A whimsical debut novel set during one of history’s ugliest periods.
It’s 1938. Levi, a smart fox terrier, lives in Berlin with professor Carl Liliencron, his wife, Rahel, and their children, Georg and Else. Carl is a renowned expert on plankton, and the Liliencrons occupy a luxurious town house provided by the German National Academy of Sciences. However, the Liliencrons are Jewish, and Hitler’s fanatics are increasingly violent. Carl reacts by lightheartedly changing Levi’s name to Sirius, but then Kristallnacht occurs and the Liliencrons face transport to concentration camps. Rahel has a childhood friend in Hollywood, the actor Peter Lorre, who helps with papers and money to escape. In the U.S.A., the Liliencrons explore Tinseltown, meeting and interacting with movie stars of fame and fortune—Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, etc. As professor Liliencron becomes Crown, the chauffeur, the charismatic Levi/Sirius earns a film contract from Jack Warner, who dubs him Hercules. Anthropomorphism be damned, author Crown succeeds in employing the wiry little canine’s point of view for a good portion of the story. A pop star of the first magnitude, Levi/Sirius/Hercules becomes a Chaplinesque character, but then he loses Warner’s confidence and is banished to the circus. Crown then ramps up the fantasy, with the pup being shanghaied to Germany, where this supposedly devious “Jewish pet" becomes Hansi, Hitler’s favorite companion. The Liliencrons, meanwhile, wax and wane among the stars until they make the decision at war’s end to return to Berlin. World War II was a grotesque human tragedy, but Crown has employed the obscenity of the Holocaust to create a fable about family, the timeless connection between human and dog, and the nature of identity.
Crown offers a waggish tale in which an amiable fox terrier lives out a Forrest Gump adventure.