This novel exists because of my chance encounter with a local amateur historian at the Battersea Arts Centre. He was retelling stories of the social history of, what was, back in the day, Battersea’s Municipal Town Hall. The event was part of celebrations marking the Centre’s re-opening after the terrible fire of 2015 that almost gutted it. He’d been researching the building’s early 20th century history and had come across a curious entry in its archives. A record of three public meetings, within a week of each other, held in the Grand Hall. Each meeting was packed out and concerned with the same single issue, an ongoing row about a statue.
The strangeness of this tweaked his curiosity and drove him to investigate further; in doing so, he discovered an extraordinary series of events that made up this incredible true story. That was the tale he told us on that day. The day was 15th September 2018.
He ended with an apology; he said he wasn’t at all sure whether to tell this tale, whether it would be of any interest to us, but that the peculiar little story had gotten under his skin and he couldn’t shake it off. Well, that peculiar little story got under my skin too, and continued burrowing its way into my heart and soul. I couldn’t shake it off either.
It is incredible, and a tragedy, that this extraordinary true story has all but been forgotten in the century that has passed. And that, I believe, is not right. I resolved then that the world needed to hear this story, as its central theme, its underlying morality tale, is as relevant today as it was then. This novel started out life as a screenplay, and I still have ambitions for a film, but in the short term, publishing the book was a more likely prospect.
This story isn’t just the tragic tale of one stray, nameless little brown dog, appallingly treated in a less enlightened age. It is much more complicated than that. The whole sorry episode is an echo, a mirror, reflecting the endless injustices and evil carried out by humans on other species today. We are at the brink of a biodiversity crisis. A sixth extinction, in this, supposed civilised, 21st century. We have lost half of the planet Earth’s known species in the last forty years, whilst almost doubling our human population – it might be inconvenient to state it, but there is a direct correlation between these two trends.
As Lena, one heroine of the novel points out, ‘Our humanity is defined by how we treat, respect and nurture other species, not just our own.’ Can we say, hand on heart, we are any more ‘humane’ today than we were one hundred years ago?
So, here we are. Although this book is a fictional reworking, I’ve based the backbone of the story on the actual events that took place across London between 1903 -1910. I have truncated the timescale of events to accommodate the thrust of the fictional story that interweaves them, but have remained as close to the facts as I am able. All my characters are fictional inventions, however, the two female protagonists and the main antagonist are based on the real characters that had a hand in the events of the time.