Last Updated on: October 10, 2012 by Ingrid King

 Cat in a White Tie and Tails cover

Guest post by Carole Nelson Douglas

Midnight Louie is delighted that I was invited to write about him for the Conscious Cat and pleased to see photos of attractive torties on the site. (Frankly, like any hard-boiled PI, he can’t resist a female of any species.) And that may be mutual, much as I hate to encourage him. He looks gorgeously dapper on the cover of his latest release, Cat in a White Tie and Tails.

We have a tortie at home, rescued off the neighbor’s roof at 6 a.m. She’s called Amberleigh because she has green eyes and (some) red hair, like the Irish heroine of my first book of that name.

Midnight Louie was a rescue cat before he became a literary lion. Actually, he would deny he had needed “rescuing.” He was a motel cat. They usually have terrible lives, even in moderate climates. I’ve seen them eating chocolate cake from room service trays, poor things.When Louie was rescued, however, he weighed eighteen pounds from living off the costly koi–he adores those large, juicy upscale fish to this day–at a posh Palo  Alto motel. He’d cozy up to the ankles of female guests at the outside soft drink machine to cadge a soft, warm bed for the night. Trouble was, the management couldn’t absorb the koi losses and he was about to be sent to the local pound for a hasty exit.

A woman from St. Paul, where I was writing for the daily newspaper, flew him home in a borrowed puppy crate, but then put in an expensive three-inch long classified ad. All she wanted was the right home and he’d be yours for a dollar bill. I just had to do a feature story on this cat’s saga, and he did get a good home. (Mine was full up.) When I sat down to write the piece, I made what proved to be a momentous decision. I let Louie “write” his tale himself.

Louie proved to have a lot of cattitude and a strong noir voice, so more than ten years later when I was writing fiction fulltime in Fort Worth,Texas, he came to mind as a part-time narrator of an innovative romance-with-mystery quartet. The (no longer to be found even on the Internet) editor slashed his already-light contributions by forty percent without telling us.

Uh-oh. Louie demanded a rematch, so I flipped the concept to mystery with continuing romantic relationships, and we’ve just turned in our 25th  collaboration in an alphabetical series, Cat in an Alien X-Ray. Since the Midnight Louie series is set inLas Vegas, Louie has a high old time playing “Sam Spade with hairballs” in the world’s biggest and glitziest sandbox. And so do I.

Cat Fancy magazine has listed Midnight Louie 17th on its Top 40 list of iconic media and literary cats. Together, we have won many first place writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association and others, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in Mystery from RT Book Reviews magazines.

My early life with cats was frustrating because my mother (irrationally, of course) disliked them and refused to let me have one. We lived in cold country, so I ran a one-night rescue operation, hoping my mother would break down and let me keep one stray someday, but when she finally did, it had to stay in the basement. I had to give it up because I learned that’s just not right for cats.

It’s no surprise my husband and I have taken in many strays. Besides Amberleigh, we currently have Midnight Louie III, a Humane Society adoptee; Topaz, a Persian whose owner died and was adopted as an adult; Winter, a successor to a beloved backyard-bred shaded-silver Persian I had for more than 20 years; and Audrey, a feral trapped, fixed and brought indoors at eighteen months.

Audrey isn’t pettable, but enjoys life “inside” and was deeply attached to Midnight Louie, Jr., a Lubbock shelter adoptee we drove more than six hundred miles to get. After deep mourning for Junior, she’s finally transferred her affections to the new midnight boy in town, Trey.

A lot of writers favor cats as companions (although we’ve had three cherished dogs), and that’s partly because cats are content to stay quietly beside us and muse or sleep as we writers think deep word-searching thoughts. Or not.

When I set out to write that first novel, Amberleigh, I was determined to put pets in the background of my books. Most novels I’d read didn’t even mention them. The book was a mainstream historical Gothic set inIreland, so I put in a gigantic Irish wolfhound. I quickly found out that you don’t put anything into a book unless it relates in a bigger way, so Boru ended up a hero at the climax.

I’ve written 60 novels in many genres. In my high fantasies featuring Irissa and Kendric, animals are important in many of the invented worlds they visit, but Felabba, a talking white cat with 99 lives, is the featured player.

In the Taliswoman eco-fantasies that have both a modern and fantasy-world setting, Alison’s travel partner between worlds is a white Samoyed, Rambeau. (Did I mention the first three stray cats who came to our door were white?)

My more recent urban fantasy series about Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, features a Las  Vegas from Hell where werewolf mobsters and celebrity zombies operate in a dangerous but glitzy city filled with paranormal creatures and powers. In the first book, Dancing With Werewolves, Delilah rescues a 150-pound wolfhound-wolf cross who’s about to be put down. Quicksilver proves to be a very interesting dog with a species-realistic paranormal power of his own.

Midnight Louie, who doesn’t talk to people, on principal, does have to interrogate many animal witnesses in his series and does encounter species barriers. His confidential informants include other cats and dogs, a hawk, a horse that had belonged to Elvis, a monkey, and a drug-and bomb-sniffing Maltese dog (used in real life). An anaconda was Louie’s most dangerous mission, but his hypnotic purring managed to calm the huge snake.

I should mention that the four human crime-solvers in Louie’s series—two female, two male; two pro, two amateur—live in the real world and mostly have no idea about Louie’s investigations and sometimes life-saving manipulations.  He does nothing a big, strong cat couldn’t do . . . if he thought like Sam Spade.

And I think that’s quite enough for one twenty-pound cat.

Carole_Nelson_DouglasCarole Nelson Douglas was the first author to make a woman from the Sherlock Holmes stories a protagonist of her own adventures. The Irene Adler series debuted with the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Good Night, Mr. Holmes, and has eight entries so far. Besides Louie’s many adventures, she’s written five   Delilah Street novels, and many others in mainstream, romance and sf-fantasy genres. She’s won or been short listed for fifty writing awards, including RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Awards for Suspense, Versatility and being a Pioneer of Publishing. She will be inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame Oct. 19.