Monday, December 06, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: That Dog Won’t Hunt by Lou Allin

The beauty of books aimed at reluctant readers becomes crystal clear in the holiday season when you’re buying for someone you’d really like to see become engaged with the beauty of reading, but just hasn’t thus far. Orca Books introduced their Rapid Reads series earlier this year. “In our increasingly fast-paced world” they tell us on their web site, “we believe there is a need for well-written, well-told novels and non-fiction books that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads feature great writing and great storytelling in a small package.”

And, of course, a big part of that small package are the writers whose names are contributing their small tales. All three of this season’s entries to Rapid Reads are themed on literacy, in addition to other things. Gail Bowen’s One Fine Day You’re Gonna Die brings back late night talk show host Charlie D, first seen in Bowen’s previous Rapid Reads novel, Love You to Death. William Kowalski (Eddie’s Bastard) goes for the issues jugular with The Way It Works, a story that tackles so many issues, it’s difficult to see the story.

My favorite of the three is Lou Allin’s That Dog Won’t Hunt. Allin, who is perhaps best known for her Belle Palmer series of mysteries, unveils a noir staccato to bring this little story to life. It really works. A cowboy drifter on the lam in the dessert meets a widow who talks him into coming with her to Northern Ontario to do work on her hunting lodge. Since the classic noir voice is long on pathos but short on syllables, Allin’s simply told tale works well in the Rapid Reads format. Though it’s not a long journey, you don't get the feeling that anything is lost. Nor is Allin talking down to her readers or going far out of her way to make a point. That Dog Won’t Hunt is good storytelling in a tiny package. Hopefully it helps win some reluctant readers to the cause.

If you’re interested in learning more about Orca’s Rapid Reads, a visit to the web site will be worthwhile. They don’t actually talk much about the books: more about literacy and what can and is being done to improve the situation. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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