I am so excited I could yowl, and it’s not because today is Halloween. It’s because THE famous, infamous Midnight Louie is here for an interview. Louie is my idol. He is a cool cat Private Eye. My author has a shelve of his books in her “cat library” and even a purr-sonally autographed copy of the Cat Crimes Through Time Anthology in which one of his stories appeared along with Debbie’s first published mystery story. That book bears the signature of ML’s author, Carole Nelson Douglas, and also features Louie’s paw print.
If you haven’t heard of Midnight Louie, where have you been these 25+ years, hiding under your bed? Midnight Louie is practically a legend, but I will let him speak for himself and educate you newbie kitties.
Louie, can you please give us some background about yourself and your author?
Of claws, Sneaky. I was named by the guests at a fancy Palo Alto motel in California, where I must have been born, but do not remember it. They saw me around catching fat koi fish for supper and nibbling off of used room service trays. This lady guest whose ankles I rubbed up against at the outside food and drink machines took me in for the chilly nights, then flew me home 2,000 miles in a borrowed puppy crate. Whew, dog odor does nothing for me.
My collaborator is named Carole Nelson Douglas. People do not have as interesting names as we cats.
You have quite an interesting backstory, Louie, and I love the way you refer to your author as a collaborator.
Can you please tell us about your books and series?
I first appeared in the 1990 Midnight Louie Quartet, four romance novels with mystery. They are out of print and appeared an author-unapproved version in two paperbacks called Crystal Days and Crystal Nights. Miss Carole later published them in her preferred version in four books, The Cat and the King of Clubs, The Cat and the Queen of Hearts, The Cat and the Jill of Diamonds, and The Cat and the Jack of Spades. Those will be coming out again in print and eBook in a year or two.
I have just finished my eponymous 28-book mystery series. To the literati, “eponymous” means “named after me”: The Midnight Louie Mysteries. I am not much for the literati, and provide my very own profile (literally) that shows every alphabetical title in order in one swoop.
You are like the Kinsey Millhone of the cat world in the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries. That is so pawsome.
Are you based on a real cat such as your author’s? If so, please give further details.
As mentioned, I was a gentleman of the road. Miss Carole discovered my long journey in the Classified Ads, when I was being offered to a good home for a dollar. She was a local reporter and requested an interview. Her house was fully catted, but her article found me a home in the country where I could rule the roost, which I was used to.
She has taken in feral and rescue cats all her life. The latest is Taffy, a new boy to ruffle Midnight Louie III’s ruff. He is a pale cream-colored lynx-point and would have been owl-bait at night.
You are a very lucky cat to have such a kind lady as your collaborator.
Can you please share an excerpt from one of your books that features you in an important scene?
Set-up: Louie has accompanied his Miss Temple to Chicago, where mobsters are threatening Temple’s fiancé’s mother. He has been left home alone when the crooks show up. There’s a famous O. Henry story about a child kidnapping, “The Ransom of Red Chief”, which possibly inspired the Home Alone films.
Footsteps–large careless stepping-on-tail footsteps–clomp onto the bedroom carpeting.
“I heard something in here,” a deep male voice says.
“Yeah,” mocks another. “The wimpy curtain hitting the window glass in the draft of the ceiling fan. We saw them drive out of here in the rented sedan, all four, all dressed up like for a funeral. They ain’t coming back soon.”
Spare me the bad grammar. This is not an episode of The Jersey Shore.
I gaze out on mud-edged work boots.
“Good,” says Mr. Hearing Things.” I’ll leave a note under the old lady’s pillow. That ought to put a wasp in her—”
No lady will be the object of crude language when Midnight Louie is around. I strike like a snake, a shiv finding the sweet spot between the ankle-boot top and the wrinkled jeans bottom as the creep bends to place his latest poison pen note under Miss Mira’s pillow.
“Ow,” he yells, straightening up in a hurry.
“What’s the matter now?”
