It’s the summer of 1964 and the Supremes are the reigning queens of radio. Sheryl-Anne MacRae dreams of running away from her home on an apple orchard in southwestern Ontario to find her missing mother. But the teenager’s plans are put on hold when her uncle and guardian, Fergus, the local pharmacist and an amateur photographer, brings home a handsome young hitchhiker. When Sheryl-Anne meets the guitar-toting Peter Lucas Angelo, she falls in love. But life in Eden Valley is not as idyllic as it seems. As the summer progresses, Peter is pulled deeper into Fergus’s dangerous underworld—a world of sex, drugs, pornography and apocalyptic visions. Through the naïve eyes of the ethereal 14-year old Sheryl-Anne, Kelly Watt explores themes of child abuse and sexual deviance, and the secrets, dissociation and denial that allow it to flourish. A Gothic tale told in vivid, often hallucinogenic prose, Mad Dog was a 2001 Globe and Mail notable book and Watt’s first novel.
|Publisher:||Hamilton Stone Editions|
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)|
About the Author
Kelly Watt has studied literature and writing in Canada, California, France and India. She has written for magazines, film and television, and worked as a publishers’ representative for The Literary Press Group. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in several national literary magazines. Mad Dog is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Nauta agricolae cancrum dat; agricola, malum nautae.
(The sailor gives the farmer a crab; the farmer [gives] the sailor an apple.)
The first time Sheryl-Anne saw Peter Angelo was in the summer of 1964. The Summer of Freedom and race riots, the summer everyone argued about the maple leaf. That summer Sheryl-Anne MacRae was fourteen.
He arrived one hot afternoon in July, while she was lying in her favourite tree, listening to Motor City’s Motown Hour. All day long the cicadas had been whining in the heat. Sheryl had dozed off momentarily and dreamed, awakening to Dr. Beat crooning into her ear: Now here’s a witty ditty from our favourite high school girls from across the border ... and Diana Ross, the queen of all girls that summer had come on singing “When the Lovelight Starts Shining in his Eyes.”
Then her uncle’s Pontiac came up the drive. Sheryl hung her transistor on a branch and pressed the binoculars to her eyes. The orchard zoomed into view along with the weathered cedar grey barn and the gardening shed with its metal corrugated roof, where her eleven-year-old cousin Joshua crouched in the dirt playing war, mimicking explosions and gunfire. Sheryl could see the Victorian house with its steep gables and gingerbread trim, its wide white veranda with the rickety porch swing and frowning gargoyle of the god of the wind.
Sheryl watched her Uncle Fergus get out of the car, then the passenger door opened and out stepped a young man. He carried a guitar and stood nodding his head like one of those crushed-velvet dogs in the back windows of cars. He was blond and willowy. He had a red bandana tied around his neck, worn the way cowboys did in Westerns. He took it off and mopped his face as if surveying the future writ large in the landscape in front of him.
Dr. Beat introduced a gospel tune by Ray Charles, the brother who touches all our hearts, who was blind, and therefore, in Sheryl’s mind, somehow closer to God. The background singers broke into a harmony that sounded like a heavenly choir, and Sheryl thought to herself that she was dreaming, surely she was daydreaming again.
Through the binoculars she could see the boy looking around, smiling and showing all his teeth in a grin that said he couldn’t believe his good fortune. Sheryl saw the valley too for a moment through his eyes: the purple-singed hills and the blue craggy face of the escarpment, the green-drenched orchards and the silent trees in orderly rows like obedient children lining up outside in the schoolyard.
He moved, walking over to the front window of the Bonneville and then a strange thing happened. He leaned a shoulder onto the hot car, and the sun tilted off the chrome and showered his golden head with a sudden blinding metallic halo. Sheryl felt her heart beat in her throat. A wind came up, sneaking through the collar and arm holes of his white shirt and filled the cloth like a sail, and the sleeves billowed with light behind him. In a moment he moved away and was just a boy again but she already knew that everything was about to change in her life. And she got down from her perch and flew down the hill like the wind to meet him.
