The Book of Joe: About a Dog and His Man
By: Vincent Price
Illustrated by: Leo Hershfield
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication Date: April 2016
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
We all know Vincent Price as the master of the horror genre. It's no secret that many an Edgar Allan Poe story came to life under his very capable hands. But few people know that Price was also an animal lover, particularly fond of dogs. And one dog in particular, Joe, caught his eye and heart. This is the story of Joe, and Vincent Price, and their lives together.
Originally published in 1961, The Book of Joe has just been brought back to life, thanks to the efforts of Price's daughter Victoria. The memoir recounts the good, and bad (as well as sometimes comical) times man and dog enjoyed together. Price had had dogs prior to Joe entering his life, but after losing two dogs (one to an accident, the other to divorce) at the same time, while also enduring his first Christmas without his wife (they were getting divorced) and his son, Price was at a particularly lonely point in his life. Off the actor went to a pet store to find a new friend. At the store, one puppy, who held back his enthusiasm for the people gawking at him, caught Price’s eye. The mutt, a mix of...who knows...quickly weaseled his way into Price’s heart.
Through the pages of this memoir, the author tells numerous stories of Joe, from the funny (Joe’s brief friendship with Josephine the cat) to the sweet (Joe caring for his master when he was temporarily blinded in one eye) to the downright unusual (Joe’s day in court). There are numerous recollections that give the reader a peek into the life of Vincent Price and his family – his wife’s desire to breed a line of white poodles come to mind – that are quite enjoyable to read. In addition to recollections of Joe, Price tells of other animals that joined the household through the years, as well as devoting a chapter to various animals he had worked with during his movie career. From a goat to a camel, these little stories are quite fun to read.
The relatively short book (104 pages), is a quick read that dog lovers are sure to enjoy. Mr. Price shows his mastery of the English language with his vibrant command of the written word with sentences such as “I am the innocent battleground on which this war is waged, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see poppies sprout out over the acreage of my body…” (pg. 46) While reading this book, it’s important to remember that it was written in 1961, when things were different – Joe was allowed to run free and would do so sometimes for days at a time, and although a mutt, was never neutered and sired several litters of puppies through the years. Such things may make the contemporary reader cringe, but again, the book was written about things that happened in the 40's and 50's when animal welfare carried little weight. Other than this minor quibble, The Life of Joe was a very enjoyable read.
Quill says: A fun look into the life of Mr. Vincent Price and his beloved dog Joe.