About the Books

THE DOGS OF POMPEII is the first in a series of adventures featuring Caroline, a teenage American girl, her Italian friend Gianni and their canine companion, Nero. The second book in the series, NERO GOES TO ROME will be released on July 1st, 2007 and will be followed by the third, NERO AND THE LOST CITY.

the dogs of Pompeii
THE DOGS OF POMPEII book cover

Meet Caroline.

She's spending her first summer away from home helping her archeologist uncle excavate a mysterious 2,000 year old villa in the ruined city of Pompeii. But when the evil Signor Macchiato threatens to sabotage the project, she faces life-threatening dangers.

Caroline is befriended by Gianni, a young Italian guy, and Nero, a resourceful stray dog. They join her in a breathtaking series of adventures - a kidnapping, a heart-stopping motorbike chase on the sun-drenched Amalfi cliffs and a fight for their lives fifty metres above the flames of a blast furnace.

It's a race against time to save Pompeii, Caroline's uncle, and all the Dogs of Pompeii.

Click here to read the THE DOGS OF POMPEII chapter 14!

Nero goes to Rome
NERO GOES TO ROME book cover

Once again, Nero finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Trapped in a delivery van heading for Rome, he encounters a sinister stranger who, to avoid capture by the police, clamps a collar on Nero - not a dog collar, but a stolen Vatican treasure. Lost in Rome, and pursued by the insane Otto and his unlikely accomplice Edith, Nero seeks out Gianni, the only human he can depend on - but no one can discover the secret of the clasp and the collar remains locked around Nero's neck. The crooks will stop at nothing, including decapitation, to retrieve their loot.

Nero, Caroline and Gianni are reunited in another action-packed adventure as they dodge Otto and Edith - a night in the creepy caverns of the Colosseum, the abduction of Caroline's best friend Didi, a ransom drop at dawn in the ruins of Rome's ancient forum, and a life-or-death climax which finds our heroes lost in the maze of catacombs far beneath the Eternal City.

Enjoy the thrills, the chills, the adventures and the laughs when

NERO GOES TO ROME

published by Random House 2007

Click here to read NERO GOES TO ROME chapter 24!

Nero and the Lost City
NERO AND THE LOST CITY book cover

Digging in the dust of Pompeii, Nero accidentally unearths evidence of a murder - a murder that occurred minutes before the city was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

In their efforts to solve the crime, Caroline, Gianni and Professor Garibaldi find the key to the mystery of the Villa Deidamia and a map revealing a lost treasure on a distant Greek island.

The map takes them across the Mediterranean to the mysterious island of Nepenthe. Here they face untold dangers when their guide, a sinister monk, betrays them to the professor's arch rival who will stop at nothing to beat them to the treasure.

Caroline and Gianni are left to perish in an underwater tomb while Nero is captured by a pack of wolves, freedom fighters who want to sever the ties between canines and humans and reclaim their shrinking habitat.

The search for the treasure becomes a struggle for survival and a race against time when Nepenthe's long dormant volcano erupts and finally reveals THE LOST CITY.

Click here to read NERO AND THE LOST CITY chapter 3!