Peter Angelo, this here is our niece, Sheryl-Anne, her Uncle Fergus said introducing her, and the young man grinned.
Sheryl stared at him, her dark head cocked to one side, one hand idly scratching a mosquito bite. He had a small girl’s nose, thick dirty-blond hair, a little bit of stubble on his chin. He was older than Sheryl, but he wasn’t too tall and still boyish looking. His eyes were hazel with little flecks like small blue fish swimming in them. At first glance he looked a bit rough, but then he smiled and his face lit up and he was beautiful.
Pete here was just hitchhiking to Toronto when I gave him a lift, her uncle said. Looks like he’s going to stay with us for a few days, maybe help out a little.
Sheryl stood drawing circles with the toe of her sneaker in the dirt. Something was not quite right. It was too quiet, and all at once she knew why. Their dog Lupus was silent. On any other day he would be hoarse by now, but there was nothing. No barking. No rustle of the chain.
The screen door whined and Sheryl’s Auntie Eleanor called her in to help with dinner.
Nice to meet you, Sheryl said, and smiled shyly.
At supper later there were introductions all round, hands offered and shaken, names traded and repeated out loud, ample smiling with lots of teeth showing. In the kitchen Sheryl’s Auntie Eleanor had laid out a big country spread with a ham casserole, Paul Newman’s favourite, mashed potatoes with gravy, waxed beans and baby carrots. There were candles on the table and hors d’oeuvres like they had only at Christmas. Eleanor fussed about the kitchen, glamorous in a shiny blue shirtwaist, trilling, Welcome, welcome, seat yourself, in her special party voice, wiggling her hips and humming along to CFRB, bossing Sheryl around, who rolled her eyes but did as she was told, passing around a plate of little blocks of ham and pineapple on toothpicks, saying: Cigars, cigarettes.
Peter Angelo seated himself where Eleanor indicated and sat looking around the kitchen, taking in the yellow-flowered wallpaper, the sparkly silver faucets, the white counter and endless family photographs that checkered the walls.
At the head of the table sat Sheryl’s uncle, Fergus MacRae, his hair jet black and Brylcreem slick, his large blue eyes magnified by Coke bottle glasses. He sat smoking, his hors d’oeuvres untouched, long lanky legs crossed.
Peter here is from Sault Ste. Marie where his father has an automobile repair business, Fergus said. He pronounced it otto-mow-beal, making it sound like the Rolls-Royce of garages.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kelly Watt’s Mad Dog views the idyllic apple orchards of Ontario through the eyes of a lonely fourteen-year-old protagonist who veers between obedient and rebellious as the long hot summer draws on. Her mother disappeared long ago and Sheryl-Ann lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin on a family farm, surrounded by family and isolated from the world. They go to church together on Sundays. They're considered standoffish and odd, but they're part of the community. And in term time Sheryl goes to school and knows other girls seem different. But in summer… This summer her larger-than-life uncle “adopts” a teen musician, a runaway dreaming of greatness. The story of Sheryl’s growing attachment to Peter plays over a background of music, blossom and bees. Everyone works together in the orchards. The dog barks. Everyone relaxes together in the evenings. And Sheryl dreams. A haunting sense of wrongness lies behind the countryside peace of Kelly Watt’s novel. Readers are drawn in as surely as young Peter, happy to belong and delighting in the author’s evocative prose. But something else is going on, and no-one's talking about it. As summer falls to September, the reader hunts for clues. The truth is unexpected in this tale, as is the dog of the title. Good and evil, myth and madness, horror and beauty combine. And the story is one that will stick in the reader’s mind. A girl who knows too much. A friend who knows too little. And a truth too little told… Disclosure: I was given a copy of this novel and I freely offer my honest review. I love it (and I’m terrified by it!)