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  • Chicago Writers’ Association

    Book Review: The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable

     

    The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable. J. Daniel Reed, Terra 3 Communications LLC, November 15, 2021. Paperback and eBook, 220 pages.

     

    Reviewed by Lisa Lickel.

    J. Daniel Reed’s fantasy tale of The First Wolf Pack draws the reader into an imaginary world of two mighty predators who must decide to survive together or fight to the death.

    When an accidental hunting convergence brings two of the greatest ancient wolves into mortal combat, they realize they are so equally matched that they must use their great intelligence to seek a common goal: survival. Versa and Arn begin to care for each other. Together, they derive an ethic called the Wolf Ways.

    Told in the manner of the great sagas, the narrator, a contemporary dog named Bingley, reveals the secret of contemporary dog heritage through Versa and Arn’s story. Bingley’s tale is filled with lofty wisdom and bits of advice on how to be a family; not just any family but the best at parenting, the best at sharing the role of an alpha couple in a pack, the best at finding nutritious food and cooperation—the first Wolf Way.

    Versa and Arn are notably the first at many things, including digging an inground den to raise their first litter. As the family grows into the First Pack, Versa and Arn form the first wolf council, the Magnificent Ones, and establish the first Wolf Utterance. Soon the offspring grow toward maturity and ponder their parents’ ways. Why do they prosper and live in a pack and work together and not fight like the lone wolves?

    When an intruder assimilates into the alpha family, they teach him their ways, leading to harsh consequences. Eventually, other lone wolves outside the First Pack hatch a plot to attack, and the scattered family packs reunite, hoping initially to make peace and teach the others the Wolf Ways.

    The story occasionally lapses into buzzable page-turning moments, such as when Versa turns to Arn and asks, “Are you as amazed at this crazy, unique life we created? There are no lone wolves who live like we or that know what we know.”

    When Tria is suffering from her turmoil, it takes her father to remind her of her greatness and uniqueness and why she’s driven: “Only you, daughter, share our genes, strength, and cleverness,” he tells her, “and only you can teach the wolf ways.” The advice changes his daughter’s heart, much like taking a Dale Carnegie class, the narrator explains.

    The author has created an epic saga of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or other Norse legends of old, even faintly reminiscent of Eden and the first humans. We learn how humans and wolves intertwine. Those who love poring over those tales will thoroughly enjoy The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable.

  • One of the most enjoyable (but challenging!) aspects of writing fiction is the development of each character—their names, their behavioral traits, and the nuances of each character’s personality. I have been asked if any of the characters in The First Wolf Pack were modelled after real people and I can honestly answer both yes and no. The characters are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt.  After you have read the book, I’d love to know who was your favorite character and why.

    Get to Know the Wolves of The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable

    -Arn and Versa:  the first Magnificent Ones who establish The First Wolf Pack

    -Tria:  the one who must overcome her viciousness and emotional flaws to become the greatest wolf that ever lived, and in the process, saves her species from extinction

    -Jett:  Tria’s “twin” brother who is her equal in size and strength, but with calmness of heart

    -Fic:  the wolf who sees into the hearts of wolves and men and saves Tria from insanity

    -Bord and Casso:  emaciated orphan wolves adopted into The First Wolf Pack who are willing to risk their lives for their newfound pack

    -Barr:  the only wolf great enough for Tria

    -Ellip:  the beautiful, clever, smart aleck bitch who steals Jett’s heart

    -Ket the Elder:  the most evil and cunning of lone wolves who seeks to destroy The First Wolf Pack

    -Bingley:  the modern Airedale Terrier dog who is granted the right to speak human by the great wolf spirit and narrates the story—hence it is subtitled “a dog’s fable”

  • How did you get interested in fiction writing?

    It had impetus from two sources. The first source was the story about two ancient wolves I made up on a long car ride to entertain my wife. It was entertaining enough that she suggested I jot down some notes, which lay dormant for several years. The second thing that stimulated my interest was hearing an interview with Dean Koontz. I was impressed by his keen view on life and his love of writing fiction. I then took the opportunity to read some of his books during commercial airline flights while traveling on business.

    What interesting facts did you learn about history, wolves, or other topics from your research for the book?

    • The history of the Lupa, the Capitoline Wolf, which dates back to 295 BC.
    • Wolves’ sensory ability to smell while inhaling and exhaling.
    • I was surprised by the approximate 10% genetic variation between wolf and dog; I thought the difference would be less.
    • The geological dynamics of the subduction zone around The Bay of Naples.

    Where did you get the idea for this book?

    The opening scene and the characters of Arn and Versa, including their names, came purely out of my imagination. A few years later a friend gave me an article that reported the earliest zooarchaeology evidence for the origin of wolves was from Italy. Once I matched my ancient wolf characters to Italy, adapting the legend of Romulus and Remus followed.

    Are any of the characters based on real people?

    Yes and no. Other than the historical characters who are obvious, my anthropomorphized wolves are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt. 

    Which character(s) were the most fun to write about?

    That is a very hard question to answer. I love all of the members of The First Wolf Pack. If I had to pick one, I’d pick two—Arn and Tria. They each had the most psychologically-complex personalities, especially their recoveries from selfishness and ignorance.

    What is the central message of this book?

    The main message is the importance of humility to achieve courage and find fulfilment; plus the overall benefit of the immutable virtues of the Wolf Ways to maximize the success of family and community.

    What would you like readers to learn from this book?

    I hope that readers might contemplate where and when they see God in nature. Also, wolves are intelligent, regal creatures with a highly-effective social structure. The characteristics they exhibit in the story encourage us all to work together in a cooperative mindset.

    Do you have any new books in the works?

    Yes, I am focused on writing one book right now about prejudice and redemption in depression-era  Chicago. I have another set of ideas on the drawing board, but it’s too soon to speak of it.