THE DOGS OF POMPEII - CHAPTER 14

I was just thinking how relaxing the day had been, when Gianni burst out of the restaurant with Nero under his arm and said, 'We're leaving!' He was on his Vespa and revving it up before I'd even put my espresso cup down. I felt embarrassed. 'Gianni, if you don't have enough to pay the bill, I can - ' 'Just get on the bike!' 'Don't order me about! I - ' Suddenly I understood. Monocolo was standing in the restaurant doorway, and it looked like the only thing that prevented him from killing us right then and there was the presence of the other customers. 'You're right,' I said, 'forget the bill. We'll send them a cheque!' And I jumped onto the back of the scooter. Gianni floored it and the Vespa surged forward, nearly throwing me off the back. I clutched wildly at Nero and he clutched equally wildly at me. We tore straight across the middle of the piazza and scattered a couple of elderly tourists in our wake. I looked back to see Monocolo astride a powerful Italian motorbike. I could hear his engine start up with a roar as we left the piazza and Gianni headed for the narrow road that wound back down the mountain. 'We'll never get away!' I yelled in his ear. 'That thing he's riding must have five times the power of this!' 'But only half the manoeuvrability!' he shouted back. 'Wait until we get to Amalfi. I can lose him in the back alleys.' If we make it that far alive, I thought. The road from Ravello to the sea is almost entirely single lane, with barely enough room here and there for two vehicles to pass. Gianni wove in and out of the stream of traffic. We were still well ahead of Monocolo, but then we hit a narrow stretch and got trapped behind a slow-moving truck. All too soon I heard the low-pitched roar of the motorbike. I looked back and sure enough, there he was, less than half a kilometre behind. He disappeared again as we rounded a tight curve, then reappeared, closer this time. He was gaining steadily. 'Hang on!' Gianni yelled. He gunned the Vespa through an impossibly narrow gap between the truck and an oncoming bus! I saw the startled expressions of the passengers as we tore past. The road narrowed again, and this worked to our advantage as Monocolo was now stuck behind the truck. A last series of curves and we sped out onto the coast road. A second of indecision, and Gianni headed west for Amalfi. I looked behind us. No sign of Monocolo. Traffic on the Amalfi Drive was much heavier than on the Ravello road and we soon slowed to a crawl. Gianni snorted with impatience as we dawdled behind another huge bus. 'Come on!' he shouted at the bus. He glanced over his shoulder to the traffic behind us. 'Monocolo might have gone east instead of west - it's a fifty-fifty chance,' I said. Then I heard it - that low powerful sound and it was getting louder. 'Dio mio,' Gianni muttered under his breath. I looked back. I could see Monocolo now, passing car after car and getting nearer by the second. 'He's right behind us!' Gianni hit the gas and we passed the bus on the outside of a blind curve. I muttered a quick prayer to whoever was listening and clung onto Nero tightly with one hand and even more tightly to Gianni with the other. We sailed past the bus and struck a clear stretch of road, but Monocolo had also passed the bus and was still right behind us. By the time we rounded the next curve he was pulling alongside us on the left. 'I want to talk to you two!' he shouted. 'Slow down before you get us all killed!' Gianni didn't take his eyes off the road ahead. Nor did he slow down. Monocolo moved slightly ahead, then swerved into us. He was trying to run us off the road! Nero yelped with pain as his tail swiped the rear view mirror of a parked car and the Vespa wobbled crazily, but Gianni got us back on course. We leant into another curve and Monocolo swung wider. I thought this time he's really going to run us off the road! We were neck and neck as we rounded the bend. Monocolo was well into the other traffic lane. I looked ahead and screamed. A fully loaded produce truck was bearing down on us - and Monocolo was directly in its path! He swerved to the left to avoid almost certain collision and his bike swung wildly out of control and jumped the low stone wall on the cliff side. We watched in horror as twenty thousand dollars worth of cutting edge technology arced gracefully through the air and plunged into the Mediterranean two hundred metres below. Monocolo followed less gracefully, his arms and legs flailing at the air as he fell.


