Thursday, April 19, 2018

Who likes a good mystery?

If I were asked to confine my reading to only one genre, I’d be forced to choose mystery. I read other genres but return again and again to mysteries. Possibly my all-time favorite mystery writer is Robert B. Parker.

His first mystery, written in 1973, was “The Godwulf Manuscript.” Thus began the Spenser series, which stretched to 41.5 books before Parker’s death in 2010.  Why 41.5?  Because his long-time editor finished “Silent Night,” the book Parker was working on when he died at his typewriter. Since then, Ace Atkins has continued the series.

Spenser is a Boston PI, who introduces himself as “Spenser, with an S, like the poet.” It’s not many hard-boiled PIs who are familiar with a sixteenth-century poet.  As an English major, I smiled each time I read his intro.  I think of Spenser as a renaissance man: a well-read gourmet cook who’s tough enough to handily wrestle bad guys. As the series progresses, the regular characters include Hawk, Susan Silverman—the girlfriend--and Pearl, the wonder dog.
Parker’s pithy writing style and Spenser’s way with words hooked me. I envied Spenser’s ability to come up with a fast, witty retort to anything thrown his way, and wished I could be as quick with a response to a snarky insult or question. I don’t know about you, but my responses always come to mind much later as “I should have said …”

In the 80s, I enjoyed the television series, “Spenser: for Hire” starring Robert Urich and years later the TV movies starring Joe Mantegna. My recommendation? Check out the books and then hit the films.

Parker didn’t stop with Spenser.  He went on to develop several other memorable characters, though they didn’t star in quite as many books.  First up was Jesse Stone in “Night Passage,” set in Paradise, Massachusetts, a small coastal town not far from Boston. Jesse is a flawed Los Angeles transplant who loses his job on the LA police force and is hired to be Police Chief in Paradise. I not only fell in love with the books but also the TV movies starring Tom Selleck.  What’s not to love about Tom Selleck? Parker wrote nine Jesse Stone novels, and upon his death, others continued the series.

Then, there’s Sunny Randall, who first appeared in 2000 in “Family Honor.” For me, the fact that Parker wrote only six of these books was a huge disappointment. Sunny quits the police force to become a PI, possibly because her ex-husband comes from a mob family. She has the same way with words that Spenser has plus a dog she shares with her ex. Parker wrote the first book for Helen Hunt, who was a fan of his other books, and there was a movie deal in the works. I’m sad to say the deal never came to fruition.

If you’re not a mystery fan, you may be interested in Parker’s Western series about Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, lawmen in a mining/ranching town. My husband got hooked on those, and the first book, “Appaloosa,” was made into a 2008 movie starring Ed Harris with Viggo Mortensen, RenĂ©e Zellweger, and Jeremy Irons.  Once again, another author picked up the series.

The fact that the Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch series were all continued by other authors and also wound up as TV shows or movies makes a statement about Parker’s popularity. All this reminiscing makes me want to run right out and pick up another Parker book.  What about you?

Kathy Manos Penn is a Georgia resident. Her latest book, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” and her collection of columns, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” are available on Amazon. Contact Kathy at                                                                                                                                                               

Thursday, April 12, 2018

DogSpeak: Reflections from Lord Banjo

Originally published in the Highlands Newspaper 4/12/18

Our Wacky Winter Weather
Lord Banjo Penn

Here in the Royal City of Atlanta, we endured a winter heat wave in early March. We broke a record when temps headed into the 70s and 80s. For some reason, the humans were happy about the weather and could be found frolicking in shorts and tank tops. Since I can’t unzip my fuzzy suit, warm weather is not my thing.

A brief rise into the low 80s may not seem all that hot, and at least it wasn’t humid, but consider this weather headline: “Warm Winter Bad News for Allergy Sufferers.” Why? Because the pollen count has reached the danger zone. Lord Banjo is allergic to quite a few things, and one of them is pollen.

The Royal Mum knew right away the pollen count was high, because she saw me rubbing my nose on my dog beds. I get itchy all over, not just on my nose, but all the way up and down my body. Unless I start my daily dose of allergy meds, I’ll soon be rubbing my royal body all along the side of Mum and Dad’s bed, and chewing and scratching. I hate those little pink pills, but I
guess it beats the hot spots I get without them.

I wonder whether my royal ancestors suffered the indignity of having pills shoved down their throats. I liked it much better when Mum packed my pills in peanut butter—that is, until she discovered I’m allergic to that too. Yup, I’m allergic to peanut butter, tuna, and potatoes. Have you any idea how many dog chews contain potato starch?

When it got a bit cooler, I briefly enjoyed lying in the sun while Mum and Dad worked in the yard, but I was ready to go back in long before they were. Dad made some uncomplimentary remarks about my manhood when I barked to go inside, but he doesn’t get it. I know my limits, and my shiny black coat was fast becoming dusty, a sure sign the itchies would follow. And itchies can lead to the dreaded hot spots.

I understand that humans don’t get the itchies. Instead, they sneeze, get watery eyes and even get sick. The Royal Dad starts with sneezing and then proceeds to get a sinus infection, though the Royal Mum seems immune to that affliction. Given the Royal Dad’s tendency to get sick, wouldn’t you think he’d have more sympathy for me with my skin allergies?

Perhaps this Royal Dog can banish pollen? If not, I think I’ll decree that all pills be buried in hamburgers or perhaps foie gras. Pills tucked in foie gras—now that’s the ticket.

Lord Banjo and his mum Kathy Manos Penn live in Georgia. Find similar stories in his book, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” available on Amazon. Contact him at

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring has Sprung

The Ink Penn Newsletter
April 2018
News from the Royal Abode
Lord Banjo and I took most of the winter off. To kick off Spring, the Royal Pooch combined a book signing with a bit of barhopping on Saint Simons Island. Many thanks to Island Dog for hosting us and to Brogen's for the cold beer and sweet potato fries we enjoyed on the top deck. It's your guess as to who had what.

His big news items?
  • He now has his own newspaper column for the Highlands Newspaper--DogSpeak: Reflections from Lord Banjo. Read his introductory column on my blog site, and sign up to receive new blogs via email.  
  • His coloring book comes out in early May. 
For those who've asked when Milord will write another book, today's answer is he's working on it and has plans to publish a sequel in 2019. From time to time his newfound celebrity status seems to go to his head, and it's difficult to get him to knuckle down to write book two.

Meanwhile, you can find The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday and Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch on Amazon.
Keeping up with Lord Banjo and the Royal Mum
Okay, okay, I know must of you are much more interested in Lord Banjo than you are in me, but there are several ways you can keep up with us both.
  1. For pics of my boy and a schedule of events, visit  Coming up:
    • 4/8 City Dog Market/Brookhaven/Ga
    • 4/21-22 Lemonade Days Festival/Dunwoody/GA
    • 5/12-13 Dunwoody Arts Festival
  2. Visit my Facebook Author Page, where I post whatever strikes my fancy: Lord Banjo's newspaper column, Lord Banjo's Favorite Quotes, and more. It may be my author page, but Milord gets more airtime than I do.
  3. Follow my Amazon Author Page or Goodreads Author Page to see my blogs and Lord Banjo's newspaper column.
  4. Last but not least, Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch has an Instagram account. "About time," he says.
Please  forward our newsletter to your friends.  That way, they can keep up with us too.
We're happy Spring has Sprung and hope you are too!
Write Lord Banjo and the Royal Mum, once known as Kathy Manos Penn, at, and stay up to date between newsletters by following us on Facebook or my Amazon Author Page.