Brad Parks’s debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book ever to win the Nero Award and Shamus Award, two of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, just released from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut.” For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter (http://www.bradparksbooks.com/fan-club.php), follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/brad_parks) or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Brad-Parks-Books/137190195628?ref=ts).
A FURRY QUESTION
By Brad Parks
One of the fun things about being an author is the stuff you learn about your own work from readers kind enough to share their thoughts.
I look forward to getting that feedback on my second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, which released on Tuesday, if only because I was so surprised by one aspect of the reaction to my first book:
I learned, without question, who everyone’s favorite character is.
It’s not Carter Ross, my protagonist, the sometimes-dashing investigative newspaper reporter who serves as the book’s narrator.
It’s not Tommy Hernandez, Carter’s sidekick, the gay Cuban intern who does some of the leg work and provides a constant fashion critique.
It’s not Tina Thompson, Carter’s off-and-on girlfriend, the smokin’ hot city editor with the sharp tongue.
No. Everyone’s favorite character is one that, actually, doesn’t do all that much. He sleeps most of the day. His other favorite activity is eating. He is never responsible for moving the plot forward. He has no dialogue.
After all, he’s a cat.
His name is Deadline, which struck me as a fitting name for a newspaper reporter’s feline friend. He’s a black-and-white domestic shorthair who is usually described only in terms of his indolence.
And yet people love him. It is fair to say that from my first book, FACES OF THE GONE, reader e-mail about Deadline outpaced any other character by at least a 3:1 ratio. Maybe more like 5:1.
Readers who may or may not have been impressed by any other aspect of the book – my deathless prose, the crackling repartee between characters, the thrilling conclusion – felt compelled to write about Deadline.
Anita Miller, a reviewer for the Colorado Springs Gazette, even went so far as to publicly announce that the only reason she gave my book a favorable review is because of Deadline.
And I’m not knocking it. As a still-new author, I’m just pleased people are reading me at all.
I just don’t get it.
Here, for example, is a scene that is typical of Deadline’s appearances, this one from the just-released book. In this scene, Carter’s newest colleague – an intern everyone calls “Sweet Thang,” who has made her crush on Carter quite known – is dropping by Carter’s place (uh, Deadline’s place) for dinner…
My house is what realtors would call “cozy,” but only because it's “so small you can vacuum the entire thing without having to change plugs” doesn’t fit as well on a multiple listing service entry. But I liked it just fine. After all, it was just me and Deadline. And Deadline didn’t like to travel too far for the litter box.
As a modern bachelor, I shop on an as-needed basis and keep nothing beyond the bare essentials in my refrigerator: beer, processed cheese, salsa and, possibly, milk (for morning cereal). Anything else will grow a beard and be applying for credit cards by the time I get around to throwing it out.
My freezer is a different story. The freezer, I have discovered, is the key for the on-the-go single guy such as myself, because you can keep things in there for months and not have to worry about it looking like a breeding ground for penicillin.
Meats. Sauces. Side dishes. Entrees. They’re all in there, all pre-made. And they’re all frozen while still fresh. That’s the mistake most people make with their freezers. If you toss in leftovers because you know they’re about to turn, a couple months in the deep freeze is not going to make them perk up. You have to put some love in your freezer if you expect it to love you back.
After we dashed inside, dodging rain drops all the way, I did a quick freezer raid and – rejecting options that would require some assembly – came away with sausage lasagna and a half a baguette. I tossed them both in the oven, lit some candles (another modern bachelor must-have) and opened a bottle of red wine.
Sweet Thang was checking out my living room, which also doubled as my family room, sitting room, great room and TV room. She cooed at Deadline, who was pressing himself against her thigh, in something near rapture. I’ve heard of people judging new acquaintances based on how their pets respond to them – because, after all, if Fluffy likes you, you must be okay.
That wouldn’t work with Deadline. He accepts affection indiscriminate of the source. A masked, knife-wielding assailant could break into my home and hack me into a dozen pieces as I slept. But if he stopped to rub Deadline behind his left ear on the way out, Deadline would be purring so loudly you’d think someone started a lawnmower in the next room.
Deadline’s other appearances are similar. His primary role is to be that lump in the bed that Carter has to shove aside when he goes to sleep at night.
Yet I have no doubt Deadline will continue to enjoy a large lead in reader e-mail. And I know I’m hardly alone among authors in having that experience.
I still just don’t get it.
So maybe you Meanderings and Musing readers can help me: What is it readers find so irresistible about pets as characters?