Wednesday, September 11, 2019

David Rosenfelt at The Poisoned Pen!

With Denis and I both being unabashed dog lovers, I felt we'd been remiss in not going to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore when author David Rosenfelt is in town. We rectified that in July when he was in town to talk about his latest Andy Carpenter mystery, Bark of Night. One thing is for certain: I thought the night would be a little different. I was right.

Dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds were an integral part of the audience. One,  a year-old Standard Poodle/Golden Retriever mix, had more energy than all of us put together. Another, a Rottweiler sweetheart named Serenity Grace, was right by me throughout the event. You'll see doggy photos scattered throughout this recap, so don't say you haven't been warned.

David Rosenfelt with an enthusiastic fan.
When Rosenfelt appeared, he didn't miss saying hello to a single canine in the audience, and I have to say that this was the happiest, most laidback audience I've been a member of. Let's go straight to the interview!

Barbara: Good evening and thank you, everyone-- humans and canines-- who have come here this evening. [to Rosenfelt] Are you familiar with Golden Doodles [the enthusiastic fan in the photo with the author]?

David: There's every kind of doodle. [audience laughter] There really is. Hundreds of them.

Barbara: She's having a wonderful time, and over here we have a service dog-in-training who's also a therapy dog. [Serenity Grace] And then we have our author, who probably needs to be leashed the most... [audience laughter] David and I have been doing this since 2002. Wow-- long time! How many books?

David: I think this is thirty. Not thirty Andy Carpenters, but thirty altogether.

Barbara: David and I did an event for Open and Shut, the very first Andy Carpenter book, and at that time he was driving over from California, and occasionally he would adopt a dog-- or even more than one dog-- while he was here and take them home.

David: Yes. First of all, everything I'm going to say tonight I've already said in this store. [audience laughter] I've used up all my life experiences already, so if you come here a lot to see me, my first question would be, "Why?!?" [audience laughter] The second thing would be, "You've heard it all."

David Rosenfelt making us all laugh.
We rescued two dogs here named Hunter and Tudor, twelve-year-old golden retrievers, who were brothers and looked identical. I drove them home to L.A. and they had bandanas. One said "Hunter" and the other said "Tudor," and when we get home-- we had thirty dogs at the time-- they weren't in the house five minutes when they ripped off their bandanas. They lived for another three years, and we called them Hunter-Tudor because we had no idea which one was which! [audience laughter]

Barbara: How many of you were here when David published his non-fiction book called Dogtripping? For those of you who don't know it, you should tell the story because it really had an impact on your career.

David: I'll read it to ya. [audience laughter]

Barbara: The whole book?

David: It's the story of our move from California to Maine with twenty-five dogs, three RVs, and eleven human volunteers. It was a horrible experience for me, and everybody else thinks it's the greatest adventure of a lifetime. I get emails every time there's a six-month anniversary. Remember the time we were in... [audience laughter]

Career-wise, that book came out the same day as an Andy. I think it was Unleashed. I think because it was a non-fiction book and therefore got more publicity and different reviews, it expanded the Andy audience. As a result, Unleashed did 30% more than any previous Andy, and the sales have grown steadily since then. I really think it was because of that book.

Available Now!
Barbara: I also attribute it to these fabulous covers. As always, a dog is a pretext for Andy Carpenter, world's laziest attorney, and fortunately endowed by David in a burst of brilliance... Andy's father left him a considerable sum of money and Andy couldn't find anybody to give it back to so he's done various things with it which makes him an ideal lazy attorney and sleuth because he has plenty of time to go sleuthing.

David: Right, and his clients he could pick and choose and not have to worry about getting someone who couldn't pay his fee... it's nothing to do with real life. [audience laughter]

Barbara: But somehow the only thing that provokes him away from the TV set watching sports or the bar where his two friends Pete and Vince have never bought themselves a burger or a drink the entire time they've been with Andy... it's always a dog. Something that happens to a dog that gets Andy motivated.

David: Right. I'm embarrassed to say that it's an excuse to put a dog on the cover. [audience laughter] The sixth book in the series was Play Dead, and it was going to be the last book. Because they were doing okay but not great. Anyway, I wrote Play Dead, and a dog was integral to the plot. So they put a golden retriever on the cover and it sold twice as many copies than any previous one. So now if I rewrote Judgement in Nuremberg, it would have a dog on the cover. [audience laughter]

Barbara: It would probably be an Alsatian!

