Thursday, August 2, 2018

Paychecks for Dogs and Cats? Who Knew?

With Mum in charge of the Royal Curriculum, I never know what I’ll learn next. This time, she shared Parade Magazine’s Animal Edition on earnings.  I was surprised to hear that people dress up like animals for more than Halloween.  They dress as animals for sports teams, and they’re called mascots—and, get this--they can make into the six figures.  Now, I ask you, “Why not have a live animal like me instead of some imitation?”  After all, UGA--the University of Georgia for the uninformed-- has a real bulldog named Uga. 

“Mum,” I ruffed, “What’s with these teams who have fake animals?” Her answer was something about real animals being dangerous. OK, I’m pretty quick on the uptake.  Georgia Tech, the team my family roots for, can’t have a live yellow jacket as a mascot. I’ve snapped at enough of those little things to know their sting can be pretty painful, especially on the tongue.  Can’t say that I’ve encountered any lions and tigers or bears, but I can see where live ones might not be a good idea.

Forget humans dressed as animals; there are animals, actual animals, who earn lots of money.  Three dogs have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Strongheart. If you’re Mum’s age, you’ve probably heard of Lassie and maybe even Rin Tin Tin. If you’re a youngster, you may have to google all three of these famous dogs, and unless you’re close to 100 years old, you’ll surely need to google Strongheart.  A German shepherd, he starred in “White Fang” in 1925.  Over his career, ol’ Strongheart earned  $2.5 million.  There was no mention of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie’s earnings.  Maybe they got paid in treats.

Here’s a shocker for you about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show winner. I must admit that watching all those well-trained and well-groomed dogs strut their stuff wears me out.  Can you imagine the workouts they endure to be able to run, leap, and all that?  Talk about no rest for the weary.  The Royal Pooch is a star in his own right but has no ambition to star in a Dog Show. When I learned that Dog Show winners win neither money nor belly rubs, I was positive they must all be crazy.  They win a silly pewter bowl. I repeat: for all that work, they get a bowl, and it’s not filled with table scraps or even dog food.

Even more astonishing to me? Cats can earn lots of money.  Don’t get me wrong; I think my feline sister Princess Puddin’ is stunningly beautiful, but I don’t see why anyone would pay her. I’ve never heard of Nala Cat who has 3.5 million Instagram followers, an online store, and sponsorship deals with pet companies.  I have an Instagram account, @lordbanjotheroyalpooch, but I don’t have anywhere near that many followers. Perhaps Mum needs to focus more on promoting moi.

Then there’s Grumpy Cat.  I’ve seen her videos and can’t see the attraction in a perpetually grumpy cat.  If you must have a cat, wouldn’t you want one like Puddin’? One who’s gorgeous and good-natured. If Grumpy Cat can sell books and cards and even have a TV movie, then Puddin’ needs an agent.

For that matter, after hearing about mascots and dogs and cats who earn loads of money, the Royal Dad thinks both Puddin’ and I need agents.  Mum is either not working hard enough or is not up to the job.  Uh-oh, judging from the look on Mum’s face, it may be time for both Dad and I to make a fast escape.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Meet a few of my Favorite Female Authors

Truly, there are too many to name, so I’ve narrowed the list to favorite female authors of mysteries set in Great Britain—my favorite genre and locale. Interestingly, several of these authors aren’t Brits. As you consider reading some of these mysteries, I strongly recommend you start with the first in a series to enjoy the character development.

I think of P.D. James as the British matriarch of this group. Best known for her fourteen novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh, New Scotland Yard commander and poet, James also wrote non-fiction, short stories, and stand-alone novels before her death at age 94. First was “Cover Her Face” in 1962. As much character studies as they are mysteries, I enjoy her novels not only for the whodunit aspect but also for the personalities of the main characters.  Critics list “A Certain Justice,  “Devices and Desires,” and “A Taste for Death” as her best works.

Equally enjoyable are the novels of Elizabeth George, an American who lives in Washington State. Her twenty novel series began with “A Great Deliverance” in 1988.  The main character Thomas Lynley, a New Scotland Yard Inspector, is a nobleman uncomfortable with his title. As does P.D. James, George reveals more and more about her protagonist and his colleagues as the series progresses. I only recently finished her 19th Lynley mystery. The fact that it runs 576 pages may give you an idea of the complexity of her writing.

I stumbled across a Deborah Crombie book years ago in a used bookstore. Author of the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James series,  Crombie is a Texan, though she did spend some time in Great Britain. Since 1993, she’s written seventeen in this series. Not quite as complex as the James and George mysteries, her books are still far from light reading. “A Share in Death,” written in 1993 was her debut and won the Macavity award for Best First Novel.

I found my first Sally Spencer book at a library sale and was immediately hooked.  The twenty DCI Woodend mysteries take place in the 60’s. Until I did a bit of research,  I had no idea that Spencer was a pen name for Alan Rustage. Technically then, the Spencer series doesn’t qualify for my list of favorite female authors, but I’ve made the executive decision to include him.  He too is a Brit.

Though his/her books are typically shorter than those by the previous three authors, the plots and the characters will pull you in. The third book “Death of a Cave Dweller” is my favorite because it takes place in Liverpool music clubs during the time the Beatles would have been there. Monica Paniatowski, one of Woodend’s proteges, goes on to have her own ten book series, but I haven’t yet gotten around to reading those.

I’ve written about Jacqueline Winspear before, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her again.  Winspear is a British transplant who now lives in California. Her first book “Maisie Dobbs” covers the years immediately before and after WWI, and the thirteen subsequent Maisie Dobbs books run up to the 1940’s just after Great Britain has declared war. I credit her series with teaching me about the extended impact of WWI on Great Britain. The anguish of the survivors and those who lost loved ones in the first war is vivid and all the more poignant as WWII looms.

My first-ever trip to England is fast approaching, and I’ve already loaded my Kindle with novels set in London, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and Devon. Suggestions are welcome!

Find my latest book “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” and my collection of columns, “The InkPenn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” on Amazon. Contact me at