Alan Beechey’s first mystery, “An Embarrassment of Corpses”, includes a spiteful black cat called Satan, a thinly disguised caricature of a former girlfriend’s pet.
Alan Beechey’s first mystery, “An Embarrassment of Corpses”, includes a spiteful black cat called Satan, a thinly disguised caricature of a former girlfriend’s pet. A dog called Murray (its real name) was featured in his second novel, “Murdering Ministers,” as a thank you to its owner, an expert in poisons who shared his wisdom on the use of strychnine.
There’s no word yet if the Beechey family’s rescue dog, seven-year-old Leila, is offended by her omission from his third comic mystery, “This Private Plot,” which was published earlier this year. The only significant animal character in the book is a villainous ferret called Finsbury, but he’s the fictional creation of Alan’s amateur detective, a British children’s author.
“Leila’s the perfect dog for a writer,” says Alan, who writes business materials and non-fiction as well as mystery novels and short stories. “Her morning walk — ideally involving a romp on the beach — gives me time to think about the next scene, and then she sits quietly on the couch while I’m working, without interrupting. Which is more than can be said for my three sons when they get home from school.” (Alan has a tenth grader at Rye High School and an eighth grader and a sixth -grader in the Middle School.)
Leila was adopted as a puppy from Pet Rescue in Larchmont. She’s a proud mutt (once dubbed a “Westchester terrier” by Alan’s friend John Mayo-Smith), with an off-white coat, a pink nose, a lifelong passion for tennis balls, and an affinity for jumping into snow banks or wallowing in the Sound on a freezing winter morning. An early DNA test came up with traces of Japanese Akita — hence the pink nose — Chow Chow, and Shar-Pei. “According to a 2012 National Geographic article,” notes Alan, “these three breeds are still substantially wolf.”
Fortunately, Leila has proved a menace only to the squirrel and chipmunk population of Rye, and although she’s often boisterous, she’s gentle and affectionate with the family and with other neighborhood kids.
“This Private Plot” (available at Arcade Books, of course) was written while Alan was an active member of Maureen Amaturo’s influential Sound Shore Writers Group, and he credits group members for helping him sharpen the manuscript. So will Leila be making her fictional debut any time soon?
“There’s actually a sub-genre of crime fiction called the ‘furry mystery,’ in which the detective is a dog or a cat,” reports Alan, whose presentations on mystery writing have included regular workshops for would-be authors from local high schools. “But I don’t think Leila has the attention span to be a sleuth. In my next mystery, the scene shifts from England to New York — 31 years after I made the same move. So perhaps there’ll be a small role for a Westchester terrier.”
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