NERO GOES TO ROME - CHAPTER 24

Inside the church, the only light came from a series of arched windows high up in the walls. Columns surrounded the empty circular interior and cast spooky shadows on the smooth marble floor. Gianni remained still for a moment, listening - so did Nero. There wasn't a sound, unless you counted our breathing. He turned on his flashlight. In its beam, the gold bracelet around my wrist glittered. It suddenly seemed very heavy. Nero and I followed Gianni to the far side of the church, where he eased behind a column and knelt by a large wooden trapdoor in the floor, which had a rusted iron ring attached. 'Help me,' he whispered. We tugged at the ring, the heavy trapdoor opened and Gianni aimed his flashlight into the darkness. Beneath the trapdoor was a spiral staircase cut into the rock. 'This leads down to the Boschetti vault,' he said. Although he was whispering, his voice echoed off the walls around us. 'Below the vault are the catacombs.' The very word made me shiver. One of the few things that stuck in my head from Miss Moreno's history class was how the early Christians buried their dead in the catacombs. I even remembered Didi's disgusted, 'How gross is that?' Little did she know that one day she'd find out first-hand. 'There are some five kilometres of passageways under this church according to my calculations.' 'Five kilometres?' I said, unable to keep my voice from trembling. 'That's just the area I surveyed. There might be another five kilometres of undiscovered passages down there.' 'Uh - how far down there?' 'Only about twenty metres.' He started down the worn stone steps. I stayed where I was - twenty metres! 'Come on!' he whispered urgently. I started down. Gianni wouldn't let up. 'Of course, only about seventy per cent of all the catacombs in Rome have been opened and explored. It's believed that the total length of the network is something like eight hundred kilometres.' We continued down the slippery stone steps, worm smooth by centuries of pilgrims' feet until I was giddy from the spiral. Once in a while, Nero paused at a broken step and uttered a tiny sound, as if to warn us. After we'd descended about ten metres, we came to a landing just big enough for the three of us. A wooden door with a rusted iron latch was open a crack. Gianni lowered the beam and there on the floor was a heavy lock - twisted and broken. I knew from his expression that the lock hadn't been broken the last time he was here. He pushed gently at the door. More stairs! At the bottom of the steps was a large vaulted room carved into the rock. Gianni shone the light around the walls, which were lined with marble tablets inscribed in Latin. 'The Boschetti family tombs,' he explained in a whisper. Thanks a lot, I really needed to know that, I thought. I shivered. It was very, very cold. Gianni buttoned his jacket up over the coil of rope, and he looked strangely bulky in the half-light. He referred once again to his map, then edged behind a large jutting tombstone. He ran his fingers along the grooves separating the marble slabs on the wall, then - 'Yes!' A narrow section of the wall moved back with a grating sound. It was a doorway and beyond it was total - and I mean total - darkness. Even Nero seemed reluctant to enter. I certainly was - and my reluctance turned to downright terror when Gianni announced in a triumphant whisper, 'The catacombs.' He headed into the blackness. I followed. A long passageway stretched ahead of us, just wide enough for two people and a dog and we walked its length cautiously. At last it opened out into a wider chamber. On the far side, we were faced with not one archway, but four! And all of them pitch black. 'We need the North Passage,' Gianni said. 'How do we know which that is?' I whispered. 'With this.' From his pocket he produced a compass on a long loop of cord. 'Take it.' I put the cord round my neck and held the compass out so Gianni could examine it with the flashlight. I admit I was impressed with his foresight. 'Keep it steady,' he whispered. 'I can't read it with you shaking it around like that.' No more than you're shaking the flashlight around, I thought. But I was glad he was nervous too - it would keep us both on our toes. After some hesitation Gianni pointed to a very narrow archway that looked even darker than the others, if that was possible. 'I think that's it.' He took Didi's shoe out of his pocket and held it out to Nero, who inspected it with a series of rapid sniffs. 'What do you say Nero?' Nero turned his attention to the passages before us, then started off into the tunnel that Gianni had indicated. We started into the darkness. 'Stay close,' Gianni said. 'People have been known to get lost in the catacombs, never to be seen again.' That did it. I grabbed his jacket and stayed so close I trod on his heels. The passage was so narrow I could touch both sides of it easily, and at one point I heard Gianni curse softly as he hit his head on the ceiling. We hadn't gone far when we started down a steep slope. 'Attenzione!' he whispered and grabbed my arm. We were at the top of a flight of steep narrow steps cut directly into rock. 'Are you sure this is right?' 'I think so,' he whispered. Again we looked to Nero, who started off gingerly down the steps. The going was slow because the steps were so uneven, and every so often one was missing. Several times I slipped and almost fell on top of Gianni. We were a long way underground now and I was seized with claustrophobia. I took a couple of deep breaths, but the dank, earthy air did little to revive me. Suddenly Nero stopped and let out a low growl. Gianni clicked off the flashlight. There was a faint glow coming from somewhere ahead of us. Gianni nudged me and put a finger to his lips. What did he think I was going to do - burst into song? Moving quietly now, we reached the bottom of the steps and came into a wide cavern. At its centre was a deep circular pit of some kind - it must've been five metres wide. The light was coming from deep inside it. Nero crouched down close to the floor and crept forward one paw at a time. Motioning me to stay where I was, Gianni followed him to the edge of the pit. He turned and beckoned to me to join him, indicating that I should keep my head low. As I moved cautiously forward, a blood-curdling scream ripped through the stale air and echoed through the vaults and passageways. It was Didi.