David Rosenfelt
David: In fact, once it came out and did so well the publisher asked me to write another one, and I agreed because I don't know in advance what the book is going to be about-- so I certainly don't tell them. As soon as I agreed, they sent me the book jacket for the next one [audience chuckles] which had two dogs on the cover. It had a golden and a Bernese, and it was called New Tricks. So I actually wrote the book to the jacket... [audience laughter] which is not how Faulkner used to do it! [more laughter]

Barbara: Tell us about Truman because I think it's a very interesting story and actually believable as opposed to perhaps some of the other ploys.

David: As this one woman pointed out, it just happened to us in real life. The guy brings Truman to Andy's vet's office and says I want him euthanized, and he pays for it and leaves.

In real life, a vet is obligated to do it once they pay the money. But the vet knew Andy could find this dog a home, so he tried to get in touch with the guy to ask him if he could rehome the dog instead. It turned out that the guy was not the owner of the dog; it was a fake name, and the real owner of the dog had been murdered three days before. So that brings Andy into the story, and Truman's a dog, so Truman's on the cover.

Barbara: And it goes on from there in very surprising directions. This is one of those books where I really wish we could talk about the ending because it's so well done, but many of you would go home hating us so we can't do that. But Truman is the spark here to a much larger story.

Serenity Grace, service & therapy dog
David: That's all the dogs ever really are. Andy has his own dog Tara and he has a rescue foundation, but basically, the dogs aren't solving crimes or talking, they're just...

Barbara: But occasionally one's really in jeopardy. You've had a couple where the dog is at risk...

David: Noooo...

Barbara: Not of its life but of possible... wasn't there one where the dog was involved in a...

David: Oh! Yes, yes, yes. But not physical jeopardy. If Andy's failed in a trial and... but that ain't happenin' any time soon! [audience laughter]

Barbara: So nineteen people die in this book but no dog. Without mentioning what the plot is, was there a real-life inspiration for the sequence of events, or did you just make it up?

David: I made it up, but we just recently got a dog, a five-year-old golden retriever who is spectacular that the owners actually tried to have euthanized. Their vet-- whom I don't even know-- took it to a shelter, the shelter called me.

Barbara: Hmmm. I wasn't actually referring to the dog part of the plot...

David: ...the rest of the book where eighteen people die? [audience laughter]

A canine must for these hot pavements!
Barbara: So you make these up as you go along, don't you? I said to David that he could be a career criminal because his mind works that way, you know.

David: I wish I didn't have to make it up as I go along. If I could think of the plot in advance it would be so much better.

Barbara: So you don't get anything from newspapers or real-life sequences to inspire you?

David: No. Never. Well, maybe subconsciously but not that I can recall.

Barbara: When did you start the Christmas books because they have become part of the Andy Carpenter world?

David: They told me that every year they asked one of their authors to write a Christmas mystery. All it has to do is take place during Christmas time. When they asked me, I thought sure, why not? So I wrote the book that will live in American literary history called The Twelve Dogs of Christmas...

Barbara: Not exactly an original title!

David: I'm not responsible for the titles! I think I've come up with about two titles in thirty books.

Barbara: There are actually people walking the streets of New York thinking up book titles. I know. I've met some of them.

Available October 1, 2019!
David: The title and the book jacket are done in the dark because they don't know what the book is going to be about.

I'm writing a book now for the spring, and for next summer there's a book. We have the title already, and I haven't even begun to think about it. It's called Muzzled. [audience laughter] So... I forgot what you asked me! Oh... The Twelve Dogs of Christmas did really well, so they asked me to do another one the next year, and it was called Deck the Hounds, and that did really well.

Barbara: You have one coming out in October for Christmas.

David: Yes, and it has an embarrassing title. You ready? I can't even say it in a way that makes sense! It's Dachshund Through the Snow. [audience laughter and oooohh's of delight] Then there will be Christmas books for each of the next two years.

Barbara: So, just as a guess, there'll be a dachshund in a red stocking cap or something on the cover for October?

