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           THE TROOPS



       Illustrated by Mellany Crooks

The concept for the story was imagined at a party in my back garden. One warm, summer night, I had invited friends around to join me in the cooking of a whole lamb that I had on a spit over a roasting pit. Wine and conversation flowed freely and one of my friends, a nature photographer called Andy asked why I had chosen the moniker private spider for my e-mail address, to which I replied, "I'm a private sort of guy and I'm on the web."

"It sounds like a character for children's story to me," he replied.

That brief comment got me thinking. I watched my friends and realised they could all be insect characters! Peter was always late getting anywhere but was a solid, reliable kind of fellow, so why not call him Soldier Snail? Emma was a social butterfly, constantly flitting about and could be nothing less than a chorus girl to entertain the troops. Diane, was a nurse, perhaps I could call her Florence after Florence Nightingale, she could be a ladybird. 

   "Can I be a dragonfly?" Andy jokingly asked, when I told him of my idea. "I always fancied myself as an RAF pilot."

   "Sure," I laughed. "An army needs an airborne division."

   All I needed to complete my little brigade was a character to command them. The biggest bug I could think of for the job was a staghorn beetle, with its massive pincers and thick, armoured carapace. So, that night, Colonel Pincer was born and I began to write the adventures of my little back garden brigade, which was the working title at the time. In all, I wrote a series of six stories. This book, subtitled Boot Print Lake, is the first in The Troops series, and is the only one I have published so far. 


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