Award-winning West Sussex comedian launches his first novel

Award-winning comedian Jimmy Bird – who grew up in Horsham and attended both Forest Boys and Collyers College, is releasing his debut novel on August 1.

James Bird
James Bird

The City That Barks And Roars is published by JT Bird Publishing at £7.99 (paperback); £3.99 (Kindle).

James, aged 36, who writes as JT Bird, is currently based in Hampstead, North London.

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“I think I was about eight years old when I came up with this story about a crime-solving penguin. Most normal kids were outside building treehouses and having wild adventures down Horsham park, but I favoured hiding in dark corners, writing about semi-aquatic sleuths. I even drew the illustrations and a barcode to go on the back page – such was my desire to publish my very first novel.

“Now, nearly thirty years later, I decided to try again – but this time I’ve cut out the pictures and left barcodes to the minions at Amazon.

“I’ve actually been a stand-up comedian for the last ten years, won a few awards, run a comedy night for up and coming acts etc – but now I wanted to try something different, I wanted to finally publish a book. And I knew the second the idea popped in my head, that it would have to involve a penguin!

“I’ve grown up bingeing on tales of anthropomorphic creatures and always been enchanted by these worlds – from Watership Down and The Jungle Book, to Wind In The Willows and The Animals Of Farthing Wood.

“It never crossed my mind to write anything other than animal fiction, but also, I wanted it to be suitable for adults. There are ten million colourful books about animals for toddlers, but very few yarns for grown-ups, so hopefully my book will help to fill that void.

“I’m also a huge fan of film noir, so my story just had to take 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 in my book could also be quite easily confused with 50s 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…

“It’s been a joy to write, and who knows, there could be sequels if I’m not bombarded with scathing reviews come the day of its official release! But I’m proud nonetheless that all these years later, I’m finally unleashing my penguin upon the world.

“I’m currently based in North London. However, I grew up in lovely Horsham, attending Forest Boys and then Collyers College! And my family still live there so from time to time you might spot me doing laps of Swan Walk! Or maybe I’ll be eating at one of the four million restaurants they now have on East Street.

“I also run Birdies, near Covent Garden, which is one of the capital’s most popular haunts for up-and-coming comedians. But I decided to take a step back from performing to focus on becoming a writer. I live in a cosy flat that sits neatly between the former homes of HG Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson so there’s no pressure to write something wonderful….”