Monday, 7 July 2014

Book Review: Gimme Shelter by Louis Spirito

Review by Emma Powell

Note: 10% of book proceeds go to animal charities.

This book has been awarded the prestigious BRAG medallion 

‘It’s The Sopranos meets Marley & Me when a volatile, chronically ticked-off writer struggles to help an abused, timid, big-hearted shelter dog'.

That blurb alone grabbed me immediately. A lover of dogs, films and anything thriller related can only be a winner as far as I’m concerned. And I was not disappointed.

This book is, in the author’s own words, a book born ‘ ... Out of a very unstructured, rambling diary’  and took the best part of two years to write. The quality of this input is apparent in the way the author opens each paragraph with a short snapshot of his tough upbringing during the 1950s and 60s. The reader travels through the author’s rather lively, raucous and high-octane lifestyle and you are more than aware you are reading someone’s journal, a very private journey that goes some way to explaining the anger issues that the author has learned to deal with on his journey with his rescued dog. And that is what this book is really about.

Tanner is the rescued pitbull dog that this whole personal journey centres around. The reader is introduced to the author’s early lifestyle that starts with Rebel, an Irish Setter dog that obviously meant the world to him and ends with Tanner. When one thinks of an Irish Setter one doesn’t conjure images of snarling, aggressive dog attacks. But I defy anyone to deny this is what enters their heads, even if only for a second, when the word ‘pitbull’ is mentioned. No dog is born aggressive and no dog is 100% domesticated but the journey in between is up to us. And Tanner shows in this book how pitbulls are malinged, much to media hype, and how dogs can truly help us, teach us in our lives. Tanner is actually a nervous wreck, terrified of anything out of the ordinary and hides a lot!

You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate this book. I was happy to review it as I have always had German Shepherds, my latest one a rescue with problems, so can empathise with judgemental attitudes that surround certain breeds. But this book is so much more than dogs; it’s a person’s story of how he developed coping mechanisms, life-changing attitudes and how hard it is to work at changing lifestyles.  By having to work with a dog that had issues, such as fearing everything, surrounded by people with preconceived ideas of the dog, the author cleverly shows how this path forced him to take his own issues to hand. The author is very honest and open that he has anger management problems stemming from childhood and through his 20s and I think this is a very difficult and brave thing to do.

Although the author admits he originally set out to home a rescue dog to recapture the time, place and love of his beloved Irish Setter, it soon dawns on him he is not that person anymore. He is in a different place with different needs and I feel that’s when the journey for the author changed. He seemed to cope better with his own issues once he accepted Tanner for who he was. The author gives examples of when he felt he was losing it with people, even when he was making efforts to help Tanner. Towards the end of the book, the reader gets to see how the author fought to change his attitudes and how this worked. To be fair, some of the scenarios would have set me off  (such as someone parking across your garage, assumptions about your dog and verbal abuse) and I think occasionally, the author has been a tad tough on himself! There are much worse people out there and his love of dogs shines through every paragraph. As does the love for his wife, someone whom he fully appreciates who stood by him through thick and thin and could, in his words, ‘see through the bad stuff’.

As expected by an Amercian author, there are some Americanisms that us Brits may have to read a few times to get round them and carry on reading! Things such as public holidays we don’t have (Fourth of July/Thanksgiving), places and the New York way of life, as well as the Malibu one, but none deter from flow of the story. Each chapter also ends with links and contact places for various dog-related issues including facts and figures and 10% of proceeds go to animal charities. There are two appendices - one deals with dog rescue resources and the other with resources for anger management. Again, these are American based but will give you ideas to check out stuff wherever you may be.

So there is some interesting reading for everyone. Not a swashbuckling tale, rivetting romance or magnificent mystery but an open, honest, fascinating and inspiring peep into another person’s life. This book reiterated my view that the ordinary person always has an extraordinary tale to tell and Gimme Shelter didn’t disappoint.

You can follow Tanner’s updates and check out Spirito's website.


  1. Just reading this review made my heart well up! Emma, well done, I must read this book!

  2. Love the sound of this book

  3. Emma

    I'm so pleased that you enjoyed Gimme Shelter. Of all the people who have written about the book, you most clearly grasped its essence. I hope the review inspires UK readers to give it a look (it's available on Amazon.UK), especially men with anger issues. Thanks so much for your kind words and helping spread the truth about pit bulls.

    Louis Spirito

  4. Hi Louis, thank you for the kind words. I will link it on Amazon and to a couple of rescue groups I'm in too. Thank you also for the letter that you sent with the book ... it is now on my Forever Bookshelf! Regards to you and your wife and a hug for Tanner!

  5. Emma

    We don't 10% of the profits from the book to animal rescue. Do you have a group you'd like us to help? Let me know.


  6. Emma

    That should read 'donate', not 'don't'. I hate spellcheck.

  7. Ha, I hate it too ... that's very kind of you! I'll do some asking and get back to you asap :-)

  8. Hi Lou - I have taken this over to Facebook now and messaged you. I've linked your book/this review to the rescue I'm with and think you possibly have some buyers ;-) Thanks again.