David: There's a dachshund on the cover, but I don't know what it looks like. [But I looked it up, so you do!]

Barbara: In addition to writing a Christmas book and an Andy book, you have written seven standalone thrillers?

David: Seven standalones and then one of the standalones became a three-book series.

Barbara: They're darker. They actually have people who spring into action voluntarily, and they have really good plots.

David Rosenfelt
David: I like those books. They never did what the Andy books did, but they did okay.

I'll be doing a new series starting in March...

Barbara: And what's that going to be?

David: It's called The K Team. In Dachshund Through the Snow, there's a new character that's introduced and Andy defends his police dog. Andy gets the police dog out on early retirement, and the guy and the dog team up with Laurie and Marcus to form an investigative team called the K Team. So Andy's kind of a peripheral character.

Barbara: He's either buying food and drinks at the bar, or he's home in front of the television.

David: Yeah, actually it's pretty hard for me because Andy's all about his own perspective on life; we're in his head. In this case, we're not in his head, so he's in the book but I haven't gotten too far with it yet.

Barbara: So who is the narrator?

David: The new guy. The guy with the dog.

Barbara: So it's not going to be Laurie and it's not going to be Marcus who's telling us the story. It's going to be the new guy.

David: Right.

Barbara: Why can't you write a book from Marcus's perspective? [audience laughter] Sure, it would be short and violent, but...

Available March 2020!
David: My agent wanted me to write a story with Marcus as the lead character, but there's just nothing there. [audience laughter]

Barbara: All muscle! Actually, I love Marcus. It's nice to know there's backup. That has been a characteristic of a lot of different series. Spenser had Hawk. Joe Pike is Elvis Cole's backup, and so forth. There's...

David: I probably ripped off Hawk. Looking back on it, and I didn't realize it at the time... I love the Spenser books.

Barbara: I do, too. And I really like Hawk.

David: Yeah. I think that's where Marcus probably came from, although he's different from Hawk.

Barbara: If you have someone like Andy who's not a kung fu master and he's not proficient with firearms-- he's not going to be terrific on self-defense-- it's nice to have a character like Marcus.

And what about Willie? Willie was in Open and Shut. What's he evolved into?

David: He runs with rescue foundation with Andy, he's action-oriented. He helps sometimes. He's fearless-- and Andy and I are not. But not a major role.

Barbara: So when we first met Laurie, she was a cop, right?

David: No, she had been a cop. She was already out of the force, and she was Andy's investigator, and they were sort of getting together, then Andy went back to his wife... a lot of drama... and then they got together.

A dog with her own business card!
Barbara: But you sent Laurie off to Wisconsin.

David: I did send Laurie to Wisconsin.

Barbara: And didn't you think that was going to be the end?

David: No.

Barbara: No? You had faith that Andy would follow her to Wisconsin from Paterson, New Jersey? Really?

David: I am an incurable romantic. [audience laughter]

Barbara: I thought you might break them up because then Andy could have a new...

David: As I told you, I didn't know they were breaking up until she literally told him, and then when he went to Wisconsin to do the case, I didn't know they were going to get back together... literally as I typed it, that's when I knew.

Barbara: And now you've given them a child, so she has a different set of responsibilities. She can't just wing it.

David: The theory of the new series is that Andy doesn't like to work very much and there are three people who need work, so they're doing their own investigating independent of Andy.

Barbara: So Andy's at home with Ricky while Laurie's out running around with Marcus?

David: You can get into some pretty funny stuff with that, actually. [audience laughter]

Barbara: I really like that. Ricky has an interesting role in Bark of Night because he's at camp almost the entire book, which is an excellent way to deal with a small child while you've got parents running around solving crimes. But he does come back and actually has a key role in the book.

Come over and play?
David: I drew on my own experience with the camping. My son went to a sports camp in Maine, and on the final weekend, it was the fathers against the sons in the various sports. Until they were twelve, we beat them, and then... [audience laughter] When he was ten or eleven, it was a foul shooting contest, and I'm on the line. If I make it, we win, and if I miss, the kids win. So you gotta miss in that situation, right? So I tried to miss and SWISH! nothing but net. [audience laughter] That happens to Andy in the book.

