Talking animals have turned up frequently in recent literary fiction: Richard Parker the tiger in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, Cornelius Medvei’s monkey Mr Thundermug, talking mules in Magnus Mills’s Explorers of the New Century, Haruki Murakami’s cats. But among this illustrious company, by far the most appealing animal protagonist in recent years is Daren King’s Jim Giraffe, from his novel of the same name, a perverted ghost giraffe who lives in a wardrobe. King’s latest novel, Manual, features an equally appealing animal, Owl, an old-fashioned gentleman always politely inquiring if someone would mind terribly fetching him a bowl of vole blood, if they could be so kind. Or failing that, some vole-flavoured crisps.
Alongside Jim Giraffe and Owl, there are also the animal heroes of Daren King’s children’s books, the rabbit detective Sensible Hare, and the rodent hero of Mouse Noses on Toast, Paul Mouse; as well as the cast of King’s most extraordinary (and disturbing) work to date, the ‘adult picture book’