NERO AND THE LOST CITY - CHAPTER 3

Gianni and I walked cautiously out onto the plank which crossed the tiled roof of the villa and peered through the square opening in the roof. "This opening is called the compluvium" Gianni explained. He can't help himself - everything has to be explained. "It looks down into the atrium." Even I knew what an atrium was, but I didn't dare interrupt him. The moon went behind a cloud and Gianni took out a pocket pocket flashlight and shone it over the floor beneath us. "Right underneath the compluvium on the atrium floor is a shallow pool called the impluvium." I nodded and said 'uh huh' a couple of times to show I was keeping up. "It collected rainwater and usually had a small statue at the center." 'Usually' was right - because it was here in this ultra grand house that the unusually life-size and stunningly beautiful statue of Deidamia was discovered in that eventful summer - by Nero. Once again we heard Nero's muffled howl, but there was no sign of him. "Look over there" Gianni said, and he held his flashlight steady on a pile of ash at a doorway which led off the atrium. "The floor tiles are broken and there's a hole in the floor. Nero must have fallen into the cellar." He called "Nero!" Nero answered with a fractured bark that ended in an anguished howl. Gianni scrambled to his feet and started back across the plank. "Wait here." "Shouldn't we get someone to help us?" I asked, knowing that Gianni would refuse even before I finished the question. "I can do this myself!" he said indignantly. He ran to the equipment tent and returned at once with a coil of heavy rope around his shoulder and a powerful flashlight. He thrust the coil of rope at me, turned the flashlight on and hooked it onto his belt as he started down the ladder. "When I reach the floor, drop the rope down." "Why don't I just bring it down with me?" I asked innocently. "You're not coming! It's too dangerous!" I said nothing - nor did I remove the innocent smile from my face. Gianni sighed. He knew it was pointless to argue with me, just as well as I knew it was pointless to argue with him. "Okay, come on." I waited until he reached the atrium floor and climbed down the ladder. "Here is where the statue of Deidamia stood" he whispered. "And there is the mosaic of the wolf." He pointed the beam at the floor and the tiny colored tiles almost seemed to come to life as the wolf guarded the entrance to the house. "Totally amazing" was all I could manage. "Now look" Gianni said. "This is the really amazing part." He raised the flashlight beam to the walls of the atrium and I gasped at what I saw. The atrium was the formal entrance foyer in a grand house and usually the walls were decorated with pretty paintings of cherubs, or countryside scenes, or noble gods - but here, one entire wall was slashed with bright reds and yellows and depicted an ancient city completely engulfed in flames. People were fleeing the conflagration, some held their hands to their faces to ward off the fire, some had fallen and were burning. It was horrific and I couldn't help shuddering. "How can the colors still be so bright after all this time?' I whispered. "These paintings haven't seen the light of day in nearly two thousand years" Gianni said. "They're as bright as when they were painted." Gianni moved the beam to an adjoining wall - here, the picture was of a volcano erupting violently, spewing out red lava. Beneath it, the entire countryside seemed to be ablaze. "What do you think it means?" Gianni just shrugged. "We don't know. Yet." "Is it Pompeii?" He shook his head. "This house was built long before 79 AD. And look - " he pointed to the volcano in the fresco, " - there are two peaks, and these buildings are not Roman. And here in the foreground, this looks like a harbor." "So where do you think this is?" Gianni shrugged. "The professor thinks it must be a Mediterranean island, but…" A mournful yelp reminded us of the reason we'd climbed down into the villa. "Veniamo" Gianni called. He warned me to tread carefully and we approached