August 3, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Dogs of War" by Bradley Convissar

Dogs of War: A Ghost Story
Self-Published (2011)
Available via: Amazon

I love ghost stories. I love dogs, too. So you might assume a ghost story involving dogs would be a win-win for me. At least I did.

Dogs of War is a novella that features an adorable dachshund named Molly. She's a child of divorce: her owners, Gary and Caroline, have drifted apart, and Gary has saved Molly from the clutches of Caroline, who wanted to take the dog away from him to spite him and put the dog back in the kennel from where they'd rescued her. Caroline never appears in the story, but she's painted in a villainous light--Gary is the narrator after all. So, Gary and Molly move into the perfect house, a one-story rancher with a fenced yard, so Molly could play and not put any undue stress on her already injury-prone spine, which is apparently a common thing with wiener dogs.

During the first full moon of their stay, Molly becomes agitated at night and starts whining and scratching at one of the windows looking out on the backyard. When Gary looks, he sees a group of dogs circling a gigantic oak in the center of the yard. But Gary notices something is off with the dogs: they're apparitions. Ghosts. Don't think this Paranormal Activity meets All Dogs Go to Heaven, though. The ghost dogs are so malevolent as I had expected, but there is a simmering torment that carries through the air with them, which reaches into the home and influences Molly.

Writing a scary story involving something as comical in appearance as a wiener dog is a daunting task, so I have to give Bradley kudos for creating an atmosphere of suspense over just how the ghost dogs are exerting their presence on Molly, and even on Gary. But overall, I didn't find the story worked for me. Gary came off as a bit too insightful a spectator as he watched Molly interact with the ghost dogs, essentially gleaning the reason for the haunting as if plucking it from the mist. Some of the prose came off as too introspective at times as well, and focusing on the minutia at other times.

I'd recommend dog lovers give this story a chance, though I wonder how repelled they might be by how the ghost dogs came to be killed in the first place. Some readers react far more harshly towards insinuated violence of animals than they do towards illustrated violence of humans. Go figure. Fans of ghost stories may want to give it a chance too, to see if it resonates. All in all, the story has an interesting idea that, for me, falls just short of the mark.

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