Who is in the photo at right?
That’s me with Rondo, a rampant kisser, and Brady, who prefers hugs. Rondo is a five-and-a-half year-old mutt who looks like a cross between a Red Rock Hound and a Mack truck. Brady is a seven-year-old Bernese Mountain dog. They’re both big boys, each weighing in at 130 pounds. The third family member in the photo, the one with the most facial hair, is me, Bruce DeSilva. I’m the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mulligan crime novels including The Dread Line, which is being published by Forge on Sept. 6.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Most mornings, I pick up an egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich and two extra-large cups of coffee just down the street. Then my wife and I plant ourselves in front of our computers to begin writing. Brady, who loves Patricia best, usually sits on her feet. Rondo, who loves me best, settles down beside me, sometimes resting his huge head in my lap.
Dunkin’ Donuts regular, but we usually add a dash of hot chocolate to each cup. Patricia claims that was Brady’s idea.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
Sometimes, I sneak a couple of glazed donuts if my wife isn’t looking. I don’t outweigh both dogs added together, but it’s too close for comfort. The dogs, who get fed as soon as we get up, need to watch their weight, too, but they study us as we eat, hoping to snag a scrap. They never beg; they’re too proud for that. But they stare at us so hopefully with their glistening brown eyes that we can’t resist breaking off a bit of sandwich for them.
We know from an earlier appearance here on the blog that Brady and Rondo are named after Boston sports heroes. But Rajon Rondo is now with his third team since he left Boston in 2014. Have you thought about changing his name to, say, Isaiah Thomas, after the Celtics' current point guard?
Never. It would just confuse him. Besides, although Rondo is no longer a Celtic, he was the best player on the court when Boston defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship in 2008, outplaying everyone including future hall of famers Kevin Garnet, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. In our house, that’s still worth celebrating.
There are dogs named Brady and Rondo in your new novel. How do they differ from the real-life dogs of the same name?
The dogs that Liam Mulligan, the hero of my novels, adopts in The Dread Line not only have the same names as mine but have almost exactly the same personalities—something I consider a remarkable coincidence. Mulligan’s two dogs, like mine, are the best of friends, so inseparable that neither will go for a walk without the other. Both Rondos are protective, displaying a suspicion of strangers by barking incessantly at them. Both Bradys are gregarious and affectionate with everyone they meet. Both Rondos are eager to please, constantly studying their masters for clues about what they should do next. Both Bradys are stubborn and independent, obeying commands to come or stay only when it suits them. Both Brady’s refuse to fetch, watching balls sail over their heads with a look that says, “You expect me to get that?” But the fictional Rondo loves to fetch. The real one has no interest in balls. He’d rather roughhouse with Brady.
I'm always interested in how authors use dogs to flesh out a character. If a character kicks a dog, little more needs to be written to show he's a villain. If the protagonist rescues a beaten-down street dog, we know the character may not be all bad. (Think about the drug dealer at the center of The 25th Hour--novel by David Benioff, film adaptation starring Edward Norton. The very first lines of the novel are about the rescue of the wretched pit bull.) If a character dotes on his dog but casually kicks a child, we know he's a special kind of psychopath. Is there an example (or two) from your new novel showing how Brady and Rondo help define a character?
I agree that you can learn a lot about people, either real or fictional, by the way they treat dogs. That’s why I have always put a dog or two in my novels, even before Mulligan acquired his. Early in The Dread Line, when he goes to a nearby animal shelter to find a new friend, he sees a pooch swathed in bandages and learns that some creep had set it on fire. Immediately, he vows to track the bastard down. Meanwhile, Mulligan has an associate named Joseph DeLucca, a former strip club bouncer turned bookmaker who always packs a high-powered handgun. Outwardly he appears to be a big, dumb thug (although he’s actually smarter than he looks.) But when he shows up at Mulligan’s place in the new novel, the first thing he does is get down on his hands and knees to pet Brady. Next thing you know, the two of them are rolling around on the porch, roughhousing like litter-mates. That tells readers right off that Joseph must be one of the good guys.
If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?
They’d make me taller. Oh, wait. That’s what I’d change. I’m sure they’d want me to spend less time writing and more time walking them around the neighborhood and joining their play-fights in our big back yard.
What advice would Brady and Rondo give if asked?
Brady would tell Rondo not to get so worked up about thunder, the mailman and the vacuum cleaner. Rondo would tell Brady that he has to live forever because the younger dog would be utterly lost without his big brother. They’d tell me to write a series of novels about the Brady & Rondo Hard-Bark Detective Agency, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea.
Visit Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.
Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady (November 2010).
Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva & Rondo and Brady (June 2012).
The Page 69 Test: A Scourge of Vipers.
My Book, The Movie: A Scourge of Vipers.