For the sequel to Knightley & Son, the theme was simple: dogs. I’ve often loved the second instalment in a series because the main characters are already established and the story has freedom to go in new directions. There’s an unwritten law in Hollywood that the second in a series is often the best. From The Empire Strikes Back in the original Star Wars trilogy to The Dark Knight in the Batman series. Good sequels deepen the relationships between the characters and heighten the conflicts–and often leave you hanging at the end, waiting for episode three to resolve matters. In Knightley & Son: K-9 I tried to turn everything up to eleven: the suspense, the comedy, and the horror. At the beginning of the second book, thirteen-year-old detective hero Darkus Knightley finds himself alone again, but not because his private eye dad is in a coma as he began the first book. This time Knightley Senior is alive and well, but has gone off the radar on a bizarre investigation of his own, leaving Darkus at the mercy of school, unobtainable female classmates and playground bullies. Little does Darkus realise his dad will soon be needing his help again, and on a more sinister case than ever. The problem this time is of the four-legged kind. Strangely aggressive dogs are attacking senior police officers, a werewolf is rumoured to be stalking one of London’s largest parks, and curiously alert hounds are watching Darkus’s house.
And who better to become Darkus’s new partner, than a four-legged friend. My inspiration for Wilbur the former bomb disposal dog, was the long tradition of “war dogs” who fight side by side with soldiers and use their exceptional sense of smell to detect the enemy. War dogs are trained to pick up the scent of explosives and even the gun oil of a sniper rifle. And they’re known to breed a sense of loyalty and friendship that soldiers repeatedly said was stronger than any other relationship in their lives. I won’t deny there was also some inspiration from my favourite fictional dogs: Lassie, Zeus and Apollo from Magnum P.I., and the robot K-9 from Doctor Who. (Incredibly, my dad, who worked at the BBC in the late 1970’s, once took me to the set of Doctor Who and I met K-9. This was in the days when I wore a handmade (by my mum) Tom Baker-style multi-coloured twelve-foot scarf.)
The villain is a vital part of any crime story, and being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes I wanted to reference The Hound of the Baskervilles. But I also knew that in order to feel modern, the villain had to be more than simply a hound. And instead of this creature lurking on a desolate moor in Devon, perhaps a wild, untamed park near the centre of London was even scarier. And so Alan and Darkus Knightley’s paths converge on London’s Hampstead Heath, and along with Wilbur, they must solve a canine conspiracy that appears to be spreading across the capital. Dogs can be your best friend, but what if they’re also your worst enemy? You’ll have to read Knightley & Son: K-9 to find out.
Knightley & Son: K-9 is published 14th August 2014