Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Baggage in Jack Russell

Baggage in Jack Russell: Baggage Handling Post 2


The Jack Russell series ran to twelve books. It covered a couple of fictional years and accumulated quite a bit of baggage. The first book introduced our hero, Jack Russell, his human landlord Sarge, Sarge's aunt, Auntie Tidge, Caterina Smith, her dog Lord Red, the Squekes and  Foxie the street dog. 
Book 2, The Phantom Mudder, saw the introduction of Shuffle the Pug, Jill Russell, Gloria Smote and her mini dachshund Polly. Everyone from Book One reappeared. These constituted the core characters for a while, but later Ralf Boxer the fierce chihuahua turned up in Book 4 and little Preacher in Book 7. 
All these characters brought in baggage. Since the Jack books are short (all twelve together comprise about 80,000 words) the baggage had to be kept under control. Thus Polly is sharp-natured and sharp-nosed, Lord Red is modelled on George from Black Adder, and Ralf is frightened of nothing (except the rooster). The three squekes share a plastic chop which they play with. These bits of baggage build and recur from book to book, but they may be a focus or simply a throw-away mention. The thing is, we had to remember they existed. 
    Obviously not all the characters could be actively involved in every plot. If Polly wasn't in a story well and good; Jack and Foxie just hadn't encountered her for a few days. If Lord Red wasn't there, that had to be accounted for, because Lord Red was always slipping away from Caterina Smith and coming to see what Jack was doing. We put Sarge in hospital once, and sent Caterina and Red off on holiday. If a major character wasn't there, and if a major bit of baggage (such as Jack's squeaker bone) wasn't used, then its absence had to be accounted for. 
   One way of dealing with the accumulation of baggage in a long series is to have guest stars. Examples in the Jack series are the Awful Pawful who appears in Book 5 and then makes a return visit in Book 8, the Blue Stealer, from Book 10, Inspector Jacques from Book 11 and High Heels from Book 2.  These characters appear in one (or two) books each. They may be mentioned again, in retrospect, and the baggage they add will be remembered. 
   However (and this is important in Baggage Handling) their absence from subsequent books does NOT have to be accounted for, because they don't live in Doggeroo. High Heels is married to a visiting dog show judge. The Awful Pawful lives some distance away and pops up in Doggeroo twice- more or less through accident or mishap. The Blue Stealer belongs to an itinerant who moves in and then moves out. Inspector Jacques and his master arrive on the trail of a stolen painting and then return whence they came. Their eventful visits are remembered, but not necessarily mentioned much, if at all, because their baggage isn't ongoing. 

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