Best-selling author Susan Orlean keeps expecting someone to drop off a German shepherd dog at one of her readings any day now.
“I keep assuming someone will show up with one,” she laughs. “But so far, no dog.”
It would be a fitting gift for Orlean. After all, she is the mastermind behind the definitive new book about the most famous German shepherd dog of all time, Rin Tin Tin.
And it wasn’t just because she was a dog person that she decided to spend 10 years of her life researching and writing “Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend.”
“What took it from just being an afternoon spent goofing around on Google to a book was the complexity of the story,” she notes. “Of course, Rinty was a dog, and that made it irresistible. But the thing that really made it for me was sometimes the more you research, the more things become small and familiar. Here, it was just the opposite. The more I learned, the more it grew and it just became a bigger and bigger story.”
Orlean’s account of Rin Tin Tin — the world’s first canine film star and, arguably, the most successful dog brand of all time — is hitting shelves when a slew of other bigtime books about dogs are also being published, notably Jill Abramson’s “The Puppy Diaries” and Julie Klam’s “Love at First Bark.” Orlean is diplomatic towards her competition. “There’s just a huge emotional tie to all things dog right now. People really love their dogs — and they really love to read about them.”
The dog behind the name
One reason Rin Tin Tin has stayed in the public consciousness for more than 80 years was his name. “It’s mysterious and mem-orable. It sounds like a nonsense word, almost,” says Orlean. “The other movie star dogs at the time, Braveheart and Wolfheart, are lost to time. They’re just less distinctive names.”