Walking the dog

While I was writing my new novel, The Perfect Date, I gave it the working title The Dog Walker. Caz, the central character, is a professional dog walker, and it opens with her rescue dog discovering a body early one morning up on Brighton Racecourse.

She realises with horror that it’s the man she met through a dating app, the Perfect Date she was due to see again that very evening. But worse – far worse – is that this is the second time this has happened to someone she was seeing. Is it a horrible coincidence? Or is there something else going on?

A question often asked of authors is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ With this book, the answer is that, about two years ago, we got a dog, a Lagotto we called Uncle (don’t ask…). With our children grown up, it was the cliché empty nester move, and she has certainly filled my need to care for someone/thing other than myself.

What I hadn’t realised is how excellent having a dog is for a writer. First of all, you are forced off your typist’s arse twice a day, so you walk lots of steps, meet other people, discover new neighbourhoods and country walks. Then you are given that walking time as thinking time – a quick turn around the writer’s block, if you will. But, more specifically for a crime writer, you find yourself in situations and settings that bring you exciting starting points for stories: conflict between dog walkers/animals; the characters you meet and kind of get to know through talking about your respective dogs; those seedy wildlife areas on the fringes of urban settlements; dangerous potholes where someone could disappear; deserted, deep dark woods (that I’d never go anywhere near if I weren’t with my pooch)…

And then there is the classic: being out early doors, in those lonely parts, with what essentially is a sniffing machine. Uncle will run across an entire field if she gets whiff of a rotting carcass. Thankfully, the worst we have discovered is a long-dead fox (‘Mmmm,’ she went, rolling around in it. ‘Perfume’). But, with the kind of imagination I have been cursed with, I always worry that it could be something worse. Indeed ‘dog walker finds body’ is an all too common newspaper headline.

So of course, one morning up on a spookily deserted Brighton Racecourse, my mind went there, and then I started spinning it out, and by the time I got home, I had the outline of the story, as well as the character of Caz, who is one of my favourite creations, a Sports Direct girl, with more waterproofs than dresses, who is as faithful and desperate to please as the lovely animals she looks after. Couldn’t happen to a nicer girl…

Uncle models the opening scene of The Perfect Date

So why, with all that, isn’t The Perfect Date called The Dog Walker? In the end, my editor persuaded me that it might put off anyone – like her – who isn’t into dogs.

Was she right?

You can order The Perfect Date from your favourite bookstore, or get it now online.

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