One of my favorite characters in the Meg Langslow series is her grandfather, Dr. J. Montgomery Blake, the eminent zoologist and environmentalist. Dr. Blake first entered Meg’s life in The Penguin Who Knew Too Much. While on a visit to Caerphilly, he saw a picture of Meg in the local paper and was stunned to realize that she was a dead ringer for his long-lost college girlfriend, Cordelia. And when his research revealed that Meg’s father was found as an infant in the fiction section of the very library where he used to meet Cordelia, Dr. Blake deduced—and a DNA test subsequently confirmed—that he and the Langslows were related. Dr. Blake has been a part of Meg’s life—and my books—ever since.
Here, Dr. Blake reveals a few details about what happens in The Good, the Bad, and the Emus.
Remarks by Dr. J. Montgomery Blake to the members of SPOOR (Society for the Preservation of Owls and Raptors)
[With editorial comments by Caroline Willner of the Willner Wildlife Sanctuary.]
Caroline—I’ve got to give a speech at that wretched SPOOR meeting. Can you take quick look at my draft—M
Monty—only if you actually pay attention to what I say this time—C
Fellow bird lovers.
Thank you for coming this evening. I think we can promise you a fascinating discussion on our recent rescue and rehoming of a large flock of Dromaius novaehollandiae—
They’re not all ornithologists. Forget the Latin—just tell them it’s emus.
—better known as the emu. As I’m sure most of you know, emus are native to Australia, and at up to two meters in height, they are the largest extant species after their ratite relatives, Struthio camelus, the common ostrich.
Meters schmeters. Tell them the blasted things are well over six feet tall.
In other words, over six feet tall, while ostriches, which are native to Africa, can be up to eight feet. In the 1990s, farmers in the United States began commercially farming both ostriches and emus for the feathers, meat, eggs, leather, and in the case of the emu, the oil, which is reputed to have medicinal properties. However, ostrich and emu farming did not prove to be as profitable as anticipated, and over the last two decades the number of emu farms has dropped precipitously.
I recently learned of the existence of a large flock of feral emus in Riverton, Virginia–
You learned? How about giving Cordelia and Annabel some credit?
—thanks to a communication from two long-time residents of Riverton, Mrs. Cordelia Mason and Miss Annabel Lee. Apparently the owner of the nearby Biscuit Mountain Ostrich and Emu Ranch fell into financial difficulties and simply turned his birds loose. Some of them were reported to be surviving in the wild.
Reported? The ladies were feeding them for years.
We had no idea how well they were surviving. It was possible they were hanging on, but not thriving, in which case we needed to rescue them and rehome them in a place that could give them proper care. And if they were thriving, then we knew they were probably having a detrimental effect on the native ecosystem, in which case we needed to capture them and confine them in a place that would care for them without letting them damage the environment.
Now would be a good moment to mention who’s taking care of the birds, you know.
I am happy to say that the birds are now living at the Willner Wildlife Foundation, whose director, Caroline Willner, was instrumental in helping round them up.
As I’m sure you are aware, emus are taller than we are, with razor-sharp talons and a kick like a mule, and can reach speeds of thirty miles an hour, so this expedition was a little more difficult than, say, sheep herding. In fact, it proved to be an unusually dangerous project, not just because of the emus—
You’re not going to get into the murders, are you? Isn’t this supposed to be about the emus?
—but also because we once more encountered human foes more interested in commercial gain than in the emus or the environment.
Well, okay, but that’s probably enough about the creeps. They could still try to sue you, you know.
But we’re here to talk about the emus! So without further ado, let’s get to the video. Can somebody dim the lights? Anybody? Until somebody finds the light switch—
Don’t worry. Meg will take care of it.
[The lights dim.]
Now, in this first shot . . .
You can read more about Dr. Blake in The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, the 17th book in the “Meg Langslow” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Murder with Peacocks.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 21 for the chance to win a copy of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE EMUS. (US entries only, please.)
Meet the author
Donna Andrews is the author of seventeen (soon to be eighteen!) books in her Meg Langslow series from Minotaur. After The Good, the Bad, and the Emus (July 2014) comes The Nightingale Before Christmas (October 2014).
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