“A wasp stung me.”
“No. Look. My leg is all red in this spot. It is bleeding.”
“I am not looking at your bleeding ankles. Maybe you got an allergy. Leave the note and I will do something nasty with a butcher knife and whatever is in the meat drawer in the kitchen on the way out.”
“It is not just the two chicks now. They have visitors.”
“So. We back off because of ‘visitors’? We been hired—”
I wince again. As grammar goes so arrives the coarseness of modern life.
“—to terrify and that is what we do best. That dude is the woman’s son. I bet if we got ahold of him we could get her to come across.”
“I would rather kidnap the little red-headed chick. Less trouble and more fun.”
Their footsteps thud out the door and into the living room, then soon stomp onto the kitchen tiles like jackhammers.
I rocket out after them, intending to do massively more epidermal damage with my own butcher knives. Well, X-acto knives on steroids.
I run right into the open maw . . . of the leopard-print carrier, which a rude boot kicks shut on me before I can turn around in the canvas tunnel.
“I told you I heard something in the bedroom,” says one. A boot kicks in at me. “Wasp. I was right. Kiss your kisser good-bye, puddytat.”
Light returns to the tunnel as the boot draws back for a kick. I gather into a crouch. Luckily, Miss Temple has chosen a commodious carrier, I am planning to land atop the boot, sink in my staples and ride it out of captivity. Of course, I may be flung spine-first into a wall, but I also plan to use the Mr. Max Kinsella survival strategy and go as limp as a kitten before I hit.
I admit I am being a trifle optimistic about my survival chances here.
“Hold it,” the other guy says, kicking my assailant’s boot aside. He bends to zip the lip of the carrier shut.
“This plays right into our hands. Talk about smaller and less trouble. We have got our hostage. You know how regular people go all puddly about animals in jeopardy. Just let me write a note and stick it into the maple countertop with a butcher knife and we are outta here.”
Mr. Kickapoo is not convinced. “Should there not be blood on the knife? There is on my ankle.”
“Will you forget about your friggin’ ankle?”
“Or we could hack off the tip of his tail.”
“You want to put your hands into that wasps’ nest? You could contract blood poisoning. I am not going to drop you off at the ER. Too risky. You will end up in the same landfill I will leave the cat in. I will bury the little devil and you so deep it will make the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance in Detroit look obvious.”
Landfill. Great! I have found some very tasty snacks around landfills. Plus there are trash trucks coming and going constantly on which hitch a ride back to town. One man’s doom is another cat’s opportunity.
Am I glad to have distracted this two-man destruction crew into leaving my nearest and dearest alone.
“So,” says Shifty, “I will leave a message on the phone. Gawd, these little lit-up buttons do not always depress. It is depressin’.” Seeing his dexterity on a smart phone keypad is like watching King Kong tap dancing on a piano keyboard.
“You do not have the victim’s number on speed dial?” Lefty asks
“This busted fingers cannot punch in all those little keys.” Shifty (who cannot shift, it seems) grunts. “Hmm. No answer. They are still out. Good. I will leave a message to make them squirm.”
He takes a deep breath, then coughs. Cigars will do that to you.
“Listen, folks. We got your damn cat. We do not like your damn cat. We will call every hour to see if you got what you know we want. We will chop off an inch of your damn cat’s tail each time we call if you do not come across with the, uh, stuff we want. You know what we mean. Then we will start on the legs. So, uh, cough it up, and we will have an exchange where you can leave . . . er, what we want and collect what is left of your cat.”
There is silence as Lefty shuts off the cell phone.
“That was not very professional,” Shifty rebukes him.
“Whadda mean, ‘professional’? We do not even know what the Vegas bunch wants. They have left us in the dark looking stupid.”
I could point out that is not very hard, but hold my tongue in case they get an itch to chop it off in sections.
“And I do not know about all that cat-chopping you have committed us to. They have nasty, infected claws, you know. We could get rabies.”