Barbara: How long were you in the movie business?

David: A long time. I was a movie executive...

Barbara: What does that mean?

David: I had several different jobs. I was ultimately president of marketing for TriStar Pictures. Prior to that, I was executive vice president of MGM/United Artists. I was in it for about twenty-two years. No writing, just as an executive.

Barbara: Is this where your mordant sense of humor comes from?

David: You have to have it or you die! [audience laughter]

David also told us that his wife commutes from Maine to Boston for her book club and that they spend a week in New York City every six weeks.

Fan: So you must have housesitters who come?

David: We have the greatest dogsitters in the whole world.

Fan: Like a whole team?

David: Two women. One is there during the day, one is there at night so the house is covered 24/7. And they're better at it than we are. I'm serious!

David Rosenfelt
Barbara: How many dogs do you have now?

David: Seventeen, and we're getting one on Tuesday-- a 210-pound Tibetan Mastiff. She is gorgeous!

Barbara: How do the dogs come to you?

David: In almost every case now, shelters or rescue groups know to call us if they have a dog they can't place. So if the dog is blind or epileptic or old-- whatever the reason-- those are the dogs they call us about. We get dogs from Memphis, upstate New York, New Jersey, Houston...

Barbara: I heard you use the word "rehome" earlier. Is that a verb in the dog world that means you take a dog and give it a new home?

David: Truth is, that's probably the first time I used that word. A lot of rescue people do.

Barbara: What do you do about feeding them? They must have different diets. Do you have relays of dining?

David: The ones that are on special diets eat in a room by themselves.

The event wound up with a raffle in which we could bid on the right to have a character named after us in one of David's books. The money would be donated to a local canine rescue group.

I'm so glad we decided to go see this talented author-- it was such a fun evening!


  1. I love Andy Carpenter's books. Read "Bark at Night" a few months ago and laughed continually.
    And I loved "Dogtripping." I just ordered a copy for a friend who had a Golden Retriever for 10 years and loves dogs.
    I see there are still some books I haven't read in this hilarious, pro-dog series.
    So glad you went to hear David Rosenfelt and wrote up a summary with photos. Of course dogs attended.

    1. Barbara Peters is a dog lover/owner, too, so there's no way canines would be barred from the establishment!

  2. I really do like Rosenfelt's series, Cathy. There's just the right blend of solid story and wit. And the dogs are an added plus. I'm not surprised it was a fun event, and I'm glad you got to see him.

    1. I just finished the second Andy Carpenter mystery and absolutely loved it-- and I have so many more in the series to look forward to!

  3. You are so lucky to have a lot of books to go. I have loved this series for years, and recommended it to friends. Two of them had golden retrievers.
    I followed his story about setting up the Tara Foundation and finding homes for 4,000 dogs, mostly goldens, and then he and his spouse taking in ill, elderly and problem dogs.
    His Facebook and web sites showed photos of a lot of dogs, mostly goldens, in his living room -- everywhere, even on the coffee table.
    The stories of rescues in Dogtripping are heart-rending. In between his travelogue about the trip to Maine are several vignettes of dog rescues. He said he had to go with his spouse to a shelter because if she said she'd get one dog, she'd come home with 10. He went, too; they brought home three. Total dog lovers.
    Very moving stories.
    And apparently he is still rescuing dogs in Maine.
    I still look at his Facebook and web pages to see the dog photos.

    1. Yes, he is. There are people running shelters in many states who know that, if they have a dog that they can't place, all they have to do is call Rosenfelt, and the dog will automatically have a new home.

  4. That is just great. I look at Facebook and see so many poor dogs, needing homes, and also at various websites which tell of dogs sent to kill shelters, which should be illegal.
    I met a woman on my block walking a beautiful nearly white lab. She had rescued him in Texas from a shelter. He was found tied to a tree.
    Is it so hard for people to bring dogs to a shelter? There is such cruelty, but then there are people like David Rosenfelt and his spouse who give one hope.

    1. I often despair-- and often think that humans should pass tests and need licenses before they can own pets or have babies.

  5. just give a dog-loving friend a copy of Dogtripping. And I'm sending her this link after I told her about this write-up and his appearance at PP where dogs came with their humans.


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