A few days before ThillerFest X began, I was dog-sitting in Brooklyn. As I walked Leo around the neighborhood, I found the charming community bookstore Terrace Books. Leo agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to wait outside while I took a quick look. Almost immediately I found a novel I’d been hearing a lot about in the last year: The Fever by Megan Abbott. I met the author when she was on a panel with my editor at Bouchrcon 2013 in Albany. So I bought it and began reading in Prospect Park. Preparation for ThrillerFest, I told myself. I whipped through the book in two days – not so much devouring it as it devouring me. Wow!
The evening I finished The Fever, it won the Strand Critics Award and three days later it won Best Hardcover Novel at ThrillerFest. Preparation indeed!
Birdsong greets the dawn in my friend’s back garden. No matter that clouds mask the rising sun. I’ve a party to get to, so I don’t have much time. It’s Tennessee William’s birthday and I’m celebrating in his “spiritual home” – New Orleans, that is – at the literary festival named in his honor. I don’t want to be late.
I attended the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival back in 2001, covering the event as a journalist for Radio Netherlands. It was my first visit to the city known as the Big Easy and I immediately fell under its spell, much like the young writer who arrived in 1938. Tennessee wrote his Mama: “I’m crazy about the city. I walk continually, there is so much to see.”
On Tuesday I got a message from a friend asking if I could account for my whereabouts after the book-signing event on Sunday. He attached a link to a local news story. A body had been pulled from the water in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, very near the site of a similar crime scene almost twenty years ago – a crime scene that inspired my debut thriller Calvin’s Head. The book I spent Sunday afternoon signing. The book that begins with the grisly murder of a man called Valentine, whose remains are discovered in a Vondelpark pond.
Brothers Parker & Monk
The dog days are done. They arrived somewhat late a month ago while I was still in northern New Hampshire, followed me to New York City and out to Long Island’s North Fork, back up to Boston and across to upstate New York. Now in Brooklyn, I’ll soon head home to Amsterdam. For me the dog days of summer correspond to the seasonal transition from one place to another – and not only geographically.
Ralph and Gypsy in the White Mountains, Swee’Pea in the Catskills, Jackson and Lily in Clifton Park, Max at Mirror Lake, Parker and Monk on Long Island, and Leo in Brooklyn. Connect the canine dots and you’ll find a dog days map of my summer journey, roughly shaped like the constellation Canis Major. “He really likes you,” I’m told again and again. It’s reassuring to know I’ve not lost my empathic bond with the descendants of Sirius, the Dogstar, brightest beacon in the night sky.