Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chris Knopf & Sam

Who’s the guy with the dog?

That would be me. I’m Chris Knopf, writer of the Hamptons Mystery series and partner in Mintz & Hoke Communications Group. The dog’s name is Sam, after Samuel Beckett, another famous Irish existentialist. Sam’s a 9-year-old soft-coated Wheaten terrier, not a schnauzer or a cock-a-poodle, as some have alleged. And it’s advisable not to make that mistake in front of Sam. That and talking birds are the only things that piss him off.

You obviously have a coffee routine with Sam.

I do. Every weekend, my wife and I walk Sam into Southampton Village where we sit on a park bench and drink the uniquely delicious flavored coffee served by the Golden Pear. Sam entertains children and other passersby and barks at black pickup trucks, because a dog in the bed of a similar vehicle once barked at him and now he thinks all black pickup trucks are, in fact, dogs themselves. I’ve yet to convince him otherwise.

What is Sam’s most intimate involvement with coffee?

He’s had some, which he seemed to like quite a bit. My wife’s father lived to be 98 years old secure in the belief that dogs should be fed at the table. His daughter, on the other hand, felt the exact opposite. A titanic war of wills ensued. At one meal, she’d successfully blocked offerings of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and vanilla ice cream. But then, exhausted from the struggle, failed to see him slip a full cup of black coffee under Sam’s nose.

Ever since, whenever I pour myself a hearty mug of joe, you can see in Sam just a hint of distant longing.

What is Sam’s nationality?

He’s a Canadian, born in Toronto. This evidences itself in his generally easy-going nature, resistance to intense cold and preference for government subsidized health care. I was recently in Toronto on a publicity tour for my books, and made the mistake of revealing his roots to an interviewer. From there on out it was, “Okay, okay, enough about the books. Tell us more about the dog, eh?”

Sam must have found his way into your mysteries.

He did indeed, nearly in whole cloth. Sam Acquillo, one of my protagonists (no relation), has a dog named Eddie Van Halen. I got the name from my son, who growing up had a few imaginary friends, Eddie Van Halen being prominent among them. Eddie doesn’t look anything like Sam the dog. Eddie’s a mutt, with strong German Shepard leanings. He also gets to run free. Sam has to stay inside a fenced in yard. In every other respect they’re exactly the same. I did this to save my strength for making up things about the human characters, who are far simpler, but more plentiful.

So Sam’s a pure bred?

Unfortunately, yes. The concept behind pedigree dogs is people think they’re designing the exactly perfect animal for some special circumstance. What they’re actually doing is providing a solid revenue stream to the veterinarian industry. The healthiest dogs in the world are the ones you see around those gigantic mountains of garbage in third world countries where they team up with women and children to scavenge for food. This is Darwin at his best. These dogs get to breed with whoever they want, eat whatever they want, and get lots of exercise playing tug of war with rotting chicken carcasses. Sam gets plenty of exercise, but is only allowed to eat specially prepared food from a severely restricted menu and his breeding days never quite got off the ground before we turned him into a castrato.

You mentioned exercise. Does Sam like to play catch?

I tried to introduce him to the concept when he was a puppy. The first time I tossed a ball he chased it, since he’d never seen a ball before and likely mistook it for some form of strange rodent. But after he picked it up in his mouth, he immediately dropped it, realizing it was not only inedible, but clearly part of some cruel hoax. The second time I tossed the ball he just looked at me as if to say, “Look, it was your idea to throw the damn thing. You want it that bad, go get it yourself.”

Then he probably isn’t big on tricks.

He only has one trick, which my wife taught him. He smiles for his highly-refined, special-order, million dollar treats. This is cute as hell in person, but when we try to capture it on film, he looks like a rabid, snarling hound from hell. Which he’s anything but.

So he’s friendly.

To a fault. You get the feeling that he’d gladly go off with any human being that bent down to pet his head, without looking back. What he doesn’t know is that not all households stock his special food, allow him the run of the furniture, have fully-fenced-in yards and provide their pets unrestricted access to the Internet.

"Hard Stop," Chris Knopf's fourth and latest Hamptons Mystery novel, is now available from booksellers everywhere. One reviewer called protagonist Sam Acquillo an "appealing hero" who is complemented by "a colorful entourage that includes endearing Eddie, the anti-Marley dog, mak[ing] for a lively and entertaining mix."

Learn more about Sam and Chris at Chris Knopf's website.

--Marshal Zeringue