Why Pansy?


According to Wikipedia, Andrew Vachss is “an American crime fiction author, child protection consultant, and attorney exclusively representing children and youths.” Who’s Who 200-2019 simply says he’s a, “lawyer, author, juvenile justice and child abuse consultant.” In my view, Vachss is a modern day warrior who has dedicated his life to advocating for — and protecting — children (and dogs).

Vachss wrote an 18 volume series of novels known as The Burke Series, after the protagonist, who is an underground soldier in the war against predatory evil. I read these novels before I came out as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the comfort they provided me was palpable. I have read all of the novels twice and expect to enjoy a third round. They are exemplary examples of a literary genre I call “Survivor Noir.”

Two other series in this genre are the Livia Lone books by Barry Eisler, which I recently began, and the Death books by J.D. Robb (alas, the romance angle isn’t for me).

The Burke novels resonated in many ways for me. One of them was that I had a 180 pound English Mastiff who acted as a kind of spiritual guardian to me and Burke’s sidekick in the series was an even larger Neapolitan Mastiff named Pansy.

I also intuitively grokked the meaning of several phrases Vachss coined in these books such as “Children of the Secret” and “Circle of Trust.” Reading the novels immersed me in a world in which people like me banded together to fight for and protect each other. I don’t cry when bad things happen. I cry when good people protect vulnerable people from harm. I cry because nobody did that for me when I was a child.

On this site I have appropriated some of the language and names from the Burke universe. I do the same at home. My wifi network is called The Zero, my desktop computer is iMaculata, my backup drive is Pansy, my phone is Shella (not a Burke novel but related), my iPad is Wesley, and so on. By attaching these familiar names I am reminded daily how powerful and meaningful these kinds of stories can be. It is in that spirit that I named this blog Safe House (a Burke novel) and use Pansy as a pseudonym.

I am grateful to Vachss for helping me find my way out of darkness.

Those of you who know dogs may notice that the dog image used throughout this site is a Pit Bull, not a Mastiff. As iconic images go, a Pit Bull is a powerful image and I love this one created by parkjisun.