“I was just saying that. You gotta threaten the hostage, and not with something namby-pamby. You gonna eat the whole sausage roll?”
At a deserted warehouse
I am still in Chicago. I am still in stir.
Beer tops pop again. Cigars reek. I peer squinty-eyed out the black mesh at the end of my carrier. The cigar smoke is rising up from the beer cans upon which the stogies are perched while my captors sit on random crates and chow down.
I must say that Chicago sausage is some of the most highly spiced and aromatic I have ever sniffed, no doubt because so many Poles, Germans, Czechs and other eastern European folks settled here.
“What was that?” Shifty stirs and lowers a foot from the crate to the filthy floor. “Is that damn cat growling?”
“Let it growl. We can always cut off its tongue.”
Actually, it is my ungovernable stomach growling and if the boys get in a position to do my innards violence, it will already all be over for Midnight Louie.
I have had enough of this nonsense.
Luckily, the boys have very little muscle tone and dumped my carrier with the zippered opening facing away from their cozy little campground. My paws punch the side where the zipper closes, forcing it open an inch or two. Then I lift my whiskered lips in “silent snarl” position and tilt my head so my right fang is bared and ready for action.
It takes a few “casts,” as in fishing, but I am a master koi-snagger. I finally push the fang-tip through that nice little hole on every zipper tag. No doubt it is for the ladies to put a gizmo through if they are seeking to do or undo a back zipper solo. Handy dudes are not always handy, you know.
Now I jerk my head up in stages, easing the zipper open bit by bit. Yes, it is tedious work, but the cause of freedom can never be taken for granted.
As my nose lifts higher and higher, the odors of sausage and cigar smoke engage in an almost unendurable duel in my olfactory senses. I crave the one and abhor the other and must also resist a strange urge to sneeze . . . .
The carrier end finally falls away like a . . . sausage casing. After a last glance at my captors snoozing off after their feats, I spurt out into the cavernous space filled with abandoned hulks of factory equipment casting massive shadows.
Your ordinary hostage might be intimidated by the iron bars on the high windows and the small broken-down entrance on the far side of my captors.
However, I have allies—or shills, if you will—everywhere, especially in down-and-dirty presumably empty places and locales.
I climb a shaky tower of empty crates until a bit of daylight shows through the broken chicken-wire backed glass. Once elevated, I hiss softly through the bars an irresistible code word.
Sssausssage. Fresssh Polissssh ssssausssage, kielbasa alive, alive-o.
How sweet it is to have a native secret language. I do not wait for my troops to arrive, but scamper back down to the concrete floor, the crates now crashing and scattering from my uncontrolled weight and pace.
The clatter brings Shifty and Lefty awake. They blink and look up, perhaps searching for Santa. I rocket right toward and under Shifty’s propped-up legs, slashing as I go.
“Arghhh!” As he falls over sideways he reaches for a stabilizing crate, but they are all shaky. I glimpse the comet of a falling lit cigar. “My eye!” he shouts. “It is burning. I am blinded.”
Lefty swipes an arc of cheap beer at his pal’s face, leaving Shifty’s head dripping, one eye closed and the other blinking out beer.
Meanwhile I jump onto a crate to get a sausage round down and rolling toward the entry point just as a flood of cats come bounding through.
“Rats!” Shifty cries, turning around to see with his one eye. “We are being attacked by rats.”
Shifty has pulled the pocket knife from his pants.
“That is all you have for a shiv?” Lefty demands. “It is not big enough to chop off a rat’s tail and now they are all coming for us.”
I turn and make for the piled crates rimming the space, racing up them in plain sight. If you have both eyes.
“That cursed cat,” Lefty yells. “Get him!”
“Why bother?” Shifty yells back, quite rationally. Now that they have phoned in their threat, my well-being is moot.
“He has stolen our sausages.”
