Below is my original introduction to Duke Miller, a writer who earlier this year re-released a truly unforgettable collection of stories based on the years he spent working as an aid worker. The new edition contains sections from his other publication: Handbook for the Hopeless and is available for sale on Amazon.
Now readers, I did not sneak into his boudoir to get this shot. This is honest-to-God the picture Duke Miller sent me for this post which, since the title of his book includes “dog,” is supposed to prove that he actually does live with dogs – or at least sleep with them.
I met Duke in the author chat room on Booktrope’s (our publisher’s) internal web site in October 2013. It was a pretty dull place until he showed up. Nothing but tips on how to market your book, or meet and greets with other authors. He was so honest, so hilarious, so original I just had to check out his book on Wattpad.
WOW. He blew me away. So much so that I wrote a blurb for the back cover of his first edition, along with several other authors.
Here’s what I wrote: “If John Lennon had been an aid worker in the dark places of the world, this is the book he would have written. Duke Miller has the same brutal poet’s soul, which, combined with a dry wit and illuminating vision, should make this book an instant classic.”
But instead of going on my word, read his words for yourself. From the Prologue to LIVING AND DYING WITH DOGS.
“As I lay there, the rocks were grinding me into dust and then the title and voice of this book came to me. They were competing with my need to die properly at the base of the cliff, but I didn’t die. I crawled back up telling myself that I could make it as my dogs flew around me with dog capes fluttering in the air. I started writing in my mind that night in the hospital: blood for ink, air for pages, past for honesty. “Living and Dying with Dogs” is not a novel or a collection of short stories. It’s a lack of character study; a kind of long , sad poem written in constantly updating akashic sentences that have evolved into skins or life maps that hang in the closet of my heart. It’s about how I die. Paint by the numbers and with each pigment, you add what I was and what I am and maybe what I hope to be. The images are the people I left behind. I don’t want to take them with me into oblivion at the bottom of some new cliff just ahead. You take these emotions , these characters. If you don’t mind, let them loiter in your heart for a few days or longer. Most of them had a pretty rough time. They’d like that.
The voice you will be hearing bets on the dying, fiddles with autofellatio, smokes opium, takes amphetamines, brushes against pedophilia, leaves people for dead , drinks too much, says things he shouldn’t, aborts babies, disappoints lovers, kicks the dying, weeps uncontrollably , causes his tortured lover to go to jail, can’t sleep, lies, and looks upon orgasms as a sort of Sasquatch of the lower realms. But other than that, he’s a good guy and if you could sit with him over a beer or a joint , you’d probably like him. Think of him as a prehistoric creature, swishing his tail across the yellow grass of a savanna; oblivious to the world around him, but rising up like a primordial freeway sign pointing the way towards the unfinished off ramp. Which raises the ancient questions of this poem: Can a person care and not care at the same time? Why do good people do bad things? Why do bad people do good things?”