Back in July my dear friend Paddy Magrane author of the brilliant Chase Thrillers Disorder and Denial (available by clicking here) was doing some work in Israel at a charity called Safe Haven for Donkeys.

Safe Haven for Donkeys was set up in 2000 to help the thousands of working donkeys in Israel and the West Bank. They provide life-long care to around 200 unwanted and abused donkeys of all ages but the charity’s work does not stop at the sanctuary gates.

Each month, their mobile clinic helps around 1,000 working donkeys, mules and horses across thethe West Bank and they also have a permanent clinic in the city of Nablus, where my friend Paddy was working.

In early July, Paddy, at the clinic, met a donkey who’s leg had been broken

Now, a donkey with a broken leg is of little use and if the owner cannot afford vets bills and / or decides that the cost of feeding and healing the donkey is more than he’s willing to bear, the animals can be abandoned. Cast aside the way you or I might chuck a broken vase in the trash.

And that’s what had happened to this donkey. He’d been found, by the outreach people at Save Haven For Donkeys, abandoned in the street in Hebron. Left to starve.

And so they took him in, and by the time Paddy met him, the donkey had made a full recovery. One small problem remained. He had no name. As a visitor, Paddy was given the huge honour of naming him.

It was the third of July, Paddy was far from home, but he knew that the day in question was my birthday, and so he christened this donkey – the one who was left to die, and who got lucky and lived –  Derek.

And so here, I suppose, we need to talk about me. I write crime novels. They’re about – spoiler – crimes. But they’re also about family and friendship and love and compassion (but not, so far, about donkeys). But nothing prepared me for how emotional I’d feel at this naming. Cos I’ve often, in the past, felt broken and abandoned. Sometimes it’s been because I’ve broken and abandoned my self, but often it’s been because I’m hearing the voices telling me that people like me can’t do what I’ve decided I really want to do; and being told you’re not good enough – being told by the people entrusted to educate and form your spirit that people like you are worthless – can leave you feeling lost. Abandoned. Alone. So Derek the Donkey made perfect sense to me.

Last week, Paddy was back in Nablus, and sent me a picture of Derek, sprightly and spirited (and certainly more spirited than I’d be if I’d been left out by the recycling with a broken leg just a few months previously).

Paddy was given the honour of helping put the named bridle on to my spirit animal. It’s not the first time I’ve been referred to as a donkey and had a bridle put on me but the previous time was in a long condemned club on Tooley Street in the late eighties, so we’ll leave that story for another time…

Suffice it to say that Derek and Doctor Studley Al-Vetski are doing well. Yes, I saw your eyes straying to Dr Studley. Isn’t it lovely when the people who help animals are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside? And that, I think, is where I will leave that one.

Many of the donkeys at Safe Haven are available for adoption. Chill: This does not mean they do a home visit and then send your donkey of choice around in a crate (though I am sure that some of you are now considering ‘donkeysbymail’ as a business venture). What it really means is you pay an amount, they send you a picture and a fact file and a cuddly  donkey toy and you get the joy of knowing that you’ve done something for something and someone else.

I highly recommend it. I’ve already adopted Daniel in honour of the titular hero of my series, and am negotiating a name change for a Caz so I can adopt the pair and have them as enduring mascots at book signings.

Speaking of which, I’ve mentioned it before and I’m going to mention it again: I’m going to be appearing (like the apparition of a Victorian Urchin but with fewer tears and more freebies) at Crawley Library on the 19th of October from 11am to 2pm. I’ll be there to sell and sign copies of the Danny Novels. If you’re in the neighbourhood, please pop in; it would be LOVELY to see you, and I may have some surprises too for any Danny Readers who bring their collection in. It’s free, you don’t need to book, and you and your friends may just discover some books you’d missed out on by authors from your neighbourhood. Plus: Christmas is fast approaching, and books are so easy to wrap. The address is Southgate Ave, Crawley RH10 6HG.

The Danny Quadrilogy

The Danny Bird Books have a plethora of five star reviews (and one one star from someone who got it for free, but I’m not bitter or anything) and has most recently described by an Amazon reviewer here as being like “your very own game of armchair Cluedo,” which I really like.
You can buy the books from Amazon or direct from the Publisher here (And if you buy the paperback directly from Fahrenheit Press, they’ll give you a free copy of the eBook so you can read it anywhere).

What else? Oh yes, there’s a fifth Danny Mystery out soon, set in the world of Reality TV and featuring – I am heartbroken to say – not a single sight of a footballers wife on the trail of a killer (though I’ve put that one in my notebook for later. Along, I suspect, with every writer alive.) There’ll be more on the new book soon, but for now: Have a great weekend, and keep reading and telling people to read The Danny Bird Mysteries.


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