By Della Hasselle
UPPER EAST SIDE — Novelist Alison Pace, whose latest book follows a plucky pug named Max on a crime fighting jaunt through the Upper East Side, admits she may be a little obsessed with the breed she's now based two books on.
But while Pace, the author of "Pug Hill" and now "A Pug's Tale," does live on the Upper East Side, she doesn't own one of the dogs.
To research both books, Pace spent time with a society called the New York City Pug Meetup Group, where she got her canine education.
"What they did sort of affected me and touched me and made me laugh," she said. "Pugs are so comical and charming that it's easy to note all these wonderful things."
Pace said she spent countless hours researching pug behavior both with the meet-up group and by lounging near Central Park's Pug Hill, a known pug hangout spot. The characteristics Pace says she found most endearing include the way they stick out their tongues, walk and bark, and especially the way they crane their necks to give skeptical looks to their owners.
"I think they're wonderful subjects," Pace said. "They're so emotive."
In her latest book, "A Pug's Tale," to be published June 7, Pace weaves a tale that sees Max and his owner, Hope McNeill, turn New York upside down as they try to solve the mystery of a stolen Henri Fantin-Latour painting.
With characters that also include a woman who carries a shih tzu in a stroller and a pug-loving socialite who loves her dog Madeleine, Pace shows off her knowledge of the neighborhood and the dogs its residents tend to love.
In the tradition of chick lit novelists before her, Pace's heroine also navigates New York society to discover her own identity, wading through the tricky waters of ex-boyfriends, high-profile bosses and wealthy acquaintances that are so easy to mistake for friends.
"I think in all of my books, New York is such a big part of it," Pace said. "I've been in New York about 10 years, and I pay a lot of attention to background. Other than dogs, New York is my main source of inspiration."