Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dog In The Manger by Mike Resnick


I've been reading Mike Resnick since the Eighties. He's written just about every conceivable kind of science fiction and fantasy and has always done well by both genres. And he's got the Hugo awards, among many many others, to prove it. I'm an especially big fan of his Widowmaker series--my kind of action science fiction--and his novel Walpurgis lll, which is the most fascinating study of pure evil I've ever read. And is a fine example of how espionage/assassination fiction can be used to propel sf.

In Dog In The Manger (Alexander Books; also available on Kindle) Mike works in the classic private eye tradition. But wait--as Barry Malzberg notes in his excellent introduction--"You can't fake this voice and you have to attach it to a real character with a genuine, refractory situation." Exactly and absolutely. We've finally moved beyond the cliche of the hardboiled gumshoe of bad pulp and bad movies/tv. We are now in a time when private eye fiction can have the reach and resonance of literary fiction. F. Paul Wilson said once that p.i. fiction offers us "snapshots of our time" (or other eras in the case of historical p.i. fiction).

Eli Paxton's voice in Dog In The Manger is exactly right. A decent guy, smart but not a genius, courageous but not a fool, and with just a hint of weariness and malaise in some of the scenes, a resident of a Cincinatti he seems to love, Eli agrees to try and track down a lost dog--an expensive show dog that was supposed to be shipped via plane to another city. But no dog arrived there. Or did one? And why do the people involved in the shipping and receiving all end up dead in a matter of days? Over a dog?

Not only is the plot a damned good (with big surprises in store), through Eli we are taken into the world of show dogs and their trainers, doctors and groupies (yes at several points "Best In Show" did come to mind). I did something I rarely do these days--I read it in a single sitting.

I think you'll do the same.


Todd Mason said...

A rare example, I think, of my finding a writer before you did, Ed...though I found him first in a tangetial way, through his guide to fantastic-fiction collectibles, which I picked up in '78...I think it was Algis Budrys's column that first hipped me to the fact that he was also writing fiction (I don't think he'd published much short fiction in the magazines, my major source of new writers then, but I could go look it up...Resnick might still have been making most of his money from writing topical nonfiction books in the late '70s).

Anonymous said...

I got Resnick's "The Buntline special" for Christmas and am looking forward to reading it. There aren't enough weird westerns out there.

Jeff P.