J. Paul Henderson’s latest book, Larry and The Dog People was recently released by No Exit Press.
Larry MaCabe is a man who needs people more than most… The problem for Larry is that most people have little need for him.
Larry MacCabe is a retired academic, a widower, and until a chance meeting with the administrator of a care home, also friendless. At her suggestion, he adopts a Basset Hound and joins her one Saturday at the local park. He becomes a regular visitor, and for the first time in his life the member of a gang.
While his new companions prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to a conference paper he’s due to present in Jerusalem and arranges a house-sitter.
Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, and on his return Larry is charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people. All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer and things for Larry aren’t looking good…
Today, J Paul Henderson shares his three favourite scenes from his latest novel.
It would be good to say that I enjoyed writing all the scenes in Larry and the Dog People, but I didn’t. It’s the same with all books: there are some scenes you have to write in a story – and these you work on the hardest – and there are scenes you want to write. Fortunately, the former are far fewer in number than the latter, and it would have been easier to pinpoint three of these than choose from the ones I enjoyed writing. That said, these are three of my favourites.
Laura’s relationship with her Aunt Elizabeth (Chapter 2)
Laura Parker grows up on a small dairy farm in Vermont, where life is uncomplicated: people milk cows and that’s about it. When she’s fifteen, the family is informed that a distant relative, Elizabeth Longtoe, has been taken into care and placed in a nursing home in nearby Brattleboro.
Elizabeth is the first cousin of Laura’s deceased grandmother, an invalid and alone in the world. To all but Laura, she remains a distant and therefore unimportant relative. Although her parents do visit occasionally – more out of duty than love – it’s Laura who heads to the nursing home on a regular basis, and a bond develops between the two women. The experience of visiting her great-aunt is also the impetus for her future career in care administration.
Elizabeth Longtoe is a kindly soul and stoical. She’s had a hard life, complicated by the fact that she married outside her race, but is accepting of its hardships and has no regrets. She’s a person who counts her blessings, no matter how few they’ve been, and she appreciates that there are others in the world worse off than her. (I’d like to think that I was Elizabeth Longtoe, but needless to say I’m not.)
The conversations between Laura and her great-aunt happen over time, but are structured as a continuous monologue. Below is an excerpt.
“Children? No, we weren’t blessed that way, dear. It wasn’t meant to be. And maybe that was a good thing, because there were times when we couldn’t even afford to put food in our own mouths. I know what you’re thinking, though. You’re thinking that if we’d had children I wouldn’t be living here now, aren’t you? You’re thinking that I’d be living with them. No, I wouldn’t have wanted that, dear. You don’t give life to a person just so you can suck it out of them when you get old. They’d have lives of their own to live, children of their own to look after and there’s no way I’d have wanted to burden them. I’m an invalid, Laura. It wouldn’t have been fair.”by
After an absence of seven years, Greg Bowman returns home from America to find his father lying in a bamboo coffin, his estranged brother Billy stalking a woman with no feet, and his 79 year-old Uncle Frank planning to rob a bank. While renovating the family house, he is unexpectedly visited by the presence of his dead father and charged with the task of ‘fixing’ the family. In the course of his reluctant investigations, Greg discovers an unsettling secret of his father’s, and one that brings him face to face with the consequences of his own past.
Lyle Bowman is eighty-three years old. Taking a break from painting his house he decides to go and get a Double Decker from the local shop. What he has not realised is that he has drunk a glass of white spirit and his inability to walk results in him being knocked over and killed by a double-decker bus.
His youngest son, Greg returns from America for his funeral. It is the first time he has been home to see his family in seven years – his Uncle Frank and his older brother, Billy (a brother with whom he has been estranged.) Whilst staying in his father’s house, Greg’s Dad suddenly appears. What ensues is a look at this dysfunctional family who has to learn how to be a family again.
This book was not what I expected. There were elements of the story that took me completely by surprise especially the ending. There is a thread of sadness running through it but it is also done with great humour. There were some bittersweet moments, some strange moments and some outright funny moments – my favourites involving Greg’s Uncle Frank. I think out of all the characters, he was my favourite.by
Last Bus to Coffeeville is the story of five people whose lives, in one way or another, have jumped the tracks. The central story though, and the one that explains the bus journey to Coffeeville, is the fulfilment of a promise made by one friend to another almost fifty years previously, that if she inherits the Alzheimer’s that runs in her family, then he will bring her life to a dignified and timely ending.
My mother suffered from subtle stroke dementia for the last ten years of her life, and the idea for the key story came from watching her disappear and another person take her place. The experience made me wonder if someone in a similar situation, who knew the fate that awaited them, would make plans to bypass such misery.
Where would be the one place you would go if you could and why? (Present or a place in history.)
I’d like to be transported to the 1950s and spend my teenage years growing up in small town Middle America. The times were simpler then, the technology reduced, and I’d have been able to drive a large car with ridiculous tail fins. I also think I’d have enjoyed going to High School. This is an idyll, of course. If my colour changed during the transportation process I might well regret this decision. Growing up in 50s America wasn’t a barrel of laughs if you were black.
How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What has to be in place?
If I’m honest, not very much. I’ll have a vague notion about the story, know how it starts and how it ends, but no clear idea how the two dots join. For me, this makes the writing process more interesting – and also surprising.by