The City That Barks and Roars by J.T. Bird Genre: Mystery Fiction
Animals rule the world
They hit cafes for breakfast then nine to five at the office, and fritter away evenings at jazz clubs.
But paradise is still a distant dream, for there are devils amongst the angels.
Lucas Panda is missing; clues on the riverbank suggest he was probably kidnapped. Enter Frank. Who else you gonna call? Hard-boiled penguin and the finest detective in town. And meet his new partner, Detective Chico Monkey - yeah, the wisecrackin' kid with all the snappy suits. But the stakes have been raised; three more creatures are missing and the citizens of Noah's Kingdom are faced with possible extinction. Can the grouchy bird and plucky young ape save the city from doom? Or, will evil prevail and escape the claws of justice?
'Animal noir' peppered with plenty of humour; this thrilling debut novel from award-winning comedian JT Bird is an intriguing blend of Jungle Book and Chinatown (Zootopia for grown-ups?! Watership Down with Fedoras!?) - perfect for fans of animal fiction, or mysteries, adventure and crime. A gripping yarn, packed with weird and wonderful creatures, for youngsters and adults alike (or anyone who's crying out for anthropomorphic detectives!!)
Bells chime above the door as the monkey dives inside to escape the relentless downpour. He shakes a few drops off the soaking wet suit and dries his eyes with a sleeve. It’s a pit of chaos: animals queuing for breakfast, trying to eat breakfast, and serving breakfast, all within an inappropriate amount of space. A pack of sailor seagulls are babbling loudly at their table beside the doorway - typical noisy gulls.
Squidged behind a table in the corner and facing foggy windows, sits a hard-boiled penguin devouring a plate full of scrambled eggs and mackerel. He’s a ‘King’ penguin, so shorter than an ‘Emperor’ but stout with a sharp beak and orange fur at the back of his neck which closely resembles a collar. Meet Frank - the only bird in town wearing a beige crumpled rain mac and chocolate colored fedora (the hat of choice for any true detective). His coat looks a shade too big and the hat’s tilted too far back, but he’s never been one for fashion.
Chico takes a seat opposite Frank, but the penguin barely flinches, such is the desire to finish his breakfast as swiftly as possible. Vote Spots – the monkey can’t help but notice the bold wilting poster of current mayor, George Leopard, overlooking their greasy table.
‘Ahem’. Chico tries to catch his attention. Frank licks the plate clean, before taking a long sip of pitch-black coffee. As the cup returns to the table, he finally sets eyes on his latest partner, and breaks the awkward silence.
‘You must be the chimp? Hot shot from West Bay. They tell me your good,’ he says, tapping the table with a cheap knife and fork. ‘I thought you’d be taller.’ By the sound of his voice you’d think he owned a pizza parlour, as opposed to being the city’s most experienced sleuth.
J T Bird is an award-winning stand-up comedian from North London, where he lives with his wife and child. His humble abode sits neatly between the former homes of HG Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson...so there's no pressure to write something utterly successful and wonderful.
Bird was actually 'The Chosen One' that prophets foresaw would rescue the world from all the powers of darkness - however, he opted for a career as a clown and author instead...
Another little known fact - his father was sent from the future to protect him from an android assassin, and his mother's possessed by a demon - but hey, we all have family issues right?!
"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."
- A.A. Mile, Winnie the Pooh
‘Anyone from eight to eighty-eight.’ That was the response from Richard Adams when asked who was suited to read Watership Down. It was initially rejected by numerous publishers who felt that adults didn’t want to read about animals, and that the plot was too tricky for children. Thankfully – and rightly so- he was not to be deterred.
Agents jump for joy whenever they clasp another tale about werewolves, witches, or brash dystopian heroines – yet scoff and scowl at the mention of talkative mammals. That has certainly been the case for me anyhow. I’m a stand-up comedian who was trapped in lockdown, and I decided to tackle my bucket list – starting with a debut novel. There was never any doubt which tale I’d tell. When I was eight years old I wrote a story about a crime solving penguin, but despite doing all the illustrations with my selection of half eaten crayons, and sketching a bar code on the back of my stapled pages – it was sadly never published. Alas, nearly thirty years later I scratched that itch and finally completed my manuscript. Finally, I could unveil my semi-aquatic sleuth.
Naively, I assumed the trickiest part was over. I’d written the book, a full book, sixty thousand bleedin’ words; surely now the literary fairies just took it away and brought me back a cheque?! Nope.
Being a stand-up comedian, I have developed quite a thick skin, but it’s tough receiving wave after wave of emails, each rejecting your precious ideas. Every agent to walk the land seemed to be of the same opinion: only children want to read about animals. And much like Adams, I refuse to believe that’s the case. Just because the bookshelves aren’t bursting with animal fiction, doesn’t mean that people wouldn’t care to read it – and remember that once upon a time, publishers were rejecting books about the school days of wizards.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed stories that introduced me to talking creatures (or anthropomorphic animals if you prefer). I’m a thirty-six-year-old bearded man now – yet the allure of Aslan the lion, Shere Khan, or Woundwort hasn’t waned for me in the slightest. The idea that apes could rule the world still plays on my mind. Toad of toad hall still makes me smile. I’d still like to walk through the looking glass. In fact, I believe that deep down every adult still harbours that desire to hear the thoughts of their pets. I mean, who isn’t curious what the cat has to say? Who hasn’t dreamed their dog would banter as well as bark? Wouldn’t life be fab if the hamster could sing?
I’m also a huge fan of film noir, so my novel takes place in 1952. Yes, there are similarities with your Raymond Chandler novels or classic movies like Chinatown, LA Confidential etc, but of course in my story – the main detective is a king penguin named Frank, and his partner is a red howler monkey called Chico. The setting for my yarn could quite easily be confused with fifties Los Angeles, yet I’ve swapped it for a metropolis called Noah’s Kingdom. Ok, I just loved the idea of a penguin that wore a fedora!! There are no spells, dragons, or teenage relationship issues, so it’s a bit different than what you’re used to – and it’s not targeted at a particular age group, but don’t be put off by the grumpy agents. Watership Down to date has sold around fifty million copies, so there is certainly someone out there who’s curious what the animals are whispering.