bernie series, but not a talking dog), standing in the bow of a small boat. As readers of the series know, Chet loves riding shotgun in the car, and I had a feeling he’d enjoy boating just as much. So I wanted to put him in a watery place and I happen to love Louisiana. Criminal doings involving shrimp and oil quickly suggested themselves. As for the challenges of a continuing series, keeping it fresh is the big one. I suspect the problem is that the set-up stops feeling fresh to the writer, and then we’re talking about forcing the story. There’s absolutely no force involved in writing in Chet’s voice. It just seems to flow out of me – perhaps because it’s close to my own? What a thought!
2) The setting for this particular book is the Louisiana bayou. What kind of research is necessary to capture the nuances of a given place—and how do you find that setting influences story?
Travel or living in the place is a big help, but the most important thing is to just feel it. Setting influences story the same way your surroundings influence your real life. It permeates everything.
3) The Chet and Bernie mysteries appeal to readers who are both young and old, male and female, animal enthusiasts and not. To what do you credit such a broad audience—and do you ever find it limiting to have to balance elements so as not to lose that appeal?
The truth of the matter is that I never think about things like this. I just write the best stories I can, no hidden marketing schemes in my mind.
4) The books are narrated through the voice of a canine. So … how does one go about capturing what might be considered authentic voice? Also, how does this unique style allow you to take liberties with the more traditional tales of man’s best friend?
There’s only so much that research can give you. The rest comes from observation (the dedication in the first book, Dog On It, is to all the dogs – up to that point – that had been in my life); and – the imagination. I believe in the power of the imagination! And it turns out that having Chet narrate the story invites the reader to see the human condition in some new ways.
5) Spencer Quinn is a pseudonym. What are the advantages to writing under a penname? And how do you endeavor to keep your identities straight as you embark on other projects?
I’m not sure there are advantages. But I like being two people. Spence is cooler than the other guy, although perhaps not as good-looking.
6) In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within the community? How does touring help to enhance the writer/reader/bookseller relationship?
To me, a bookstore is an expression of the heart and brain of the community. For some reason, I have faith that the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores that’s been going on for the last two or three decades is coming to an end. I love touring – first, because I enjoy meeting the readers, and second because booksellers, an amazingly diverse group, all have one thing in common: they love the world of books. I try to have some fun on my store appearances. There’s always a pop quiz with prizes, all questions relating to the series. Some of the readers know more about Chet and Bernie than I do!
With thanks to Spencer Quinn for his generosity of time and thought and to Ariele Fredman, Senior Publicist at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, for facilitating this interview.
The author will appear at R.J. Julia on Thursday, October 3rd, at 7 PM. This event is free and open to the public; books will be available for purchase and signing. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. R.J. Julia is located at 768 Boston Post Rd. in Madison.