In 1990, the novelist, screenwriter and poet Jim Harrison wrote a novella about an unforgettable character named Brown Dog.
A Native American from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, B.D. is a Bible school dropout who never bothered to get a Social Security card, works only when he has to, and lives in deer-hunting cabins in the sparsely populated, densely wooded swath of land between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
His favorite pastimes include walking in the woods, hunting, fishing, cooking his catch over an open fire, drinking too much, chasing women and making fun of the rich, white people who summer amid his beloved streams and forests.
Brown Dog may sound like an uncouth, uneducated drunk - and to some extent he is - but one of the messages that Harrison telegraphs to readers is not to be fooled by appearances. Brown Dog is, as his best buddy and sometime sex partner Gretchen, says, "absurdly endearing," a backwoods mensch with the wisdom and compassion of a bodhisattva.
After the first novella was published, Harrison brought B.D. back for four more installments. Now Grove Press has collected all the novellas in one volume and added a new one for good measure.
In each story, something deeply strange happens to B.D. - he salvages the preserved body of an Indian chief from the bottom of Lake Superior and steals back a sacred bearskin from a Hollywood mogul.