CBR# 12 – Encyclopedia Brown Your Pants

Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig

For the longest time, I was afraid of dogs.  I got bit when I was younger and since then fear permeated.  Which resulted in one of two things happening.  People’s dogs would sense my fear and growl and snap at me — usually for the first time ever — or the dogs would be super herd-y and actually press themselves to me to protect me.  Which scared me worse.  But in the ultimate show of commitment to my fiancee, in lieu of a ring, we purchased an engagement puppy.  Which we’ve now had for four years.  He’s kind of an asshole.  He’s protective and he grows at people.  I have to be on constant alert.  He’s territorial over my fiancee who he’s obsessed with.  He’ll growl at me and try to put himself between us if he’s feeling grumpy.  I’ve had to jam my fingers in his mouth.  He’s bitten me, not deep enough to break skin, but a good amount.  Sometimes I have to take care of him alone.  But I’m in love with him.

Which is why Bait Dog was such a heart-wrenching book to read.  There are people who can’t read books or see films with violence against animals.  It’s a trigger response.  Same with people who read about rape or sexual assault.  I think that’s limiting,but I also wouldn’t want the trauma so I understand.  But Bait Dog fucked me up.  Punch Chuck Wendig in the face fucked me up.

It’s the first full novel of Atlanta Burns, who I like to describe as Encyclopedia Brown if he was a girl who made you actually shit your pants.  She’s a tough as nails motherfucker, brooks no nonsense and has to put up with some shit.  She fights with her wits as often as with weaponry, and that’s what makes her admirable.  What makes her remarkable is the horrid skeleton she has to carry on her shoulders from the trauma visited on her that earned her her reputation.  She blew off her mother’s boyfriend’s testicles when he attempted to rape her.  A horrible thing for anyone, and worse for a girl that young.  And she carries the deep cuts that resonate throughout the story.

Bait Dog deals with a few deaths that I can’t reveal.  It also deals with a dog-fighting ring.  The story itself is a bit herky-jerky, it definitely feels like Wendig-Hitting-His-Stride rather than Full-Force-Wendig.  That’s not to say it’s not good or amateurish, it’s just a writer in the early days of his craft.  He’s got a new Atlanta Burns coming out, and that I look forward to with so much anticipation. But yeah, Bait Dog is still brutal enough to kick you right in your feels with a steel toed boot.

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