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Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: The Wolf and the Sheepdog - John Smith - Part 1

No, it's not John Smith conducting the review. It's me - Bill, wish - whatever you've come to know me as. I'll be taking you deeper into the pages of The Wolf and the Sheepdog, a book written by one of the contributing authors on this site; John Smith.

Visit John's site to order a copy of the book or enjoy a little more literature about his works - HERE.

I should start this review out by saying that some of the material in this book caught me by surprise. I have years of working with young offenders and other delinquent types under my belt, and still I didn't expect the harsh reality of the dark corners so viciously represented by smith. I'll delve deeper into the intricacies of his writing style a little later, but I'll get some of the administrative stuff out of the way first.

The book is just about 400 pages - a compilation of literature written by John Smith - a serving police officer in an undisclosed 'major metropolitan city'. He writes about his 'hot calls' and some smaller 'thoughts'. Almost written as a freestyle poetry, some of the smaller pieces like "Self-Image" come across as tongue-in-cheek prose but definitely have poetic influence. He also makes mention of specific phrases in pieces like "Princess" where the references to the all-so-familiar cup of coffee are written almost as dramatically as the encounter with the princess herself.

The book rings in at just over 20 bucks. You can pick it up online from any of the sources listed below.




On the back of the book is a little blurb dedicated to one of John's artworks. You can get it as a print that is coated with a material to make it water resistant. When the print is purchased, ten dollars goes to Camp Carmangay - a day camp dedicating to providing positive experiences for troubled youths.


I'm on page 328 as of this writing, so I feel like I can give a pretty good idea of what the main ideas of this book include. Pending some big surprise at the end, I've got a good idea of some of the points John is trying to make.

There are a few recurring themes that I'd like to do my best to outline, though a lot of the material can be taken very subjectively. The stories recount the 'hot calls' or very intense out-calls that John has been on. Most of them deal with people suffering some sort of drug abuse and many end in violence. Fortunately, John's been the one to make it out on top of those experiences, even if it meant nursing a broken hand in the process.

It's a deep look into the invisible darkness that surrounds us. I don't mean to sound dramatic when I say that - but it's the truth. There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person, just people who make decisions. Some make decisions fueled by narcotic rage, others out of the kindness of their hearts. It's a fact of life - bad stuff happens. I'm happy to have guys like John out on the block, hunting the guys who want to do harm to me.

That's another part of the puzzle for John - the hunt. He makes reference to 'hunting' bad guys numerous times. He talks about stalking shadows - trying to track down the bad guys so good guys can sleep soundly, a clear reference to the Orwellian quote in the front few pages of his book. Most of his 'hunts' end in violence, easily the most hard-to-understand part of his work.

I say it like that because it's exactly how I feel. It's hard for me to understand the sheer brutality that John experiences on the street. I've had a few tussles here and there, but nothing like the insanity that John describes. That's a great thing to say - that I haven't had to deal with situations like that. I hope I never do - and I have guys like John to thank. He talks about violence like he enjoys it, and it's hard to understand as a joe-blow civilian. This is the line where some folks could have a hard time reading more without claiming 'use of force' complaints - and John is quick to address that issue as well.

We find ourselves at kind of an impasse with the police force in Canada. Post G20, we're quick to launch the police into debates of  'brutality' and 'use of force'. There definitely are times where certain police officers use an unnecessary amount of force, even on innocent people - we've seen it before. There are, however, times where the police have to use force - because after all, who else is really going to stop the bad guys?

It's a fine line, and one that John walks carefully, especially with the public-eye-sensitive executives in the 'ivory tower' offices at the police station. There's multiple stories that deal with 'eyes' on the street or, onlookers that will pose as eyewitnesses to whatever goes on. Those people often get so wrapped into groupthink that the first one to make a move will dictate the reaction of those around. If a guy speaks up about 'police brutality', the crowd will often over-emphasize the offensive actions of police. Likewise, if the first guy in the crowd tries to stop the police, unfortunately, the rest seem to follow suit.

John often talks about his 'animal'. This caged beast inside of him that rattles his very soul, snaps at the chance to hunt his bad-guy prey. I honestly feel bad for the sorry sap that has to deal with John's animal. I believe we all have some kind of 'animal' inside of us. It's only in very trying circumstances that we get to let him off the leash. John has harnessed this ability and writes about it fluently. He consistently refers to his 'animal' being let out on people who he believes deserve this type of punishment.

John makes reference in the beginning of his book to his almost therapy-like influence in the writing of this book. It's evident in his writing style that he does in fact find therapy in writing - and it's a good thing, I can't imagine keeping this kind of stuff in. During his description of really heated events, I can almost picture him slapping the keys on his keyboard, just to get the ideas down on paper. A few missed letters and errors in punctuation are perfect examples - like he's getting jacked up just thinking about these incidents.

The sheer violence and trauma of these experiences are behind my comprehension, and I hope it stays that way. John shares his thoughts on societal issues like homelessness, drug abuse, prostitution, familial abuse and more - he might come off as cold to some, but anyone who has worked in any type of social service will see the commonality in his views. He even writes on the importance of dark humour in unsettling situations, another implication of working with society's down-and-out.

In part 2, we're going to take another look at the book in it's entirety and a full interview with the author - John Smith.

Don't forget, we're giving away a free copy of this book - signed by John Smith!


  1. i just finished reading this book. very good read and i found it insightful to say the least. i quit liked the writing style as well. and too say that i am glad there are people like john protecting us is an understatement

  2. Is John Smith the authors real name? Because somewhere in the book it says that all names in this book are fictional or something.

  3. Hello! I know this is a long shot but I am trying to get in touch with this author to get a copy of his memorial painting. Any way of contacting him would be SO helpful!

    - L