Thursday, August 23, 2007

For The Love Of Dogs

by Kristine Coblitz

I find it interesting that devoted readers have particular pet peeves when it comes to what they will and will not tolerate in books. For instance, some people refuse to read books where children are placed in jeopardy or killed. Others won’t read about grisly murders or crimes set in their hometowns. For as many topics as there are to explore in fiction, you’ll always find a group of readers who are opposed to the topic and will refuse to read a certain book based on that opposition.

I’m a pretty tolerant and open-minded reader. There’s not much I won’t read, except for anything related to history. (My apologies to all the history buffs out there.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a pet peeve when it comes to fiction. For me, it all comes down to animals, dogs in particular.

I have a hard time reading books in which dogs are killed or hurt, especially if it’s done with gratuitous violence. I once read a novel (written by a male author who will remain nameless but who is a household name) about a dog who served as a guardian and companion to a woman who lost her husband. The dog was a major character in the book and symbolized the main character’s growth and how she came to terms with her husband’s death. I grew to love that dog. But then the author did the unthinkable. Without warning, in the last chapter, the dog was brutally shot to death. Bam! I was so upset that I flung the book across the room and refused to read another book by the author.

When I read a suspense or thriller novel with a dog involved, I am suspicious and hesitant to continue reading in fear of what will happen to the dog. I’ll even go so far as to admit that I will look up the author’s website to see if the he or she is a dog lover before reading any more of the book. (It’s fair to say that most dog owners won’t murder their fictitious animals on the page, although there have been some exceptions to that rule.)

I write suspense fiction and have done my research, so I know the reality. Most serial killers or criminals have a history of animal cruelty and to explore a villain realistically in these novels, you have to touch upon this area. I’m hesitant to include animals in my books for the reason that some readers almost expect them to die. Sorry, but I can’t kill my furry friends, even in fiction. Thankfully I don’t have a problem knocking off people or else I’d have to find another genre.

So what are you pet peeves when it comes to fiction? What will you not tolerate in the books you read?


Tory said...

I started reading James Michener's _Centennial_ and I made it through the geological upheaval chapter. Chapter II was on wild horses. He got it all wrong. The stallion does not lead the herd, he comes along behind, nipping their tails like a large sheep dog.

I put the book down and I've never attempted to read another novel of his.

Nancy said...

I can't read books about torture or the abuse of children. I haven't read a John Grisham since the first few chapters of A Time To Kill.

I have run over a fictional dog with a fictional car, though. I felt it was necessary to the plot--the revelation of the villain. And I thought I'd established that the dog was pretty much unkillable. But I do get mail about abusing animals.

Lee Lofland said...

I'm the same way about authors who get police procedure/CSI/forensics wrong. It drives me nuts and I'm very leery about picking up another book written by the same author.

Actually, I feel the same way about any book where the author hasn't done their homework.

ramona said...

Kristine, nice post. To copy your style, there's one very popular recent novel about a man who tries to teach his dog to speak. There was no warning about the really bad, icky stuff up ahead, so I was blindsided into reading about dog abuse. I'm still not over it, and I think I read it two years ago. I'm a savvy reader, but this author really tricked me into reading something I never would have touched. Never again with this guy.

As for the mistakes, I went to a talk recently by a sci fi/fantasy author who spoke on creating a full and valid make-believe world for your book. Everything he said applied to mysteries. He touched upon author errors, commenting on the geeks (his word) who are thrilled to point out the details that are wrong. He used HG Wells' Time Machine as an example. In it, the traveller goes into the time machine, presses the button, and zap! He's transported. No one can argue with the details because there aren't any.

I'm not sure you could get away with that with a modern mystery, but sometimes I wish I could just write, "The police came to the scene. They did their business and left."

Gina said...

Unfortunately, I will read just about anything, even the ingredients in ketchup if there's nothing else available. I hate it when an author gets the legal stuff wrong, though, like when the British barrister/solicitor distinction shows up in a novel set in Beaver Falls, PA.

I have to warn you not to read my novel RISEN FROM FLAMES if it ever gets published, because a dog does get killed. It's a gruesome but very necessary scene. Sorry. And I have to confess that I didn't find it any harder to kill Pepper than it was to kill any of the human characters I liked, including two small children.

Cathy said...

Kristine, I agree about reading of the killing and abuse of animals--can't read about it. I don't find it entertaining.

The first thing that came to mind was the Harry Potter series and how some fundamentalist groups branded it as being anti-religious. Glad I don't belong to one of these groups. I'd have missed out on some excellent reading.

Anonymous said...

I'm finding all of your responses very interesting.

Yes, authors who trick their readers or don't do their homework in getting the facts right are among the worst offenders.