A Novel, With Illustrations

Finding Shamoo

We nearly all of us would like to believe that we will go to heaven. And if we have a dog or a cat, we hope our dog or cat will go to heaven too.

Finding Shamoo is the story of Pat Conway and his dog Shamoo, a black and white Australian Shepherd.

When Pat dies of a heart attack and much to his surprise “awakens” in heaven, he starts on a journey to find Shamoo, who had died of cancer several years earlier.

But if heaven – and whose heaven has he been assigned to? – is essentially benign, it is not without its own agenda for a chosen few.

At first, however, Pat feels less chosen than unfairly persecuted.

For what possible reason does heaven seem at every turn to thwart his efforts to locate Shamoo?

He only gradually realizes that there are certain obstacles within himself – why was he never able to make lasting sense of his relationships with Chelsea, Penny, Carol and Heather? – why could he never summon the strength to set aside his fear of rejection in order to learn how to write, or to write as others thought he should write? – that he must first overcome.

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Book: Finding Shamoo

Let me tell you

More About the Book…

I. Early Encounters with Death

The Ouija Board

My first encounter with death, when I was nine or ten, came from contact with a Ouija board . . .

* * *

My parents had taken me in tow and we were visiting some old friends, the Sayers, who lived ten or fifteen miles away, when ten or fifteen miles away, at the north end of the San Fernando Valley, before freeways, over surface streets, past orange, walnut and olive groves, past all the little ranch-style houses that had sprouted up right after the war, still seemed a long way away. I was extraordinarily fond of the Sayers and would have liked to have seen them more often. They were a very eccentric family and I have always loved eccentricity, even when the eccentricity can turn a bit scary.

Upon arrival, there might have been a quick pause at the front door to murmur a polite hello to the parents, Roy and Betty, but probably not. Their three kids would have swept me up and I remember disappearing into the den, white louvered doors closing emphatically behind us.

It must have been a day for staying inside, because the curtains were shut, only letting in a little light at the long divide down the middle. Two or three lamps were on, but the low wattage bulbs made the room feel snug, dark and shadowy. Even better, it was littered with toys and games, something that would never have been allowed at my house. Knotty pine paneling, long since out of fashion, long since torn out of any house that contained it and the house itself torn down, completed the effect.

I was immediately drawn, with magnetic force, to the Ouija board, marker at the ready, spread out on the carpet in its own little pool of lamplight. Constance, the oldest, who we used to call Connie, was clearly the Ouija board’s resident expert and chief enthusiast, and solemnly gathered us around it.

I must have been told by somebody, at some point, something about Ouija boards because I knew what it was and what it was supposed to do. I wasn’t scared – more excited, and deliciously apprehensive. I don’t know whether at this age I could have defined the word “occult,” but I was pretty sure that I was about to experience something strange.

So did Ronnie move the marker, or planchette, as it is officially known? They say you can’t tell when someone does. But if the motive force is coming from a certain side, or specific direction, you would certainly think you could – like trying to hold back a slowly moving car with your eyes closed and a table in-between. But the planchette is clever – perhaps its shape discourages this. In any case, whatever was happening, it felt completely real to me.

I can’t remember now what questions Paul and Margie asked, and only one from Connie, the inevitable “What is the name of the boy I’m going to marry,” hoping that the Ouija board would not spell out my name. I must have asked some pretty insipid questions of my own but then I came out with this:

“What year am I going to die?”

Why did I ask this question? Was I just trying to impress everyone? Or maybe I felt it was time to up the ante, to ask the Ouija board something really dangerous? Or even more perverse, was it possible that I had an early pre-occupation with death? The answer, as a matter of fact, was yes, I did. And though I never fully understood where it came from, once started, and later reinforced by other events, it was a thing that stayed with me all my life.

It would at this time have been about 1958 or 1959. There were eight hands resting on the planchette. It slowly, almost haphazardly, moved to the number 2.

Then to 0.

Then to 2 again.

Then finally to 6.


Connie was nice, but no genius: never in a million years could she have come up with such a number. So what on earth had? And what if it were true? I didn’t care how far off 2026 sounded.

I pushed the marker off the board. Violently. And only a little less violently got up.

The game was over. A few moments later, we began playing something else.


Finding Shamoo

By Patrick Beacham

A Little About the Author

Patrick Beacham

I have been writing since I was 8. This experience is described in my second novel, “Finding Shamoo,” available on Amazon. My influences are many: they range from John le Carré to Raymond Chandler to Hermann Hesse to Willa Cather, with many stops in-between. As a graduate of UCLA, I majored in political science with a specialization in international relations, and this, too, has continued to influence me. And oh, did I mention my film studies, which also inform my writing? Like any other writer worth his or her salt, what motivates me is simply the overpowering need to write, regardless of physical, psychological or financial condition.

Financially, I have been fortunate: I have, of necessity, while as a writer, re-invented myself several times, first as an art dealer, then as stockbroker and finally as a systems engineer at Microsoft.

Unfortunately, my psyche has not always been as cooperative, and I have experienced many psychological ups and downs over the years.

But perhaps most importantly, I have, throughout my literary career, received the unfailing support of my wife, Nancy, whose patience I continue to find altogether amazing.

The Story Behind The Story

It must be obvious to most readers who glance even briefly at the book, or at its synopsis, that I was motivated to write the book, more than anything else, by my love for Shamoo, the tri-colored Australian Shepherd we continue to miss this day, so many years after her passing. That I was also motivated by my desire to put to rest, at least in my imagination, a great many other issues in my past, should not be neglected, but it is Shamoo who is at the heart of the story. I think most people have regrets, though it has become increasingly popular, for the sake of one’s mental health, to try to put our regrets behind us. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but, let’s face it, it is an almost impossible task. Thus, in the parts of the story unrelated to Shamoo, I try to re-cast these events in the manner and form in which I wish they had happened. This is probably not uncommon. And, sorry to say, I don’t think it’s unhealthy. I think it is a reflection of our growing wisdom as the years grow into decades.
I have very few regrets when it comes to Shamoo (though I wish I hadn’t chased her around with an outsize image of Santa Clause, of which she was deathly afraid, at Christmastime one year); my greatest regret, is, of course, that she had to die at all. One of God’s greatest unanswered mysteries (and one of my greatest grievances against God) is why dogs can’t live longer. Like us. You know, to the same age as us.
My answer, in “Finding Shamoo,” is that when Shamoo goes to heaven (as I like to believe she did), that it is my mission to set forth and find Shamoo after I die and go to heaven, too. I’m not sure that it was ever intended to be the multi-faceted quest that it turned out to be, but I do love every single moment.

What Readers Say About

Finding Shamoo

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For several years, the acclaimed author #deankoontz often featured talking dogs in his #deankoontzbooks, and on his back covers was always photographed with his golden retriever, #Trixie, who provided the inspiration for these novels. Ultimately, Dean Koontz, well-known for his graphic scenes of violence, grew a little too gristly even for my taste, and, as I recall, talking dogs went by the wayside. But I did love the golden retrievers in his novels, and our dog, Shamoo, an Australian Shepherd, very quickly, in real life, developed her own voice and many of her witticisms (and adventures) can be found in “Finding Shamoo.” Whether or not I was influenced by Dean Koontz, I’m not sure at this point. However, in any case, Hats Off.

But wait: Shamoo isn’t the only talking dog in “Finding Shamoo.” There are several others, all the dogs I ever knew both as a kid and a grown-up, who gather together on a hillside in Scotland, to tell me their stories and to air their sorrows. At the conclusion of the novel, they re-appear just as I am about to be re-united with my wife and, of course, my beloved Shamoo.