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Walking the Dog Paperback – August 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Davis's strained second novel takes place on the fictional island of Santa Margarita y Los Monjes, a magical place where anything is possible. The narrative consists of loosely knit episodes detailing the adventures of some of the island's more colorful inhabitants. In one, a corpse becomes animated at an inopportune moment during the funeral service, and the sons of the deceased, known as the Boys, visit the cursed House of Low Women and subsequently lose their genitals. The Boys' cousin, a clerk and the book's narrator, becomes a dog walker in his spare time; he is nearly killed by security forces when his pack of dogs almost collides with the President-for-Life's motorcade. When asked to infiltrate the Happy Valley retirement complex by the suspicious President-for-Life, the narrator uncovers a death cult. In the final episode, the narrator becomes the campaign manager for the Boys, who, supported by foreign interests, are running against the President-for-Life. Despite the author's bountiful imagination, this short novel reads like a long in-joke that the reader isn't in on. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Walking the Dog is an imaginative spoof on the absurdities and corruptions of life. There are references aplenty to walking the dog, but also to walking the dogs, this latter phrase understood as exercising a group of leashed canines, a job Herrera, the compliant narrator, takes on in a rare burst of entrepreneurial spirit. A lowly clerk and the unfortunate relative of some gross-out characters, Herrera has lived all his life on Santa Margarita y Los Monjes (there actually is an island by this name in an archipelago off Venezuela). But before the phrase is taken up literally, so to speak, and goes to the dogs,
it s used metaphorically. Walking the dog can mean hanging out, escaping obligations, doing what you want akin, perhaps to the yo-yo maneuver of letting the disc sleep near the ground, humming away, no further action needed. But walking the dog also has a woofter context here, woofter being rhyming Cockney slang for a gay announcing
himself by exposure, and there are other unfortunate connotations in demotic speech, Herrera lets on. But who knows for sure what is intended from a mischievously madcap author whose jacket bio identifies him as having been born and educated and traveled and who now lives and works.

Walking the Dog may be over the top for readers who like their satire strongly plotted and unalloyed with zany humor, but those who stay with this episodic, antic romp will be rewarded with some outrageous humor, much of it metaphorically sexual; pointed criticism (particularly on water boarding, globalization, spiritualism, democratic elections, information overload and retirement communities) and highly literate prose: the Marx Brothers meet the Oxford English Dictionary. The very first sentence sets the linguistic level: My Aunt Dolores is a querulous woman, much given to lamenting the many Woes she has dragooned into service over the years. Herrera, Dolores nephew, is cousin to his aunt s two lunatic sons, referred to only as The Boys. They are a Simian force of nature, who gaze out on life, when they re not destroying it stupefied (if that s not a tautology ). But, well, they re family.

Herrera s not immune from moral turpitude, but his transgressions pale in comparison with those of his fellow Margamonjans, especially the island s Fernando Marcos-like President for Life and his Imelda-like wife. But because Herrera s regarded as a nonentity; someone so inoffensive, so bland, so undistinguished, so boring, so innocuous, so devoid of any distinctive personality, he s tapped to be The Boys campaign manager when it s decided they should oppose the president. Don t ask.

The women, most with metaphoric names (Dolores, of course, means woe, which she invokes as a way of life) are monstrously fat, except for the Low Women (whores), and the men are corrupt, weak and ethically irresponsible, though these attributes are nothing compared with the sophisticated behavior by visitors from the overdeveloped world, many of them diplomats, business executives and charity workers. It s a bit much at times, especially the clever but strained malapropisms of a linguistic idiot savant, Magritte, housekeeper to Good God Donald, a reverend who mainly reveres himself; a witch doctor, Georgie Pujol, who suspends gravity for a while; the undertaker, Mr. Bagwell; and several other island cuckoos, but it s all good, uneven, if not always (thank
the Lord) clean, fun. And Davis scores some neat political, cultural and psychological points. At the end Herrera manages to settle in, in Joy s bed (a person and a state of mind) and find contentment. The world is where you re at. /Am I right or am I right?/Let the dog walk itself./Nobody but me. /Me and thee./So let it be. --The Independent

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The Permanent Press (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579621678
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579621674
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,381,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Davis was born and educated, and has travelled and worked. He now lives and writes. That has always seemed to me to be enough biography for any writer, but being an avid reader, too, I appreciate that curiosity demands a bit more, so . . . .

