Review: Dash & Dingo: In Search of the Tasmanian Tiger by Catt Ford & Sean Kennedy

Stodgy British archivist Henry Percival-Smythe slaves away in the dusty basement of Ealing College in 1934, the only bright spot in his life his obsession with a strange Australian mammal, the thylacine. It has been hunted to the edge of extinction, and Henry would love nothing more than to help the rare creature survive.

Then a human whirlwind spins through his door. Jack “Dingo” Chambers is also on the hunt for the so-called “Tasmanian Tiger,” although his reasons are far more altruistic. Banding together, Dingo and the newly nicknamed Dash travel halfway around the globe in their quest to save the thylacine from becoming a footnote in the pages of biological history.

While they search high and low, traverse the wilds, and fight the deadliest of all creatures—man—Dash and Dingo will face danger and discover another fierce passion within themselves: a desire for each other.

Review by Erastes

I don’t like reading at my PC much, and I often start an ebook for SIN with a feeling of dread- especially when one is – like Dash and Dingo – over 300 pages.  But I was immediately pleasantly surprised by being drawn in, and it was not until my eyes started to get tired that I realised I was 100 pages in and enjoying myself immensely.

Let me just comment on the cover. It’s great. There’s no two ways about it.  So what that it doesn’t yell “gay romance”?  A woman holding an apple doesn’t scream Vampire Romance either. It’s a good cover and for my money, one I’m more than happy to put on my shelf, read it on the bus.

I’ve been discussing recently with other gay fiction authors and we often say that what seems to be missing is “adventures with gay protagonists” rather than books just concentrating on the romance.  This certainly fits the adventure bill – it’s a real boy’s own adventure, a Saturday morning film-club book, a delicious blend of gay romance, Rider Haggard and Indiana Jones with a fair smattering of humour thrown in.

In an netshell Henry (Dash) Percival-Smythe is a stuffy professor who’s never been on a field trip, who is whisked off to the Antipodes by brash typical ocker Aussie. Romance and adventure ensues.

Sean Kennedy is a true-blue Aussie, I believe, and that shows.  Dingo may be a little bit of a stereotype, but he’s a stereotype that does exist, as real-life characters such as Steve Irwin ably prove.  I love the way Dingo takes the piss out of everything and everyone, from the head of Henry’s department–calling him Lardarse–to moaning about the warm English beer.

Dash, too, is priceless.  Stuffy stiff upper lip professor one minute, over-excited public schoolboy the next.

The authors don’t skimp on detail just to skip ahead–the men need to get from England to Australia, and research has gone into doing this feat in the 1930’s. It was still primarily a sea voyage, and flying wasn’t the direct connect it is today.  Too many books don’t take this kind of thing into consideration, having horses travel 100 miles a day or a train travel a thousand.  Remember Kevin Costner’s famous boast that he could walk from Dover to Nottingham in a day?  Well this book doesn’t do that.

Similarly there’s no rush with the plot.  Because this is “proper novel size” (300 or so pages) the plot is not rushed at all, nor is the romantic entanglement.  Time is spent getting to know Dingo’s family, all well written, and reminding me of a mixture of Kath and Kin bred with The Sullivans, and all of it “proper” Aussie.  So many gay romances have the characters thinking only with their cocks from the moment they spy their soon-to-be partner, and we are spared this, and we are given time as the plot unwinds.

One thing I really appreciated was the imperfect sex–God alone knows there’s enough mutually switching studs with simultaneous ejeculations, and they never ever come too soon. Bravo to this book for having sexually deprived men behave like they probably would.

Once or twice I had the impression of being thumped over the head with too many facts a la Dan Brown style, and a few facts proved to be wrong – but they won’t spoil the experience, not unless you are nitpicky like me (and I only looked this stuff up because the facts were presented.)

A couple of general things niggled at me, being English: Scotch whisky spelled with an e,  the ubiquitous ‘gotten’,  mentions of sidewalks,  and Henry’s father being called James Percival-Smythe III which is a rather American way of naming people, but nothing I couldn’t gloss over in the sheer fun of reading about these people. But perhaps to make a note that next time a Britpicking is clearly needed.  There was also a propensity for beginning paragraphs with a name, which I hope the writers can root out in future collaborations, as it’s an easy vice to fall into.  There are one of two places where the POV wobbles too, we seem to start a new scene in one POV and it turns out not to be so.

But there are some really nice touches, a strainer for the tea for example. A tiny thing, but a detail that proves the writer is thinking about that they put on the page.  And with any good collaboration–Jamie Craig being another excellent example–it’s impossible to tell who wrote which part.

Anyone who loves Rider Haggard, Crocodile Dundee or Indiana Jones will have a blast with this book. Anyone who doesn’t know the sad history of the thylacine will find this a fascinating and instructive read; (personally, I don’t think the Tasmanian Tiger is extinct–there have been sightings, and even films of this amazing creature, and I’m sure we’ll see it again.)     And I also hope very much that we see Dash and Dingo again, because for my money they’ve leapt right to the forefront of gay adventure/romance fame.  No, it’s not perfect, but it’s a bloody great try and I didn’t want it to end, and that bumps it up from a 4½ star to a five.

I couldn’t find much of a web presence for either Sean Kennedy or Catt Ford, but I did find an interview over at Jessewave’s Blog where they discuss the business of collaborative writing.

Amazon UK Amazon USA Kindle Dreamspinner: ebook paperback


6 Responses

  1. This one is definitely on my radar for next year. I love Australian characters actually. They’re especially fun in the mix with people who are a bit stuffier and more formal. They shake things up!

    And imperfect sex! Excellent! For one think that would presumably keep the sex scenes from getting too samey and it’s just more, well, human, I suppose.

  2. Erastes

    I loved, loved, loved this book, especially the end which is really the start of their next adventure. I believe tehy are writing book 2 right now. Great collaboration!

    “I couldn’t find much of a web presence for either Sean Kennedy or Catt Ford”

    Re your comment above, I interviewed Sean Kennedy a couple of months ago here

  3. Great review, Erastes. Thanks for this. Dash and Dingo are definitely going on to my TBR pile.


  4. I’m putting in an order for this one. I’m Australian and it’s a nice to see an AUSSIE GAY HISTORICAL.

    I didn’t think they existed !! Makes me feel all patriotic.

    (Although I do wish, Erastes, that you had NOT mentioned Steve Irwin. Oh, God, I hope I do not think of him when I am reading it.)

  5. Wow, thanks Erastes, for the excellent review! We’re glad it struck a chord, because we really wanted it to be a gay adventure, but not one where being gay was the be all and end all. I’m racking my brain to think where ‘sidewalk’ may have slipped in, because it’s something I pick up on as well as we don’t use the word either, but these things happen. I almost let the book go to print before my brain kicked into gear and remembered the metric system didn’t come into Australia until the sixties.

    Something Catt and I worked really hard on was having a ‘consistent’ voice. We are very alike in the way we think anyway, but we constantly rewrote, and added stuff to each others scenes, so I think that helped in giving that consistency.

    And we are working on #2 at the moment, it has the inglorious working title of “Dash and Dingo: The Sword of Something Something”!

  6. JFM, imperfect sex happens a lot, so of course it should happen in books! 😉

    Wave, you’re always a constant supporter – thank you!

    Leslie, hope you enjoy it!

    Brigid, fellow Aussies unite! Dingo is cheeky but is also flawed, I hope that you are able to exorcise the thought of Steve from your brain 😉

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