Dog Detectives

This blog was a guest post I originally did for the awesome book review cafe.

“Up next in the Mastermind chair is author Caimh McDonnell.”
“Great to be here Magnus.”
“Magnus Magnusson, the original host of Mastermind, died almost ten years ago.”
“Ehm… pass.”
“What is your specialist subject?”
“Buddy cop films in which one of the cops is a dog.”
“Isn’t that only about five films?”
“Four. I refuse to acknowledge the horrendous Chuck Norris vehicle Top Dog.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Yes Magnus but I’ve started so I’ll finish.”

Don’t get me wrong, Forrest Gump was a delight and Philadelphia a triumph but hand on heart, I would’ve given Tom Hanks the Oscar for his role in the 1989 classic Turner and Hooch. To be fair, in pure acting terms, it isn’t his best work but seeing as there is criminally no Oscar category that acknowledges outstanding animal performances, I’d give it to him by association.

We all have our guilty pleasures, mine is a love of buddy cop films featuring dogs. They had some serious box office mojo for about six months at the end of the 80s, but what a six months it was! Something about it just works. I think it taps into our inherent affection for man and woman’s best friend. At the time, I made the case that Lethal Weapon would’ve been much improved as a film if Mel Gibson had been replaced with a troubled Yorkshire Terrier, I believe history has proven me right.

As a species, humanity is almost pre-programmed to trust dogs. They are perceived as loyal animals that will protect the family. Nobody would consider a guard cat. There has never been a story of a pet snake travelling halfway across the country to be reunited with its owners and dolphins have never knowingly brought down an international drug-smuggling cartel. Even when we meet a bad canine, we place the blame firmly on the humans who haven’t trained or treated it right. Dogs are great; people on the other hand, are often a disappointment.

This is why the role of maverick cop who breaks the rules but gets results is so perfectly filled by a dog. As an audience, we are much more willing to forgive Hooch, the Bordeaux Mastiff (the tour-de-force and only-ever cinematic performance by Beasley the dog) when he relieves himself in the office. While it wouldn’t be the worst thing he has done, Bruce Willis can not pull that off with anywhere near the same degree of lovable charm.

Sadly though, while much that was bad about the 80s – Cold War tension, shoulder pads and synth pop – has enjoyed a revival, the doggy detective genre hasn’t. It was with this in mind that I set myself the challenge of trying to write a short story featuring a canine hero. My debut novel, A Man With One of Those Faces features a police officer called DS Bunny McGarry, who is my take on the loner cop trope. He is a foul-mouthed maverick with a penchant for violence albeit one with a distinctively Irish twist. I decided to twist convention by placing a maverick with a maverick. The short story Dog Day Afternoon is the result. If you’d like to read it just sign up to my mailing list and you’ll receive it as part of a free collection of short stories called How to Send a Message.

The film rights are still available. Brendan Gleeson and a German Shepherd take on organised crime on the mean streets of Dublin, who doesn’t want to see that film?

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