What is Headspace?

Headspace is Amber Marks's satirical account of her research into the policing of smell - she uses developments in smell research as an allegory for the surveillance society. Amber was working as a barrister when she started spotting sniffer dogs on her travels to courts in different parts of the country. Disturbed by the implications for civil liberties (who needs a warrant when you've got a dog) and cynical about the supposed infallibility of canine intelligence (barking up the wrong knee), Amber started researching the phenomenon. To her amazement she discovered that across the world, people are being convicted on the word of a dog alone - despite the science of smell (the fascinating history and advances of which are all included in this book) being very poorly understood. As a legal expert on canine evidence, Amber is invited to a Ministry of Defence conference where the security applications of mice, moths, salmon and plants are discussed. That's when Amber's research journey really begins.

Q & A with Amber:

Why did you call the book "Headspace"?

Quite a lot in the book is about the importance of pscyhological privacy to human liberty and autonomy. Headspace - in 1960s jargon- means psychological privacy, the cognitive shed required for the development of an individual personality. When an entomologist told me that 'headspace' is also the technical term for the area surrounding a subject in which their smell can be detected and analysed - I knew it had to be the title of my book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed everything about it. I enjoyed befriending security agents, police officers and scientists (they have all taken the fun I poke at their research in good humour). I enjoyed researching all the novels relating to the sense of smell (Perfume, Jitterbug Perfume, Brave New World, Oryx And Crake and millions of others) and learning about the science of smell. It was a great excuse to read Arthur Koestler's Ghost in the Machine and learn about bee brains and the manipulation of instinctive behaviour.

What is Dogwatch?

Dogwatch is the name of a secret organisation in Amber's book. It monitors potential threats to Headspace and seeks to inform people of their rights in these confusing times. It is presently focused on developments in surveillance, forensic science, less than lethal weapons, the militarisation of biology and the science of smell. Membership is easy- just send your findings to Amber and automatically become a member!

Dog Witness to murder

Murder Trial Calls Dog As Witness
By Sky News SkyNews - Thursday, September 11 02:59 pm
A courtroom observing a French murder trial could be excused for thinking the presiding judge has gone barking mad.


In what is believed to be a world first, the investigating magistrate has invited a dog to take the stand as a witness.

Scooby will give evidence as he is believed to have been with his 59-year-old owner when she was found hanging from the ceiling of her Paris flat.

Police believe the death was suicide, but her family cry murder - and the only witness to see the alleged crime is on four legs.

It is hoped Scooby can collar the potential perpetrator, having already played a leading role during a preliminary court hearing in Nanteree, a Paris suburb.

He is said to have hounded a suspect, "barking furiously" after being taken out of the kennel and into the witness box by a vet.

French judge Thomas Cassuto praised the mongrel for his "exemplary behaviour and invaluable assistance".

But lawyers barked back - insisting the bizarre spectacle "proved nothing".

One said: "Human evidence is unreliable enough, let alone canine evidence.

"Besides, the victim died two and half years ago, which is seventeen dog years! How is the animal supposed to remember that far back?"

A spokesman for the Palais de Justice in Paris confirmed that the appearance was the first time a dog had appeared as a witness in criminal proceedings in France.

He said: "It was a preliminary hearing. The judge will now decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial."