BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

As Seen On TV ...

OK, so this one is obviously a dollar store find (it's not exactly the sort of thing that I'd go looking for, either in a bookstore or online!) … but Dog the Bounty Hunter is one of the things that are typically playing when I'm getting my coffee and breakfast, so I'm familiar with the characters, and, frankly, I had enough curiosity about the “back story” of the show to be willing to read an autobiographical book by The Dog. It turns out that Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given by Duane “Dog” Chapman is a fairly fascinating read … covering lots of stuff that I'd not gotten from my occasional watching of the show. I suspect that co-author Laura Morton has a lot to do with this book being as high-quality as it is … as Dog himself notes that he's lacking in a lot of the stuff that would keep something like this from being embarrassing to both the author and the reader.

One thing that's hard to miss in the show is what a train wreck the Chapman family is (I've frequently thought when hearing of the legal troubles of various folks on the show “these folks are in law enforcement, how do they keep getting in trouble like that???”) … and that is certainly a key theme here. As folks familiar with the show will know, Dog has had at least a couple of families, as he has grown kids working with him, and little kids living with him. He goes into some of his own background, including the events (as a member of the Disciples motorcycle gang) that landed him in prison in his youth. His prison experience has a lot to do with him becoming the sort of bounty hunter one sees on TV, both in terms of relating to pretty much everybody, and the whole “counseling” thing he does with the skips he catches.

I had been vaguely aware (via the internet) that he'd gotten in trouble chasing a guy down to Mexico, but hadn't had much details on that. This was one of the main story lines in the book … his pursuit of “wealthy playboy” (heir to the Max Factor fortune) Andrew Luster – connected to eighty-seven counts of rape – into Mexico, while successful in capturing the suspect, resulted in him and his team being thrown into jail for a charge similar to kidnapping. Due to the corruption of the Mexican legal system, this dragged on and on, with Luster's “people” trying to make things as difficult as possible for him. When he did get out, he wasn't able to get paid because of the legal entanglements, and he was spending tons of money on what turned out to be less-than-efficient legal counsel. Eventually he got new lawyers who got things straightened out, but it was financially devastating.

There's a lot of material about various “family” issues. One of his previous wives (he seems to have had several prior to Beth) was rather vindictive and not exactly an ideal “role model” for his kids, several of which got totally messed up on drugs. He ended up losing one daughter up in Alaska, and having a son turn completely against him … which produced the other on-going issue in the book. This son was hanging out with a “bad crowd”, including a black girlfriend who was controlling the kid – pushing him to “get that TV money” out of Dog … leading to them recording their phone, and eventually catching Dog using the “N-word” (which he was totally comfortable using from his prison time), and selling the tape to one of the tabloids. The media frenzy was predictable, with the “usual suspects” spewing outrage and insisting that A&E cancel the show. Dog seemed to be genuinely blind-sided by this, and really had to scramble to get things back on track. He was fortunate to have some ministers who were in his corner who were able to smooth some of the rougher patches, and eventually the reality of him being “clueless” rather than “racist” eventually won out.

Honestly, given the number of “nightmare” stories in here it makes one wonder how he was able to keep in business. He had problems with insurance companies (which resulted in him having to give up his license in Hawaii for a while), former employees making fraudulent charges against the company, and near-disasters with assorted law enforcement groups.

There are a lot of other behind-the-scenes stories as well, featuring characters from the show, his on-going relationship with the network (one wonders if much of this would have gone quite differently if the show wasn't their top program), plus a couple of "hunt stories" sprinkled in. Needless to say, Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given is going to appeal mainly to fans of the Dog the Bounty Hunter program … while the stories in it play out without necessarily needing to know the show, I'm not sure that it would be as interesting if one didn't have the familiarity with the context and characters that folks who do watch Dog would have going in.

I'm surprised that this doesn't have any 1¢ copies out in the new/used channels, but you can get a “very good” copy of the hardcover for just over buck (before shipping) … it's still in print, and the on-line big boys currently have it at a 60% discount. Of course, if you can find it at Dollar Tree, you'll only be spending a buck … but that's an iffy thing once the books hit those shelves. Did I need to read this? No. Was it an interesting read? Yeah, sure. Would I have read this if I didn't occasionally watch the show? Don't think so. If you're a fan, you'll probably want to check this out … if not, well … it's not a bad book.

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Tags: book review

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