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Like many stories, Fly, Cherokee, Fly is based on truth. One day, I was walking across my local park with my wife when I found a pigeon fluttering in the bushes. The bird's wing had obviously been broken and seemed to have reset in an awkward position. So we picked him up and took him to a local vet. The vet shook his head and said he didn't think the bird had much chance of survival. But we took him home anyway, put him in a box and gave him some cornflakes and muesli to eat. The bird survived. He died on Christmas Day 1998. We had had him for fourteen years.

I called my pigeon Gregory Peck, after a famous actor who my grandma always swooned over. When he'd been with me about three months, he found the strength to fly again. So I built him a box on the back wall of my house and let him come and go as he pleased. One day, he brought a girlfriend home! She was a beautiful black and white bird we called Gigi. Before long, Gigi had laid a couple of eggs. Eighteen days later, we had two baby pigeons (or squabs as they are known). We weren't sure what to call the squabs. The only way we could tell them apart was that one had pinkish feet and the other had black. So we called the one with darker feet Blackfoot, which is the name of a Native American Indian tribe. I expect you think we called the other one Pinkfoot? No. We gave it another Indian tribe name: Sioux. It became a tradition after that to give any future new squabs Indian names. So we had Hopi, Apache, Comanche, Arapaho and, of course, Cherokee...

When I came to write the book, I didn't have Darryl find a racing pigeon at first. He found a feral bird like I did. But the story felt dull and it wasn't long before I realised that it really ought to be a racing bird because they can be valuable. If something is valuable that usually means that whoever owns that thing would want it back. If you've read the story you'll know it doesn't quite work out like that for Darryl, in fact it gets him into a lot of trouble with a bully called Warren Spigott. That was how the story came about, anyway. If you enjoyed it, you'll be pleased to know that Darryl continues his adventures in PAWNEE WARRIOR and you can read about that book by clicking on its title...

My first pigeon, Gregory Peck...

Me in pigeon mode!

Gregory's girlfriend, Gigi!