Chet and Bernie Fandom
“Chet and Bernie are my happy place.”
That’s an actual quote from a reader of the Chet and Bernie series, but others in a similar vein come in every day via email, Facebook, the blog, or Twitter. How about a few more?
“I never get tired of these books. I may have read them twice but I wouldn’t know because ... these books are such a joy!”
“I am starting the series again for the third time, this time on audiobook. I am listening while I walk—lost 3 pounds so far!”
“I'd like to think there is a parallel universe where their world exists and maybe we will visit someday.”
“I keep one on bed stand and one by the sofa. Whenever I start feeling down/anxious/worried I have an immediate pick me up!”
“Please don't wait too long between Chet and Bernie books. They are so good for my soul.”
Okay! Enough! Writer patting self on back is not a good look. Did I expect this kind of reader reaction when I began the series? No. I don’t think about reader reaction while I’m writing. That would be a distraction and distraction is an enemy of the imagination. To digress for a moment: writing fiction has two components, imagination and technique. Technique – which can be taught, at least to a certain extent – is always on call once you’ve got it. Imagination might be reluctant on certain days, and try not to answer the bell. I’ve always been lucky in that if I just sit there for a few minutes my imagination begins to stir. If necessary I can sort of prod it. Here’s how: I think of the engine that is driving the story, its beating heart. Regrettably some novels lack a beating heart. I don’t know what you’d do in that situation, but the beating heart of the Chet and Bernie series is the love between Chet and Bernie (Bernie being the detective and Chet his dog). Once my imagination remembers that, we’re on our way.
And how nice! This digression has led us right to the bulls-eye of what I’m supposed to be talking about, namely why this series seems to have struck such a deep chord in readers. What I set out to do was write good mysteries – mysteries would still be good if written in a conventional narrative form – and have them narrated by a dog. Not a talking dog! A talking dog would ruin it! But dogs have a narrative of what’s going on in their heads, and that’s what I try to get on the page. (I also want my mysteries to include thematic material – to be about something. Tender Is The Bite, the latest Chet and Bernie novel - and don't worry, the series can be read in any order - is about politics. And also ferrets. Plus top shelf Ukrainian vodka.)
One thing I quickly discovered: Chet’s an unreliable narrator, at least in human terms. When you marry an unreliable narrator to the traditional plotting of a mystery, you suddenly find that you’ve blown up the form. And possibly create something fresh! I think that freshness is part of the appeal to the readers. But the bigger part is the beating heart I mentioned – the love between Chet and Bernie. That just appeared during the writing. I didn’t consciously put it in and might not even have been aware of it. But I sure am now! The readers started letting me know right away and they haven’t stopped. Not infrequently they tell me that C&B have helped them or their family in difficult times – of illness, for example, or death of someone close. That’s humbling.
I’ve become a fan of the fans. They share photos of their dogs on Chet’s FB page (and not just dogs, but cats, gerbils, birds, and even the odd stuffed animal. Check out our Friend-of-the-Month contest!). They often quote favorite passages from the books – and use Chetisms in daily life! Chet and Bernie fans are funny and smart and decent and very entertaining. I think of them as a sort of Chet and Bernie Trust. Thank you readers, one and all.
As fans know, Chet first met Bernie on that fateful day when he flunked out of K-9 police school. The details of that day though have always remained a little vague (like so much in Chet’s doggy brain). All we know is that Chet had been the best leaper in his K-9 class, but for some reason he failed his final leaping test...and that a cat was involved...and that there was some blood. But whose? The test, the cat, the blood—all pieces of a puzzle that, when solved, will bring down a dangerous gang of thieves—and signal the start of a beautiful friendship.
This fateful day has been alluded to in every book in the series, and now fans of Chet and Bernie will finally get to find out what actually happened. For these two beloved characters, it was something like love at first sight—and, for Chet, at first smell, too.More info →
Iggy is a dog who doesn’t get out much, so it’s big news when elderly Mr. Parsons knocks on Bernie’s door to say that Iggy has vanished. In the search for Iggy, Chet and Bernie find Mrs. Parsons unconscious on her bedroom floor, in need of urgent medical care. But it’s only when they arrive at the hospital that things get really interesting.
With a jewel thief making short work of hospital patients’ valuables, it seems that Iggy is not alone in disappearing right out from under somebody’s nose. Suspects are plentiful and witnesses are few. But when little Iggy reappears, tail wagging, it turns out he holds the key to solving the entire affair.
In addition to a clever caper and the return of much beloved characters, this gem of a short story is a testament to the enduring power of friendship in all its forms: neighbor to neighbor, man to dog, dog to dog. Here is a treat you’ll devour in one sitting—rather like Chet with a juicy steak that’s been momentarily left unattended!More info →