To celebrate the paperback publication of The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari, a thriller that promises to wake your deepest childhood fears, we spoke to some of our authors about what scared them most when they were younger. Here, Nick Stone, author of incredible new legal thriller The Verdict, shares his story.
Wag the Gun
I don’t like dogs. Not all dogs, you understand. Not even most dogs. Just some dogs – attack dogs; mean dispositioners, Jaws on paws – Pitbull variants, Rotties, Dobermans and, especially Alsatians/German Shepherds, the Hitler Hound. They remind me of those loner blokes you see in pubs, talking to themselves and drinking with their demons. Look one in the eye and they’ll take it as a challenge to be met. Get too close and they’ll bite.
This is rooted in childhood. I was raised by my grandparents in Haiti until I was four. We had a dog called Toto, but he died. Apparently we got on well, Toto and me, but sadly I can’t remember that. I say ‘sadly’, because my first ever memory is of being attacked by an Alsatian.
My grandparents lived on the family estate. They rented the neighbouring houses out to visiting foreign embassy staff who all kept Alsatians as guard dogs. When they left Haiti for other postings, the dogs got left behind. The dogs were always attacking people, probably because they were trained to and didn’t know any better.
My grandfather knew he was dying of cancer. He was in great pain, but he was determined to spend as much of his remaining time with me as he could. I used to play in the yard while he sat in his chair in the shade, watching me. He had a bottle of whiskey on the table, next to a loaded Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver.
The Alsatian wandered into the yard. I remember the teeth clamping down on my little arm. I remember its prickly hair and its hot breath. I remember pain. My granddad shot the dog. I don’t remember that, nor the stitches I had to have and the fever that followed. My grandmother told me I almost died.
Fear of dogs stayed with me a long time. I outgrew it in my teens when I took up boxing. Stepping into a confined space with someone who wants to at least rearrange your features shifts your perspective on fear. I realised that dogs learn their meanness from people – very much like people themselves. But I still cross the road on the very rare occasions I see an attack dog off a lead – especially an Alsatian.
I suppose you could say I would have been a more rounded individual if I’d had an aversion to guns, but then I probably wouldn’t have been a crime writer.