Under his Spencer Quinn pseudonym, thriller author Peter Abrahams has written his fifth whodunit featuring Chet the dog and PI Bernie Little, A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery.
Why write these books under another name?
The Chet and Bernie mysteries are quite different in some important ways from my previous work. Although they have some darkness in them, they’re lighter and the humor is much warmer. It was thought that therefore the audience might be somewhat different, and that a pen name might help us find those readers.
How is writing these books different from your other fiction?
The biggest difference is the first-person narration. Why didn’t I try this earlier? I love it. To make the Chet and Bernie books work, first person was an absolute necessity. Writing is hard work, of course—I almost want to add: as it should be—but first-person narration, Chet’s at least, seems to flow out of me rather freely, knock on wood. Plotting is always the part of the job that feels like brute labor to me.
What do you do to make Chet sound like a dog?
The voice of Chet, for some happy reason, came to me immediately. I should point out he’s not a talking dog, not a human in a dog suit. He is as purely canine as I can make him. But anyone who knows dogs is aware that they have a narrative unreeling in their heads; that’s what I try to get on the page in the series. Most mysteries are about following a series of clues in some logical way. Chet can’t do that, and even if he could, he’d be distracted by a Cheeto under a couch at some crucial moment. That makes him an unreliable narrator, always an interesting angle of approach in crime fiction. But the most important thing about the whole series, what makes it work and what readers seem to respond to even more than the Chet-speak and the humor, is the love between Chet and Bernie.
Is it fair to call Chet the “straight man” in the relationship?
It’s more complex than that. He and Bernie take turns being the straight man—actually somewhat like Aubrey and Maturin in the Patrick O’Brian novels.
How was Bernie different before he met Chet?
Readers will be able to find out the answers to these questions August 14 when “A Cat Was Involved,” an e–short story about the day Chet and Bernie met, is released. It’s kind of the prequel to the series.