When Wisconsin veterinarian Doc dies, his family learns that to inherit his fortune, they must decipher the cryptic codicil he added to his will—“Take Doofus squirrel-fishing”—and they can
only do that by talking to Doc’s friends, reading the memoir Doc wrote of a Christmas season decades earlier, searching through Doc’s correspondence, and discovering clues around them. Humor abounds as this mismatched lot tries to find time in their hectic lives to work together to solve the puzzle. In the end, will they realize that fortune comes in many guises?
Doc’s Codicil is a mystery told with gentle humor. It tells the story of a veterinarian who teaches his heirs a lesson from the grave.
The house was dark except for the pool of light thrown by a lamp behind my chair and small multi-colored Christmas lights surrounding the window on my left. The lights gave a dim but cheerful glow to the edge of the room. The crystal, silver, and pastel globes on the Christmas tree standing against the opposite wall reflected that light, and as the furnace kicked in, the reflections danced across the wall, betraying currents of warm air moving gently about the room.
Heat, wonderful heat. I gave my wine glass a twist to celebrate feeling my toes again. The liquid ruby swirled round the glass, as I offered a silent toast to Mary, may she sleep soundly tonight. On the second glass, I was startled by a swoosh of air exhaled by the cushion of a wing-backed chair to my left. I glanced at the chair, but couldn’t bring it into focus. Contacts must be dirty, I thought and returned to my book.
I . . . poured a third glass. This had to be the last. Tomorrow would be another fourteen-hour workday. I took another bite of Stilton, crumbly yet creamy, a pungent and savory blue with a background of cheddar, when I heard a throat clear.
I put my book down and looked around the room. Empty.
. . . A shadow moved in the dining room . . . “Who’s there? What the hell is going on?” I whispered.
A man’s voice came from the kitchen. “Cripes, some host you are.”
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
The book sprang from two questions I posed for myself: how could I explain to a child the adult stupidity behind public and private actions that show up on the evening news, and how could a father in retirement get his adult children to listen to lessons he’d like to teach them? Neither are easy tasks. For the child, I thought something like the tooth fairy, sort of a fairy of bad decisions, might go a long way to explaining some things, and to make adult children listen, I thought of a codicil attached to a will. There’s nothing like an inheritance to get the attention of children in their thirties.
Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
The cover was inspired by two characters in the book and Christmas. Doofus, the patron fairy of bad judgement and wishful thinking, advisor to presidents and councilor to kings, takes center stage in the book and on the cover. A Christmas tree is in the background, as much of the book takes place shortly before or after Christmas, and what goes on in a misguided “living nativity” is an important subplot. Gladys, a camel with attitude, peeks from behind the tree. She is one of my favorite characters in the living nativity.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Given how crowded the shelves of bookstores are, a cover that grabs the eye is almost a necessity. It could do it by color, by pictures, or even by an unusual font, but there has to be something to attract the attention of potential readers.
Do you have any pets?
As I was growing up, I had cattle and horses, but they weren’t what most people think of as pets.
We have a one year old toy poodle. He demands attention and is quick to make off with things he knows will get a reaction if he doesn’t get it. So far he has chewed up two pair of prescription glasses and too many pens and pencils to count.
What are four things you can’t live without?
Life wouldn’t be much fun without dark chocolate, books, air conditioning, and aspirin. I love dark chocolate and books. Enough said. I lived most of my life in cold climates and now live in a much warmer temperature zone. Air conditioning is indispensable for me. Between my knees and my back, there are days I wouldn’t be able to walk without aspirin. There isn’t much articular cartilage left in my knees and I’ve had two ruptured discs in my back.
What are your future ambitions?
I have a manuscript I’m working on and another book of mine was recently published. I hope to write a screenplay for the chapters of the nativity pageant in Doc’s Codicil. People tell me that one of the final scenes in the pageant made them laugh until tears ran down their cheeks. A reader in Florida sent me an email claiming he could only read a page at a time. His ribs hurt too much from laughing.
Anything else you might want to add?
Doc’s Codicil is a silly book about serious subjects: family, ethics, how to think, and how to approach life. I learned a lot about myself while writing it, and reviewers have told me I put more of myself in the book than I’d realized.
According to Gary Jones, his life has been a testament to questionable decisions and wishful thinking. His wife of forty years, however, says she knows of nothing in the record to justify such unfettered optimism. Jones says the book is a work of fiction; that's his story, and he’s sticking to it.
He’s part of the last generation of rural veterinarians who worked with cows that had names and personalities, and with dairymen who worked in the barn with their families. He’s also one of those baby boomers, crusty codgers who are writing their wills and grousing about kids who can be damned condescending at times.
Gary practiced bovine medicine in rural Wisconsin for nineteen years. He then returned to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, earned a PhD in microbiology, and spent the next nineteen years working on the development of bovine and swine vaccines.
Doc's Codicil is the bronze medal winner of Foreward's INDIEFAB Book of The Year awards, humor category.
Gary F. Jones will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.