A new work of youth fiction, “Running the Dogs” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16 hardcover), by Thomas Cochran, comes dripping with family holiday warmth and a regional spice as true as sawmill gravy straight out of south Arkansas and north Louisiana.
In this 160-page adventure, set over the Christmas season, a young boy's simple holiday wish — to be allowed on his own to run his trio of Beagles at night in the deep piney woods — at times seems in peril.
Thomas Cochran, an English teacher at Fayetteville High School, and a native of Haynesville, La., has the experience pegged correctly. Cochran masterfully fills in readers with regionally turned phrases, evoking the sounds, smells and rural experience of living down gravel roads, listening to the sweet music of barking dogs and adapting the sage advice of grandparents without question. Cochran also connects to every Southern boy with through the magic of beloved childhood memories of canine companions. The simplicity of the dogs' chosen names, “Wink,” “Rags,” “Shorty,” “Boone” and the trio amply featured in the book of “LC,” “Claudia” and “Pete,” will bring memories of your own hound dogs now decades long gone flooding back.
Cochran holds a simple mastery of the regionalisms ranging from the Gulf Coast to the pine forests of Arkansas. “Running the Dogs” is a great selection for a young lad for the holidays. Or for a father or grandfather wishing for a good story of simpler times.