This is a book of two parts – the first half of it is the re-release, but Urbane Publications, of the previously self-published novella Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn; whilst the 2nd half consists of a number of short stories.
David John Griffin, the author of the book at hand, has published two novels now, and I would think the publisher’s decision to re-publish this book is both timely, and well deserved from the contents.
Griffin describes himself as a “writer, graphic designer and app designer, who lives in a small town by the Thames in Kent, UK with his wife Susan and two dogs called Bullseye and Jimbo.“
Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn is, in first approximation, the story of Audrey Ackermann, an animal welfare volunteer, who investigates a report of interminable barking of dogs at the historic Coaching Inn of the title. Or, rather, it’s the story of what she found, and of her working through the trauma of what she found.
The actual story is told, exclusively, as an exchange of email between Audrey (who comes across as rather overwrought at times) and her artificially cheerful supervisor Stella. This is interspersed (and, to quite an extent, enlivened) by diary entries and notes for a novel from a memory stick which Audrey found at the Inn; purportedly belonging to an SF writer named Gideon Hadley.
This way of storytelling is, by its very nature, rather repetitive, and so is the personal content in the exchange which frames the telling of the actual story. The attachments from the found memory stick I considered fascinating, not just for their content, but also for the protagonists’ utter disregards for any kind of privacy, and lack of any attempt to return something which should have been precious, if not even valuable, to its owner.
Of course, having a writer (Griffin) writing about a writer (Audrey) going through the notes of a writer (Hadley) for a novel is every so slightly meta, but writing seems to be a favourite topic of writers, somehow. And to be fair, the language here changes depending of which writer things are purportedly from – especially Hadley is overly descriptive, and flowery.
The email based structure is not new, either, and has in my opinion been executed better, or at least more entertaining and less repetitive in Matt Beaumont’s novel ‘e’, for example. We also get overdone local placenames (“Legatemead”??? really?) and unnecessarily obfuscated terms (Cyclowiki? To boogle information?).
But despite these weaknesses this is a fascinating, and well executed story, with an ending which surprised me (there had to be a twist, but I didn’t expect it to turn the way it did. neat).
This is Magic Realism, mostly, but can read differently, too. A contemporary and kindred spirit to the likes of Claude Lalumière, or Karin Tidbeck
The 2nd half of the book consists of short stories. There is no indication if all of them were previously published, or where/when. Below is a run-through of these, with a capsule review (or at least a few comments) on each.
A man, his relationship (!) with a spider, and his wife’s jealousy.
Return to the Sea
A story of loss, and of letting go. Harrowing, and one of the better treatments I’ve seen on this tricky topic.
A Crouching Man
Not sure what to make of this. It comes across like a mix of Fredric Brown and Franz Kafka. Odd.
The conversion of Roscoe Robinson
A longer, slightly surreal tale of a depressive city dweller getting lost in a forest – to be transformed. Somewhere between Duerrenmatt’s The Tunnel, and Grey Owl.
The Hidden Libraries of Doctor Dancer
A story worthy of being printed on a Moebius Strip. More Fredric Brown than D. Hofstaedter, though.
The future of mobile technology – the launch of a new, neurally interfacing device, highly coveted. Dependency, despondency, suicides, Technology Cults. Looking at today’s technology/mobile zombies then we’re not that far off already…
The Ultimate Secret
Family secrets, secret islands, top secret rejuvenating spas (fountain of youth?) all in one strange mix. This did not really work for me, I have to say.
A doddering old art professor who has lot the love of his life, and a slightly unhinged hair stylist – it’s all a bit shrill, and didn’t really hang together for me.
The Benefactor and the Ghost
Yes, a proper ghost story. Set in another inn. With added time travel…
Short, sharp take on AI with emotions.
The Extraordinary Tale of Kassara
A yarn, from the diary of a lost sailor, told in fragments; telling of the unbelievable discoveries he’s made. Rather neat, I would love to hear more! This was shortlisted for the HG Wells Short Story Competition 2012.
Overall a neat and entertaining package, and well worth obtaining and reading for fans of slightly left-field Magic Realism and other oddities.
More David John Griffin
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
Title: Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn
Author: David John Griffin
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Publisher URL: http://www.urbanepublications.com
Publication Date: 2017
Review Date: 170209
Topic: Magic Realism
Markus Thierstein is a former professional skater and editor for Diversebooks. These days he pretends to work for a living, and only do sport for fun. He blogs, mainly in review form, on thierstein.net.