story by Kelly Harley photos by Shelia Scott
If you live in Effingham County, there’s a chance you might know Dennis Dozier is. As you come into Rincon on Highway 21, there is a giant billboard with his picture and name on it. Dennis is a respected lawyer who runs his law firm, Dozier Law P.C. He has more than 23 years of experience helping his clients navigate the law. In his day job, he specializes in family law, bankruptcy, criminal law, personal injury and estate law. While practicing law is his second career choice, it’s the one he loves.
What you may not know about Dennis is that he has a second job. Well, maybe you wouldn’t call it a second job, rather a hobby that requires some of his free time. Dennis, a prominent lawyer, has another side to him. He has a passion for storytelling and three years ago he set out on his adventure to become a children’s picture book author. The story of how he became an author dates back more than 30 years ago.
Dennis and his wife Mary Lowell have three children who are ages 27, 30 and 33. When they were younger, Dennis told them stories about a “fictional” dragon named Pinkerton Pernelli. His children hung on to every word that came out of Dennis’ mouth and truly believed that Pinkerton was a real dragon. When they would go to Disney World for vacation, his children would search high and low for Pinkerton. While they never found him, the stories of Pinkerton never stopped. Dennis would make up plenty of them, each with a different plot. “Pinkerton was a pink dragon and he weighed a ton,” says Dennis. “He became my children’s friend and they would do all sorts of things together. Pinkerton always managed to save the day.” For years the stories continued, until of course, as time changes everything, his children outgrew Pinkerton Pernelli.
Upon the birth of Dennis and Mary Lowell’s first grandchild, Mason, Dennis was determined not to let his make-believe character be forgotten. So, three years ago Dennis decided to put his pen to paper. “Later in life, I had an interest in poetry,” says Dennis. “So, when Mason was born, I decided to write my first children’s picture book and bring Pinkerton Pernelli to life.”
The first book Dennis wrote, Mason Meets Pernelli, tells the story of Mason meeting the dragon for the first time. In the book, Mason’s friends tell him that there is a ferocious dragon in town. Mason, armed with his pop gun, sets out to find Pernelli with the intent of shooting him. Once he finds him, he realizes that Pernelli is actually a friendly dragon and the two become great friends. What is important to Dennis is that each story has a meaning behind it. Dennis says the moral behind this story is that we shouldn’t accept what other people say without checking things out ourselves. “I want to teach kids not to rush to judgment or conclusions. If you don’t, you might find unexpected friends in unexpected places,” says Dennis.
There are three published books so far in the Pinkerton Pernelli series. The second book is Pernelli Gets a First Name and it’s about Pernelli needing a first name in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election. In the book, Mason encouraged Pernelli and was the one who came up with the first name, Pinkerton. The ending is perfect. The dragon finally got a first name and was able to vote. The moral of this story is to never give up. Another neat thing about the books is that the characters truly come to life. Dennis works with an illustrator and as you could guess, Mason looks like Dennis’ grandson and Pinkerton Pernelli is that giant pink dragon that Dennis created many years ago.
Dennis’ third book is Pinkerton at the Town Celebration and his fourth book, Pinkerton Helps Ms. McDougel, will soon be released. His fifth and sixth books will soon follow. He’s even started working on his seventh book. “It takes me hours and hours to write the books and then weeks to change the words around and get them exactly the way I want them,” says Dennis. He typically “writes” at night and on his cell phone. When an idea comes, he immediately jots it down.
Dennis admits it is a hobby that comes with challenges. One of the biggest challenges is trying to keep the word count to around 300 words. You have to think, Dennis has been known to write legal briefs with thousands and thousands of words. He’s managed to do it, though, and his books have been a huge hit. So, why would a lawyer decide to write children’s books? Dennis has a good answer. “I mainly did it because I want Mason to have the Pinkerton stories.” You might even say he did it for his own children as well. When he first showed them the books, they were amazed to see their childhood friend come to life.
Being a children’s author isn’t about the money for Dennis. In fact, he’s given away hundreds and hundreds of books. He gives them to clients who have children or children he thinks might enjoy them. One of the most rewarding parts of being a children’s author is that each book tells a story, a meaningful one at that. While younger kids may not pick up on the lesson right away, it doesn’t stop Dennis from slipping those life lessons in each book. He tries to capture everything in life that he thinks is important for children to learn. Even if the adults are reading to younger kids, they can help explain the meaning behind the story.
Another rewarding part of writing books is seeing the joy that children have when they read them. “When I hear from parents or grandparents on how much the children like the books; when I receive a photo of a child reading one of my books; or when a handwritten note from a child saying “thank you” is delivered, it makes it worth the effort,” says Dennis.
Being a lawyer isn’t always the easiest profession. Dennis deals with serious cases on a regular basis, cases that can be sad. He says writing is one way he can leave work behind and slip into a world of fiction and fun. After all, Pinkerton Pernelli was born more than 30 years ago and has finally come to life on the pages of children’s picture books. How much fun is that?
If you’re interested in purchasing one of Dennis’ books, you can find the first three, Mason Meets Pernelli, Pernelli Gets A First Name, and Pinkerton at the Town Celebration on Amazon.