Stephen King is exactly two years and one week older than I am. We are both New England Yankees.
I never read his first book, Carrie, but I was hooked when I read his second novel, Salem’s Lot. I’ve only read 15 of his nearly 60 novels.
I’ve heard it said that if this or that is your favorite book, how could you have only read it once. There are only three novels I have read more than once, and Mr. King’s The Dead Zone is among them. The Body (“Stand By Me”) and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption are two of the greatest novellas ever penned. His collection Hearts in Atlantis stands by itself.
Early in Mr. King’s career, I noticed that every book culminated in a firestorm of one kind or another, and then he finally and blatantly put it all together with Firestarter.
As I’ve just recently completed my sixth story, it occurs to me that a dog plays a significant role in four of the six
- The Hamsa – Raphael
- Tobit and the Hoodoo Man – Caesar
- The Sixth Day – Scooter
- Gaspar – ‘Dog’
I even included a falcon in Gaspar who serves as a guide and companion.
Each of the animals befriends the protagonist, and each plays an important role in the narrative, probably most significantly in The Hamsa and Tobit.
I recall sitting with a book club discussing The Hamsa many years ago, and one of the members asked, “Is that a real dog?” That is exactly the question I wanted to elicit. I won’t tell you in this post what his true ‘nature’ was. The same question could be asked of Caesar and the blind donkey in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man.
The truth is, I believe dogs are the purest creatures God has placed on the planet. I think that is why I cannot resist – rather, why I am compelled to include them in all of my stories.
When I first drafted The Sixth Day, the Old Man told the boys that God made one mistake: he didn’t ‘quit creatin’ after he made the animals. I rethought that statement and as the story evolved, the Old Man says that the sixth day was the day God ‘almost quit’ because the animals were so perfect and man had yet to taint the world with war and conflict and all of those other things that make our lives difficult.
I think dogs and animals – be they blind donkeys or falcons – will always be a part of my stories.
Catholic Saint John Bosco told many stories of a giant wolf-like dog whom he called Grigio. Whenever Bosco was in trouble or threatened by highwaymen on his many journeys to serve the poor, Grigio would appear out of nowhere to save him. I read those stories and truly believe that dogs are angels in beautiful disguise. I hope my conviction and belief comes through with the dog Raphael in The Hamsa.