Enraged, Lefty charges toward the decrepit crating even as I dig in my taloned hind claws to dislodge a particularly large one with a Great White’s jaw-worth of exposed four-inch sixteen-penny nails, all rusted and corroded and sharp as a giant serpent’s business fang.
I kick it right into the oncoming would-be chopper.
He trips on shattered piece of crating, lifts his arms to protect himself from the handy cat’s version of a spiked Iron Maiden torture device closing on him, screams and flails into embracing the inevitable and falls over forward right on it.
Meanwhile, Shifty, stumbling madly to escape the “rats,” has knocked himself into a crate spilling open beer cans and the second cigar, so his pant legs are now catching fire and his upper torso is beer-soaked.
I turn. The chaos is complete. I eye the one untouched item, an island of calm integrity, sadly. My Miss Temple was so proud of her leopard-pattern carrier. Now it is mere salvage.
Wow, Meow! Action! Drama! I expected no less from such an experienced feline actor such as yourself. You are a purr-fect role model for us cat characters.
What do you like most about your role in your authors’ books?
I am the first truly “noir” feline PI, who writes my own chapters and prowls “the mean streets”. People magazine said I was “always engaging” and I “prowl the alleys of Las Vegas solving crimes and romancing runaways like a furry Sam Spade.” I get to protect my human roommate (nobody “owns” me), Miss Temple Barr, and her associates. I like my action scenes when my sharp concealed shivs take a bite out of human evil-doers.
Well meowed, Louie.
Are you a talking cat in your books or just a silent one like I am who just meows occasionally?
Me, silent? Hah! I do refuse, on principle, to talk to humans, but my crime-note chapters from my own viewpoint comment on the human action plenty and document my hidden role in saving the day and nailing the crooks.
Very Mice. Great idea about changing your point of view in your own chapters. In my books, no one looks into my furry head, so I find it hard to get the attention of my human co-characters. It can sometimes be quite fur-strating.
What advice would you give other cat characters?
I would counsel them to understand that well-meaning humans tend to underestimate our species and delude themselves into thinking we are merely incredibly good-looking, treat-eating layabouts, when we all have our own secret missions. Enjoy the perks, but keep our superpowers on the hush-hush.
MOL (Meow out Loud). Ain’t that the truth?
Do you have any new books coming out? Please give dates and details.
August 23 was the debut of my 28th and last “alphabet” mystery, Cat in an Alphabet Endgame, in which I solved a vexing and long-standing Vegas crime and played cupid for a wedding. I am contemplating further adventures, as my readers are not ready to let me go into that “dark night” of no more books.
I hope not. No more Midnight Louie stories would be worse than a world without catnip.
Today, October 31, is also my birthday. (I am one black cat not intimidated by human superstitions.) Miss Carole is getting out some of my earlier adventures that have never been in eBook.
Cat in a Diamond Dazzle, set at a romance convention can be pre-ordered for Nov. 16 and Cat with an Emerald Eye, set at a Halloween séance to bring back the magician Harry Houdini will be on pre-order soon for Jan. 11, 2017, publication .
Also coming in 2017 are Cat in a Flamingo Fedora, Cat in a Golden Garland (Christmas in NY), Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt, Cat in a Jeweled Jumpsuit (Elvis) and Cat in a Kiwi Con (SF/Fantasy convention). And then we will be all caught up and ready to move on to other projects.
Oh, my Bastet! You are a busy boy and so is your purr-lific collaborator. Also, Happy Halloween birthday, Louie! I know it’s not always a good day for black cats, but as one of my human co-stars said in my latest Cobble Cove mystery, “even bad publicity can be a good thing.”
Are you and/or your author on social media? If so, please list your links.
Of claws we are, Sneaky. Here are our links:
Thanks, Louie. I am sure my readers will follow you and your author now that they’ve had a taste of your talents. It has been an honor having you here, and please thank Carole for transcribing all your notes. I know she’s a very busy lady. Best whiskers to both of you on your future writing projects.