I must confess I’m a dog-person at heart, preferring the earthy, affectionate exuberance of dogs to the aloofness of fastidious felines. In fact, I never planned to include cats, but somehow they wormed their way into the novel, and even needed researching – not difficult, since cats are everywhere on the Internet. I was amazed by those cat-obsessives who spend a fortune on cat-toys, cat-vitamins, cat-treats, cat-beds, and even cat-therapy, or who devote their lives to cossetting, grooming, or playing with their “babies”. One cat-owner left instructions in her will that her deceased kitty’s ashes were to be mingled with her own in one cat-shaped urn!
If you’ll forgive the play on words, cats are a catalyst in The Tender Murderer, leading to new plot-twists and eventually to a denouement. And, as for the exotic Egyptian Maus who feature towards the end of the book, this breed was totally unknown to me until a friend helping me with prison research revealed that his wife owned a pair of those distinctively spotted aristocrats. The wife in question introduced me to her breeder – a one-woman mine of information – and once again I was penetrating a hitherto hidden world. Never before had I heard of five-generation pedigrees, or Grand Champions with exotic names such as Bacamamdit Riochet of Pazlo, or Emaus Tetris of New Kingdom, nor encountered such an array of coat-colours ranging from Lilac-Cream and Sorrell to Mackerel Tabby and Pewter. But one of the great pleasures of novel-writing is the fascinating new facts one learns and the equally fascinating new people one meets.
These latter included many of those working for prison-reform – their sheer numbers and dogged idealism a revelation to me. To my shame, I’d never heard of organizations such as Blue Sky, the St Giles Trust, Tempus Novo, Only Connect, and dozens more, and I set about this new area of research with combined guilt and admiration – guilt that I personally had done nothing for the cause, and admiration for those who devote their lives to it.