Love Those Animals in Books

Several weeks ago, I got into an email discussion with Becky, one of my reviewers and a friend of the erstwhile brick & mortar store.  She had sent me a review of  Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson, a story about Puzzle, the author’s Search and Rescue dog, and that led to us emailing back and forth about animal books.  Turns out we’re both patsies for them.

Cats and dogs have always held a prominent place in the mystery world and cats are also favorite  characters in fantasy and science fiction.  Dark fantasy is full of both felines and canines.  Then there are all the dragons, unicorns, werewolves, etc., running throughout the fantasy and dark fantasy genres and the odd animal shows up here and there like the chimp in Jennie by Douglas Preston or the villainous squirrel, Morwenna, in Robin Jarvis‘s Deptford Mice trilogy.  The Redwall series by Brian Jacques features all kinds of woodland creatures.  The nonfiction stories, though, are the ones that seriously get to me, especially the ones about our everyday pets.

Why the utter fascination with and near-obsession with animal stories in book or film?

Some people don’t have an affinity for animals and I’m sorry for that—pets bring us great joy and great sorrow, just like the members of our families that they really are.  Research has shown that merely petting an animal can soothe us and bring down our blood pressure and there is no doubt they have distinct personalities.  My own two sister cats, Sugar and Spice, are as different as night and day, much like human siblings.  Sugar, pure white with blue eyes, is more than a bit on the clueless side and very leery of anybody but me and, occasionally, another family member, but she’s just about the sweetest-natured cat I’ve ever known.  Spice, on the other hand, is black and white and looks very much like a Holstein cow (aided by her 20 +/- pounds) and has the ability to stare anybody down.  The cat has actually waked me up just with her nonblinking stare and she is afraid of nothing, sure that she is the queen.  Both cats being hefty, you might expect they would be ponderous in their movements and that’s true of Spice—she walks with leaden feet that echo on my hardwood floors—but Sugar walks like a butterfly.

No book will ever be written about any of the animals I’ve loved but I’ve enjoyed many that others have written.  I asked Becky if she had ever read the Norton trilogy written by Peter Gethers and she hadn’t so I ordered them for her and mailed them the other day.  Before I did, I read the author’s afterword in the third book, something he added to the paperback edition.  Since I had read the hardcover, this was new to me.  In just a few words, he took me right back to the laughs and the wonder and the tears I experienced when I first read the books.  That’s what’s so good about animal books, I think—they never lose their appeal and they never become dated.

I can’t wait to hear what Becky thinks about Norton.