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May 20, 2010

The new book will begin heading out into the world as an ARC/ARE (advanced reader's copy or edition) at the end of May. By my calculations, the seventeen months between the hardcover publication of Life Sentences and I'd Know You Anywhere is one of the longest in my career. So I feel I should try to provide more fresh content here on the website, old-fashioned as it feels in these Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging times. And with each new essay, there will be a chance to win a copy of I'd Know You Anywhere. (You won't get it until August, but it will be a signed first edition.)

The first story I want to tell is about a dog in the book, named Reba. The dog is inspired by a story I wrote for The Sun in January 1996. A young man, allegedly high, took his dog for a walk -- with his car. Yes, he was driving and walking his dog at the same time. He was pulled over and his dog, a very handsome Chesapeake Bay retriever named Barkley, was featured in the newspaper and on the local news programs. Hundreds of people vied to adopt him. I felt bad for Barkley, too. But I knew there were hundreds of dogs in our city's shelters and I wondered -- why didn't all the people who wanted to adopt Barkley go ahead and choose another dog? Why are humans so driven by specifics, focusing on individual examples of a problem -- animal abuse, missing children, domestic violence -- and so lousy at the big picture?

During my research, I went to a local shelter where the manager confided in me that she was heartsick over a dog named Reba, whom no one wanted. This was a no-kill shelter, so Reba had caught a break, in a sense. But she had been there many months and she just didn't have any charisma. She was a hang-dog dog, shy and mopey. But so sweet, the manager told me.

So what did I do? When I put in the photo request for the story, I included detailed instructions that asked that the photographer make sure he got Reba's picture. I claimed she was central to my story, although she really wasn't. Why? Because I suspected the very human tendency I was criticizing would work to Reba's benefit. I would put her in the paper, featuring her in a story about how people always respond to specific appeals, and that would increase her odds of being adopted. Did that make me a grade-A hypocrite? Or just incredibly manipulative?

At any rate, Reba was adopted within days after the article appeared. So if that's what a little hypocrisy can do, I have no apologies.

I'd Know You Anywhere has a shelter dog named Reba. It also has a main character who knows the pitfall of being the single face associated with a notorious story. Eliza Benedict has, finally, managed to evade her past. Or so she thinks. Then one day, a letter arrives. I saw your photo in a magazine. I'd know you anywhere.

Want to be considered for a free copy of I'd Know You Anywhere? Enter a random drawing by going to The Memory Project or the Laura Lippman page on Facebook and finishing this sentence: "If I had a dog, I'd name him/her --" Or, if you prefer, you can finish this sentence: "The best pet I ever had was -"

Originality encouraged, although not necessarily rewarded. The name of every entrant will be thrown into a hat or a bowl. If your name is picked, you get a free signed copy of I'd Know You Anywhere.

Meanwhile, here's a fun link to a story about a NOT lost dog who also generated a lot of attention and interest.

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