Tag Archives: Duffer

My Long and Sordid Relationship with Halloween (bonus pics of dog in costumes)

People have their days.

The emphasis in that sentence is fully intentional, because it would mean something quite different to say, People have their days.  The latter is true, of course.  We all have good days.  Bad days.  Days when we’re one tic away from the arrival of the nice men with butterfly nets.

But today, I mean we all have our days.  One of my sisters, for example, is known as the Christmas Queen.  She’s the one who has a Santa sleigh on her roof, stockings for her cats, and elegantly wrapped presents spilling from beneath multiple trees, each decorated in a different style.

My literary agent’s wife has claimed New Year’s as their day.  Black tie required.  The best champagne.  The perfect playlist for an all-night dance party.

Hopefully we all have a friend who has claimed Super Bowl Sunday as his or her day.  You know the type.  Face paint.  Cakes shaped like footballs.  Twenty-layer dips filled with forty kinds of fat.

Well, traditionally, Halloween was my day.  Pumpkin carving.  Ghosts on the porch.  Full-size candy bars for the kiddies.  Home made costumes.  (Yep, I’ve got mad seamstressing skills, y’all.)

But, somehow, over time, I lost my day.  What was once a perfect marriage now resembles more a long-distance relationship.

In hindsight, the problems date all the way back to 1996, when a certain colleague at the District Attorney’s Office beat me to the punch on a Halloween party.  Externally, I was a good sport with a quick RSVP in the affirmative.  I stitched up a kick-arse Snow White costume.  I brought vodka. No harm in humoring the kid, I figured.  The party would be a fail.  Halloween would soon be mine again.

But that’s not what happened.  The party wasn’t a fail.  Every square inch decorated.  No entry without a costume.  There was even a mad scientist in the basement with an “electric chair” and kamakaze shots in a gas can.  As far as the office was concerned, Halloween officially belonged to someone else, and I became the go-to girl for Oscar Night.

But although Halloween had adopted a mistress, I was still the wife.  Costumes.  Pumpkins.  Candy.  Ghosts on porch.  Check, times four.

Then came the move to New York City.  No more porch for ghosts and pumpkins.  No children to yell, “Trick or treat, smell my feet.”  Plenty of costumes but far too many of the slutty pumpkin, skanky skeleton, and naked nurse variety.  Not to mention, the partying starts about three hours after I’ve gone to sleep!

But, six years ago, just when I thought October 31 had quit me, Duffer came to live with us on Halloween.  They say that kids can’t save a marriage, but Duffer has kept Halloween in my life.  Halloween may no longer be my day, but it is Duffer’s day.

Over the years, Duffer has been Batman:

batman duffer

A baby:


A ladybug:


A police officer:


This year, I put out a call to the online kitchen cabinet on Facebook and Twitter for costume suggestions.  Reader Jennifer Irvin nailed it.

You might recall this year’s Duffer Awards.  We joked that Duffer had gone full-on Hollywood as he handed out statues in his own image, popping painkillers like candy for a “back problem.”


It only seems fitting, then, that this year’s costume reflects Duffer’s newfound celebrity.

The Hef-Duff:


Happy Halloween from me and the Duffer.  Wear a costume.  Eat candy.  Be nice to the kiddies and teach them how to engage in mischief.

And, oh yeah, if you haven’t already done so, read LONG GONE and 212 (out in paperback).  They just might keep you up at night.



P.S.  If you missed the 2011 Duffer Awards, see the full list here.


Are You There, Dog? It’s Me, Margaret

It’s eighty degrees and I’m writing this from the newly remodeled Washington Square Park, where the fountain – now symmetrically aligned, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg — enthusiastically welcomes in summer by spraying bare-chested SPF’d children and apparently un-SPF’d ripple-abbed men (not that I noticed).

Perhaps because I’m typing this as a crazy-ass homeless dude in a multi-colored wig and butterfly-patterned skirt harangues me about the carry-out lunch that awaits my attention on the bench next to me,* I’ve decided that dog watching is a safer park habit than people watching.** But it’s nearly as interesting.

No day in Washington Square would be complete without the dogs. The big ones. Little ones. Happy ones. Neurotic ones.

And my afternoon of dog watching got me thinking about my relationships with pets. As some of you know, I have a special relationship with my French Bulldog, The Duffer. My tremendous respect for him is reflected even in his name. I wanted to call him Stacy Keach. My reasons should be self-evident.

Stacy Keach and the Duffer (which is which?)

