Albert Jack’s Red Herrings and White Elephants was a huge international hit and was on the bestsellers list for six months. His second, Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep was another success: selling over 70,000 copies. He is also the author of That's Bollocks! (all the strangest, sickest, funniest and most unforgettable urban legends as told in Jack's inimitable style) and Albert Jack's Ten-Minute Mysteries.
Often, the first question I am asked in every interview I give is ‘where did you get the idea in the first place’. And that is easy to answer. After I had finished a previous book, which is called Sounds From the Street, a biography about a band called The Jam, I started looking around for a new subject. Sounds From the Street was selling very well, for a music biography, but that type of book is usually tucked away on shelves in the music sections of bookshops, which are three floors up and at the back of the store. At the time I used to look at all the trivia type gift books piled on high on the tables by the front door and under the tills and I had my ‘John Lennon’ moment. Remember the quote of his when he first saw Elvis perform on stage?
‘Now that looks like a good job, I’d like to do that..!’
Well that’s what I thought too. So I started casting around for ideas and thought firstly of a music trivia book followed by a sports trivia title or perhaps a combined volume, but somehow I couldn’t make them work. Then, one day in December 2003, I was in a pub in Guildford and a friend of mine came in looking like somebody had run over his cat. He explained he had been out painting the town red the previous evening and now felt like someone was trying to push a knitting needle through his ear, so I suggested he have a hair of the dog.
‘Good idea’ he said, turning to the barman, ‘one of those please’.
Now the barman is Colombian and, although he speaks very good English, stared at us blankly before saying ‘But dogs aren’t allowed in this pub’. That got us thinking and we stared wondering where all these little phrases came from and why they are so natural for us to use as an everyday part of our language, especially given the actual words we use mean nothing at all in the context of a conversation we are having.
Before long the Guvnor fetched us up a square meal, but we had already been there a while so before I reached the end of my tether I decided to make my way home. It was raining cats and dogs outside so, I bit the bullet, and making sure I set off on the right foot, made my way home through the rain. Before long I had discovered many of these phrases actually do have origins that traceable throughout history and some have emerged from a single event.
Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep, which is published on 8th September, is in my humble opinion better than my last book. Part of the reason for this is because the new book has been written with much more confidence – having a bestseller under your belt tends to have that effect! But also, many of the phrases for Shaggy Dogs came from readers’ letters and it’s great to know that people are enjoying my work.