Basically, middle-class boy born in the suburbs of London in 1960. Idyllic childhood brought to an abrupt end by being sent to boarding school aged 11. An unhappy adolescence (aren't they all?) climaxed with the timid decision that I wanted to write - 'timid' because, as I understood it, middle-class boys from the suburbs didn't write novels; I was none too sure who did, but fairly certain it wasn't people like me.

After a dissolute time at university, it occurred to me that if I wanted to write, I'd better get on and write something (I'm sharp like that), so I sat down and, through my mid to late twenties, churned out a novel a year. I always found plenty of publishers and agents ready to read these outpourings, but since I never took the trouble to rewrite them, they were all rejected and rightly so.

At the same time, more or less by accident, I got a job teaching in Sudan. Spent 15 months there, but decided to come back to Europe, partly because I feared that if I stayed any longer I'd never get out, partly because I acquired an interesting cocktail of obscure maladies that landed me in the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, where the student doctors couldn't believe their good luck.

Next job took me to Turkey, where I met Jeannette, a French maths teacher sixteen years older than me, a disparity in age that allowed us to become friends before it occurred to us that we might actually make a couple. We recently celebrated our twenty-fifth non-wedding anniversary. In the course of our time together, I became a grandfather-in-common-law at the age of 34, and I am now the proud something or other of three grandchildren without having gone through the angst and expense of having children myself.

Jeannette wanted to go to South America, I wanted to go to China, so naturally we ended up in Ivory Coast. Spent two years there, but seeing that the future of the country was looking dim and being unwilling to witness the sort of butchery then going on in Rwanda, we returned to Europe, settling in Spain, where we lived for twelve years.

It was in Ivory Coast and Spain that I wrote my first serious novel, 'serious' in that I wrote it and rewrote it time and again, so much so that it eventually dominated five years of my life. Had ten years of near misses, various novels attracting various degrees of praise from various publishers, but not enough to get them to put their money on the table.

In 2003, Jeannette took early retirement. This seemed like a terribly good idea, so when the opportunity came up to combine the passions of walking and writing in a series of guidebooks, I grasped it with both boots. I've since published fourteen walking guides (mainly about Spain, mainly with Discovery Walking Guides) and an alternative 'guide' to Brittany, Jeannette's birthplace, where we now live an absurdly privileged life with a couple of dogs whose lives are even more absurdly privileged.

Busy with the guidebooks, I had no time for fiction and consequently built up a good head of frustrated steam. Come Winter of 2005, we were looking after the farm of some friends in the south of France: bitterly cold, mud everywhere, squalor untold, goats and sheep giving birth every time you turned a corner, foxes prowling, donkeys disgruntled etc. etc. but time enough to do one or two hours writing every morning and afternoon. Since publishers had always complained that my previous novels were too long, I resolved to write something short. The first draft of Walk On, Bright Boy was written in two weeks, hunched over the kitchen table, wearing an overcoat and fingerless mittens, a rather ineffective petrol heater wheezing toxic fumes into the atmosphere, a lamb leaping about at my feet (I'm not making this up), housebirds chirping in the background, cat coiled in a speculative manner on top of the canary cage, wildfowl pecking at the door . . . well, you get the picture. The time limit and discomfort seem to have done some good. The novel proved shorter than I had anticipated, so very short I didn't think it would justify a discrete publication, but I'd said what I wanted to say so I sent it off to the Permanent Press and they accepted it.

They have since published Walking The Dog and Standing At The Crossroads. The reviews have been good, but sales have been dismal, so if there is to be a fourth novel, I need to shift a few copies.

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By N. Aucoin on March 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
I raced through this while traveling over the weekend. It's a series of interconnected short stories set on the island of Santa Margarita y Los Monjes, told in the first person and from the point of view of a man who resorts to walking the dog when he needs to ponder, relax, or just get away from his family. His Aunt Dolores is the mother of The Boys, a couple of cretinous low lifes who are always causing trouble. His uncle's funeral is the event in the first story, with Aunt Dolores going ballistic over the uncle's mistress showing up for the service. There's also a shaman/witch doctor on the island who's consulted when drastic measures need to be taken, such as suspending gravity to reverse a curse that he provided Aunt Dolores. All the stories are really funny, and don't even really need the magic to work. The conceit of ending each tale with the author taking the dog for a walk gets really strained, but I'm willing to forgive that for the sheer number of laughs that the bodies of the stories gave me.
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