My  husband, however, was perplexed by the choice. “People will think a dog called Stacy is a girl.”

Um… so?  And, more importantly, we would not call him Stacy.  We would call him Stacy Keach. Every single time. Because that would be his name.  My husband put his foot down, but that didn’t mean I was going to cave for some stupid dog name. No Fidos or Fluffies here. But Duffer? Yeah, that might work. But only he had to be THE Duffer. All regal and stuff.

The Duffer’s my first dog, and I have to admit I’m still surprised by the love, affection, and empathy I have for my little friend — and which, yes, I believe he has for me. I truly believe he has moods and feelings and expressions that leap from that one-of-a-kind mug of his. I talk to him constantly and imagine what he would say back to me if only he could.

Does this make me insane? Maybe. Or more optimistically, maybe my internal (and sometimes external) running dialogue with the Duff is just a sign of my overactive imagination. Or it could be a recognition that animals, although lacking our ability for language, opposable thumbs, and fire making, have attributes that we chalk up to feelings and emotions in humans, but to our own imaginations in our pets.

I mean, is it not obvious that the dog in this photograph

was in a different mood, and yet the very same silly beast at his core, as in this video? (Warning: NSFW)

Dogs are not alone in their unique personalities. My agent and his wife recently welcomed two new kittens into their home. One is named Ellie Hatcher, and her brother is called Mickey Haller. In light of her namesake (my series protagonist NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher), I was rooting for Ellie to be one playful yet take-charge, bad-ass mo-fo of a cat. But guess what? It’s her twin brother Mickey (named for Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller) who’s the rapscallion. If he were a human being, he’d wear overalls, carrying a peanut butter sandwich in one pocket, a slingshot in the other. Mickey’s the feline equivalent of Dennis the Menace.

Ellie? She’s earnest. Tentative. Watchful. The kind of girl who’d tell on herself if she ever broke the rules. Sigh.

I’m not the only writer with pets on her mind these days. The wonderful Laura Lippman recently blogged about once helping out Reba, “a hang-dog dog, shy and mopy.”  (She’s following it up with a contest. Just post a memory about your favorite pet or pet name, and be entered for an advanced copy of her eagerly anticipated novel, I’d Know You Anywhere.)

Perhaps because we recognize that our pets have personalities, it’s no surprise that writers have looked to pets for fictional characters.  It’s fashionable these days to diss cozy mysteries where cats solve crimes, but some pretty damn good books occasionally make room for the non-human animals.  (Have you read Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain? The entire novel is narrated by a dog, and it’s actually good.  I kid you not.)

Sometimes the addition of a pet tells the reader something about its person.  Leave it to Stephanie Plum to find a best friend in Rex the hamster.  Readers also become attached to literary pets in their own right.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked whether James Lee Burke‘s daughter actually owned a three-legged racoon named Tripod.  (The answer, for the record, is no.)

I like to think I’ve created a true character in Vinnie, French bulldog pal to Samantha Kincaid.  I conjured Vinnie well before I was a dog owner myself. He’s a little lazy, likes his people, and makes loud, fast snorting noises like an old fat man when he eats. He’d sound like Buddy Hackett if he could talk.  And he finds endearing but frustrating ways of expressing his displeasure when Portland cop Chuck Forbes moves in.  (I’m not alone in my frenchie obsession.  The Kellerman family has a beautiful dog named Hugo, and Jonathon Kellerman‘s Alex Deleware has a frenchie as well.)

Who are your favorite literary non-human animals?  What do they add to their books, either vis-a-vis the human characters or in their own right?  Which pets do you wish could talk, and what would they sound like and say?

*A further aside about the aforementioned homeless guy.  He wanted to know what I was going to use to eat my lunch.  “A fork,” I said.  His response?  “Well go fork yourself!”  Jesus, I love this city.

** In addition to dog-watching, I also got in some simultaneous people-walking. Random things that have happened at the park while I’ve been typing: A three-year-old banged his drumsticks on the bench next to me; two hand-to-hand drug deals (that I noticed, at least, though I haven’t been going out of my way to look for them); an orange-haired Asian kid nearly knocked a mohawk dude over with his hoola-hoop; and the little girl on the Razor scooter proudly declared, “I’m super really stinky.”  I swear, I’m not making this stuff up.  Today’s officially a great day.

Watching: Modern Family

Listening To: Sade

Reading: Lee Child’s 61 Hours

Surfing: LOST re-enacted by cats (you’re welcome)

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