Dogs were domesticated in ancient times, archaeologists, historians and cave drawings agree. They were bred for different purposes, not least racing, and also for protection, to round up livestock, hunt foxes, pull sleighs, fight one another.
Suspect by Robert Crais 312pp, 2013 Orion paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 650 baht
The SS used them to control death camp inmates.
There are seeing-eye dogs to guide the blind, bloodhounds to track down fugitives, cadaver dogs to locate the dead and buried. They sniff out drugs, are fitted with explosives and get under tanks to be blown up by remote control. They are an essential part of the military and the police.
Curiously, dogs are seldom the protagonists in films and books. Two come to mind: Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, both products of the early to mid-20th century. In The Land of Smiles, His Majesty the King is known for his love of his dogs. In Suspect under review, the central character is a dog.
Though the title page calls it a work of fiction, the contents tell the otherwise. Yank author Robert Crais clearly spent a good deal of time researching the topic and viewing it first-hand.
Maggie is a German shepherd. Trained by the US Marines. She detects insurgents and guards her handler in Afghanistan. Alas, her handler, Corporal Pete Gibbs, is blown up by a roadside bomb and Maggie is shot by a sniper. At about the same time in Los Angeles, a detective is shot and his woman partner killed in the course of a truck robbery. Maggie and Scott recover, somewhat for the worse as war-dogs, like humans, suffer from PTSD and nightmares.
Maggie is re-trained as an LAPD K9 police dog, different in many ways from being a war dog. Scott is assigned to handle her and most of the book is about how they adjust to each other, which is more interesting than going after the robbers.
When not bonding with Maggie, Scott comes on to another police detective. With 45 times the olfactory powers of humans, dogs smell feelings and see behind false smiles. The author deplores pets being dragged by their leashes.
Happily, Pete and Scott in turn loved Maggie and she reciprocates their affection. In the animal kingdom, horses are mostly written about, seldom cats. In comic strips, Snoopy keeps the beagle flag flying. This critic would like Robert Crais to turn Maggie the German shepherd into a series. I predict that it would catch on like wildfire.
Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd 429 pp, 2013 Bloomsbury paperback .Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 300 baht
In war and peace, spies are at work stealing secrets and passing them along to their homelands. Some are caught _ Benedict Arnold, Mata Hari, Richard Sorge _ many are not.
A number of novelists specialise in the genre. John le Carre is the most famed of the writers, but there are and have been quite a few others as well. John Buchan was their dean during the war to the end of World War I. E. Phillips Oppenheim and Eric Ambler stood astride the period between the two world wars. As World War II blended into the Cold War, along came Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean and Jack Higgins, followed by a horde of others.
World War I is largely forgotten now, except for flamboyant Baron von Richthofen's Flying Circus. Along with WWII's Erwin Rommell, they were given as many plaudits by the allies as by their fellow Germans.
Waiting For Sunrise is about a master Central Powers spy. His multi-literary awards not withstanding, British author William Boyd is a slow read.
While capturing 1913-1915 in Vienna and London, the trenches, and Geneva with faultless accuracy, the story drones on rather than capturing the readers' emotions. By contrast, John Buchan, who wrote during that period, made it exciting.
Boyd's protagonist is Australian-Brit Lysander Rief, a stage actor. He is neurotic, certain that the decisions he makes in life are the wrong ones, for which he sees a psychiatrist in Vienna _ not Sigmund Freud, but one who advocates a treat called Pluralism. He enjoys watching classical plays.
Lysander's mother appears to have committed suicide, but may have been murdered. With friends on both sides of the battle lines, Whithall taps him to be a counter-spy. How he uncovers an enemy agent is detailed ad nauseam. (The libretto to an opera is the key.)
Erich Maria Remarque described trench warfare in All Quiet On The Western Front far better. Allowed to leave the British Expeditionary Force, the actor weds in 1915. In spite of what he's told, in all likelihood Lysander will be called back when needed. This reviewer can't help feeling sorry for his wife. He is still second-guessing himself at the finish.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer