Thursday, April 4, 2024

Who Da Thunk It? Guest Post by Elizabeth Crowens

One wouldn’t necessarily correlate a modern-day slang expression like, “Who da thunk it?” with America in the 1940s, but that was the first knee-jerk reaction that came to mind. When writing my recently released historical, humorous soft-boiled mystery, Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, Book One in the Babs Norman Golden Age of Mystery series by Level Best Books, tackling serious societal issues wasn’t my original MO. My primary goal: laugh-out-loud entertainment, combining a newly-created character loosely inspired by a dear late friend and linking her to Basil Rathbone, well known at the time for his role as Sherlock Holmes. Since both were dog lovers, I had Basil go through the heartbreak of someone stealing his dog. To ramp up the tension, I added another missing pooch who was a celebrity unto himself, Asta from The Thin Man films, a dog everyone would recognize and also connected to another famous detective team, Nick and Nora Charles.

Yet, it was only after the book had been published and Shawn Reilly Simmons (one of my publishers) interviewed me on her podcast, 5 Compelling Questions, that I realized one of the main issues in my novel—dognapping—is actually a growing crime in this day and age. Many of you probably saw in national news when someone had stolen Lady Gaga’s two French Bulldogs and shot her dog walker who tried to stop the thieves. She posted a five-hundred-thousand dollar reward for their safe return with no questions asked. The dog walker survived. Somehow, the dogs made it back home, but who would commit such a heinous crime?

Once again in Los Angeles, a suspect grabbed Robert Marinelli’s French Bulldog, Luca, who required special care and daily medication, and fled in a getaway car. While trying to rescue Luca, the car dragged Marinelli, which caused injuries to his back and legs and head. Neighborhood surveillance caught the crime on camera. The Los Angeles Police Department investigated the incident as an assault and robbery case.

In another dog theft, Ron York, a terminally ill cancer patient, left a doctor’s appointment in Beverly Hills with his 12-year-old Frenchie, named Albert, when two armed men attacked him.

One gunman pointed the weapon at York and said, “Let go of the dog or I’ll shoot you!”

“I pulled out pepper spray, the big one, the illegal one, and started spraying them,” said York in an interview with Los Angeles magazine. “There was no way I was letting go of Albert’s leash, not a chance.”
“One had a gun to my face, the other one started punching me in the face and the head. He unleashed my dog — I wasn’t letting go. The neighbors heard me screaming and called the police,” York remembered. “The duo then darted toward a beat-up Honda with Albert and squealed off.”

In the article, it explained that his dog had been accompanying his owner to chemotherapy treatments to keep him in good spirits, but for other patients as well. “He brought a lot of joy to many people, and now he was with these lowlifes. Cancer was nothing compared to losing him.”

Stolen dogs, depending upon the breed, have wound up in dogfighting rings or for sale on Craigslist. 

Many dognappers make a living by collecting reward money from the desperate owners. People have hired pet detectives and even pet psychics who offer their services to track down missing canines.

In Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, however, my protagonist and her partner are full-fledged, licensed private eyes. Getting involved with dog disappearances was outside the realm of their normal caseload. Since dognapping, rather than murder, was the major focus of my mystery novel, some people could consider the book to fall more into the category of a cozy, but no matter how you look at it, losing one’s precious pet is no light-hearted matter.

Elizabeth Crowens has worn many hats in the entertainment industry in NY and LA for over 25 years. Writing credits include short stories and articles in  Black Belt, Black Gate, and Sherlock Holmes Mystery magazines, stories in Hell’s Heart and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated A New York State of Fright, and three alternate history/SFF novels, which she self-publishes under the name of Atomic Alchemist Productions.

Recipient of the MWA-NY Leo B. Burstein Scholarship, NY Foundation of the Arts grant to produce a self-published, photo-illustrated anthology, a Glimmer Train Honorable Mention, an Eric Hoffer First Prize, two Grand Prize and four First Prize Chanticleer Review awards.

Level Best Books recently gave her a three-book deal. Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, a Golden Age of Hollywood humorous soft-boiled mystery was published on March 5, 2024.

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