the broken tiles and the hole in the floor. He turned the beam of the flashlight downward, and way below us, the familiar black face of Nero peered back. He looked very forlorn indeed, but seemed unhurt by his fall. "I'll have to climb down to get him" Gianni said. He uncoiled the rope and tied one end to a wooden plank which he anchored behind two columns. "Are those columns safe?" I said, glancing at the roof far above us. "They've supported this house and tons of earth for two thousand years, they'll hold my weight" Gianni said, as usual, a little too confidently. "Hold the light steady." He eased his feet into the narrow opening and started shinning down the rope. Near the bottom, he dropped to the floor and I saw Nero leap into his arms, licking him gratefully. Then I heard Gianni gasp loudly. "Dio mio!" "What? What is it?" "Drop the flashlight to me." I glanced about me at the terrifying scenes on the painted walls. "You want the flashlight down there?" "Drop it!" He yelled. No way, I thought. "I'm coming down!" "No! Your uncle would never…" But my sneakers were already clamped around the rope and I slid - a long way - to the stone floor of the cellar. Nero squirmed out of Gianni's grasp to greet me, his tail wagging furiously. I hugged him. "It's okay Nero, we've got you now" I said. Gianni wrenched the flashlight from my belt and shone it on the far wall. I heard his sharp intake of breath. I stroked Nero's head as I glanced around the stone floor. "It's surprising that this room didn't get filled with volcanic ash when…" I followed Gianni's gaze and cried out in shock, and clutched Nero so tightly that he yelped in pain. Leaning against the stone wall, half buried in dirt and ash, was a skeleton. No, not just a skeleton, a skeleton with what looked like a large knife wedged between its ribs. I took a step backwards and bumped into Gianni who dropped the flashlight. It clattered on the stone floor, rolled away from us - and went out. We were in total darkness. Once again, I cried out loud - and felt stupid. Even more so when Gianni sighed loudly in exasperation at me for being such a girl. He switched on his pocket flashlight. Its light was faint, but I felt relieved. The relief didn't last long. Gianni played the narrow beam across the uneven floor. "I think it rolled that way. Yes!" We saw the big flashlight by a pile of dirt on the far side of the cellar. Gianni held out the pocket flashlight to me. I set Nero gently on the floor and took the light. "Hold it steady! Gianni said. I was doing my best, but my hand was trembling and the beam shook a bit. Nero must've picked up some of our tension, because I could feel him quivering at my feet. Gianni knelt by the mound of earth and reached for the big flashlight. As he did so, the mound collapsed in a cloud of dust revealing - another skeleton! This time I really screamed. "Basta!" Gianni said angrily. "Can't you see these are important archaeological finds?" Yes, I could see that. "Anche, they have been dead for a long time!" Yes, I could see that too, but it did nothing to stop me from shaking. Gianni took the big flashlight carefully from the floor and in doing so, dislodged more of the mound. The dust made us both cough and Nero sneezed violently. When the dust settled, we could see that the second skeleton was holding something - a large pottery vase. "Looks like a wine amphora" Gianni said and rose slowly to his feet. "We must touch nothing until the professor sees this." His eyes met mine as a thought occurred to us both at the same time. I was the one who put it into words: "How are we going to tell Uncle Tad we were down here? He'll be furious." Gianni shrugged and sighed. Then he went to where the rope dangled from the opening above us. "You go first and I'll pass Nero up to you" he said. I stumbled to the rope and clutched it with both hands. There was a splintering crack above us as the plank which secured the rope split in two. The rope came tumbling down into the cellar and fell in an untidy pile at my feet. I turned to Gianni. "Oops."