Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

Pogo—My Hero and My Favorite Possum

Hoo boy, this topic is a tough one for a bookie (that’s a foodie, only for books). Favorite hero? I love the strong, silent types like Henry Fonda or Armand de Montegue  in my Caribbean adventure, Whirlwind Romance, and the snarky, smart types like my hero Rancor Bass in The Pit and the Passion or Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I love heroes who are really competent, the best of the best—the ones you can count on, like Bruce Willis in the movie Red, or Ian Fleming’s James Bond, or Gideon Bliss in The Mason’s Mark.  I love those who are hard to reach, like Griffin Tate in the Penhallow Train Incident, or John Galt of Atlas Shrugged. Smoldering, brilliant, gruff.

Then there are the diffident, funny, introspective types. Jimmy Stewart in Harvey or…Pogo.

So…I’m going to have to go with Pogo as my favorite fictional hero.

Pogo is a cartoon character created by Walt Kelly in the 1940s. It was first published in 1948 in the New York Star and continued until Kelly’s death in 1973.

As Benito Cereno said in 2015 in Comics Alliance, “Walt Kelly was a poet of the nonsense school of Lewis Carroll and his mastery of wordplay is unmatched. His love of twisting language shows in the unique “swamp speak” of the animals of Okefenokee: a spell-binding admixture of genuine rural Southern dialect with a generous dollop of malapropism, naiveté, “human” foibles, and satiric wit.” http://comicsalliance.com/tribute-walt-kelly

Pogo & Albert

How do I describe Pogo? He’s a possum, first off. He lives in Okefenokee Swamp with his friends Albert the Alligator, Churchy La Femme, the turtle, Porky Pine, and assorted impish or oddball characters. Together, they opine on questions of politics, human relations, food, even careers, as they fish and laze in the hot Georgia sun. Pogo is kind, forgiving, loyal…and relentless in his logic. Always open to debate, he listens carefully to an argument, then fractures it in one sentence. But graciously.

Kelly himself (in a 1969 TV Guide interview) described Pogo as “the reasonable, patient, softhearted, naive, friendly person we all think we are.”

In this era of antagonism, even hostility of one group toward those who don’t share every single one of their views, I like to be reminded that it is possible for everyone to get along so long as they are patient, respectful, and above all, listen.

Examples from the wisdom of Pogo and his friends:

  • “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
  • “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”
  • Looking back on things, the view always improves.
  • The best break anybody ever gets is in bein’ alive in the first place. An’ you don’t unnerstan’ what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain’t gone be stuck with it forever, either.
  • Pogo: “Eventual Porky, I figger ev’ry critter’s heart’s in the right place.” Porky Pine: “If you gotta be wrong ’bout somthin’, that’s ’bout the best thing they is to be wrong ’bout.”
  • “I’ll tell you, son, the minority got us out-numbered!”Congersman Frog.
  • Porky Pine: “Y’know, ol’ Albert [the Alligator] leads a life of noisy desperation.
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Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

English Inspiration: Mary Stewart & Me

Mary Stewart

As a child I was a voracious reader—and have only slowed lately in order to keep my mind clear for my own murder mysteries (i.e., I can’t multitask). I read everything I could get my hands on—including some that were—in retrospect—inappropriate. Tom Jones and Brideshead Revisited went right over my head. Early favorites were the Oz books, Mary Poppins, and E. Nesbit’s tales of magical adventure. If a book was deemed a “classic” I’d go for it on the assumption that it wouldn’t be a classic if it weren’t good. Except for Dickens, to whom I’ve never cottoned, that rule usually held.

I particularly loved romantic suspense and mysteries, especially British ones—Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and the novels of Mary Stewart (1916-2014). In fact, in my interview for college, I tried to pretend I only read heavy tomes on historical subjects, but somehow the subject of Mary Stewart came up and the professor and I had a marvelous conversation. I learned a lesson about human nature that day. Be honest: everyone else is pretty much in the same boat.

I checked Amazon for a list of Stewart’s books and realized I read all but the last five of her romantic suspense novels plus the Merlin trilogy! From her first, Madam, Will You Talk (1957) to Touch Not the Cat (1976), I devoured them. Mostly set in Europe (Stewart was English), they usually feature an unsuspecting heroine who lands in a puzzling mystery. Along with adventure, you’re assured of a fine romance as well. Some of you may remember the movie The Moonspinners, starring Hayley Mills.

Loch Awe in Scotland

Something else I discovered: Mary Stewart lived on Loch Awe in Scotland—a place I remember fondly. It is a picturesque small loch west of Loch Lomond. The Hotel Ardanaseig—a beautiful 19th century castle—sits on one bank. Its guest quarters are in the Rose Cottage up the lane. We stayed there on the last leg of a trip I took with my family. Imagine my delight to discover that one of Stewart’s mysteries I hadn’t read was entitled Rose

Rose Cottage

Cottage! I finished it yesterday.

 

 

 

Stewart’s books inspired my current approach to writing a story more than any others. Like her, my heroines are feisty, my heroes clever and non-gooey, my settings exotic, and my mysteries cozy.

 

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