...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Imogene Duckworthy’s Animals

by Kaye George

Immy lives in Texas, near the panhandle, so she’s surrounded by cattle. In the first book, CHOKE, she doesn’t have any pets. Clem, the cook at the diner, does have an overweight, tawny cat. It makes an appearance near the end of the story.

However, Immy’s daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, nicknamed Drew, gets a potbellied pig for her birthday at the very beginning of SMOKE. Immy insists she doesn’t like pigs, all the way to the pig breeder’s place, Amy’s Swine. However, when the pure white piglet with the china blue eyes gazes up at her, she falls in love. How can people not love potbelly pigs?

I have some experience with the regular kind, good and bad. There’s a black and white picture in a box somewhere of my dad, as a young boy, astride a large hog. It was his pet pig and they were good buddies. I imagine it was “used” one day, but not for several years.

I didn’t put my worst pig experience into the book, but maybe I’ll use it somewhere someday. My uncle was a hog farmer in Illinois and they lived just outside Alpha (the setting for EINE KLEINE MURDER by some off coincidence). Their middle daughter, Mary, was a bit older than me and we were cousin-friends. I spent a week at their house in the summer and Mary spent a week at mine. We both had sleepless first nights for the visits. I was awakened by the grunting of the hogs in the pens just across the road and their rooster didn’t really pay attention to when the sun was up or down either, just went off whenever. Mary slept through all of that.

When she came to my house, she woke up every time a train went by at the bottom of the hill, or a siren wailed in the night. I never noticed those, of course, or the traffic noises or honking horns.

One day, at my uncle’s farm, a sow had just had a litter of piglets. They were absolutely adorable. So my uncle asked if I’d like to hold one. Of course! I didn’t know what that involved, or I wouldn’t have been so eager. My uncle lifted Mary and me into the wooden wagon in the middle of the pig sty. Then he, timing it just right, snatched a piglet and ran like the wind to hop onto the wagon. The mother sow was quick to race after him. The little piglet was squealing loudly. The mother sow was butting her head, backed by her substantial weight, again the wheel and rocking the wagon like crazy. I was terrified.

My uncle handed the piglet to Mary first. She smiled and held it a moment, then gave the wiggling, squalling thing to me. Horrified, and afraid the wagon would tip over and we would all be attacked by a large, angry pig, I thrust it over the edge of the wagon and it landed next to the sow. We had to wait a long time for her to calm down before we could climb out of the wagon, across the sty, and over the fence.

Anyway, there are other pigs in SMOKE, all of them very nice, and a bull who is not nice. Drew’s pig, Marshmallow, is featured further in the third of the series, BROKE. He’s turning out to be a very smart and likeable fellow. I’m thinking of putting a goat into STROKE, which isn’t finished yet. Maybe a miniature one? They’re awfully cute - check this out.


Kaye George, Agatha-nominated mystery writer, writes several series: Imogene Duckworthy, Cressa Carraway (Barking Rain Press), People of the Wind (Untreed Reads), and, as Janet Cantrell, Fat Cat debuting in September (Berkley Prime Crime). Her short stories appear in anthologies and magazines as well as her own collection, A Patchwork of Stories. Her reviews run in Suspense Magazine. She lives in Knoxville, TN.


  1. I suspected there was some real experience with pigs to your background, Kaye. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. One of my cousins, Mary's older sister, is hog-crazy. She collects pig figures and knows every breed. She gets upset when a Berkshire is mistaken for a Hampshire (or something like that). I loved spending time at the hog farm in the summer. One thing I never got used to was the smell!

  3. What a funny story. I think our past experiences do influence our writing and make them believable! Thanks for sharing this!