Year of the Dogman
by Frank Holes, Jr.
Teacher’s Comments: A good yarn about a scary Northern Michigan legend.
I’ll say this at the outset: Year of the Dogman has absolutely nothing to do with golf.
But because it’s about Northern Michigan, and written by a Northern Michigan native, I’ll give it a place on these pages. The book also manages to converge with several of my other interests, including horror literature (I was born Halloween night), and cryptozoology (think Bigfoot, Nessie, and other strange and as yet undiscovered animals).
I found Year of the Dogman at the Goldenrod store in Indian River during their nighttime winter festival last year. Author Frank Holes was sitting in a chair behind a stack of books, offering to sign one for buyers. I mentioned to Mrs. Golfblogger that I might like to read about the Dogman some time, so she went back in and bought a copy for Christmas.
Year of the Dogman thus became one of the vast pile of books that I get at the holidays, and I put it on a shelf where I promptly forgot about it.
Then I saw a History Channel Monster Quest episode on the Wisconsin-Michigan Dogman. I remembered the book and moved it to the head of the queue.
Year of the Dogman is a good read. With it’s theme of an ancient horror visited on a small, relatively isolated town, it reminds me in many ways of a Stephen King story (although thankfully the plot develops and comes to a resolution much more quickly).
The novel actually begins in 1707, when a group of fur traders on the northern Michigan lakes unwittingly release an evil Native American spirit. It then leaps forward to 2007, when the beast returns for unknown reasons.
Actually, though, the reasons are not so opaque. It’s pretty clear why the Dogman is prowling about, and that’s my primary criticism of the work: there’s just not a whole lot of suspense. The key questions are: who does the beast get, and how is it stopped. But that still leaves plenty of room for action, mayhem and scary moments.
In that sense, it would be better to compare Dogman to Benchley’s Jaws than to anything by King. It’s even more apt because one of the key characters is a local lawman.
One of the best parts of the book is the subplot that centers around the investigation of the Dogman by the crew of a cable tv series called America’s Myths and Legends. I found that pretty funny, considering that it was an episode of Monster Quest that led me back to the novel.
As explained by Monster Quest, the Michigan (and Wisconsin) Dogman is a creature that has been part of local folklore for some time. Holes does a good job of turning it into a solid story.
Because a search of Amazon turned up no other works by Frank Holes, I assume that this is his first literary effort. If that’s the case, then he has done himself proud. Year of the Dogman is written in a nice, straighforward and clean style. The characters are believable, as is the setting (not surprising, considering that the author is writing about his home turf).
This is the work of an author with some talent, not a hack with a vanity press account (although, it indeed was published by a vanity press).
I’ll pay two more complements to the author.
The first is that I can easily see Year of the Dogman becoming a major motion picture. In terms of plot, characters and setting, it’s head and shoulders above much of the horror that hits the silver screen these days. It would have the added cache of being about an “actual,” “historical” monster, not something of pure fiction.
The second is that I am eagerly awaiting his promised second novel, which also has a Northern Michigan setting: The Light.