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A New York Times Bestselling Author
James Mackintosh Qwilleran is a journalist who wrote for metropolitan newspapers from coast to coast before relocating to Pickax, four hundred miles north of everywhere. These excerpts from his journal include memories, thoughts and ideas from the "Qwill Pen" column -- altogether a drama starring two feline celebrities.
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The history of Lilian Jackson Braun is perhaps as exciting and mysterious as her novels. Between 1966 and 1968, she published three novels to critical acclaim: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, and The Cat Who Turned On and Off. In 1966, the New York Times labeled Braun, “the new detective of the year.” Then, for reasons unknown, the rising mystery author disappeared from the publishing scene. It wasn’t until 1986 that Berkley Publishing Group reintroduced Braun to the public with the publication of an original paperback, The Cat Who Saw Red. Within two years, Berkley released four new novels in paperback and reprinted the three mysteries from the sixties. Since then, G.P. Putnam’s Sons has published seventeen additional novels in the Cat Who series. Braun passed away in 2011.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
enter: kao k'o kung, howling
I'll never forget those days! I was getting my life back on track. I had a job, writing features for the Daily Fluxion. I had a place to live, an apartment on the ground floor of an old mansion. And soon I would be getting a roommate!
My landlord, who was art critic for the Fluxion, lived upstairs with his art treasures and a Siamese called Kao K'o Kung. Although I knew nothing about cats, I was enlisted for cat-sitting when the critic was out of town.
He wrote his reviews at home and never went near the news office. According to conventional wisdom, he never went near the art galleries either, but wrote his nasty criticism off the top of his head. Among local artists he was well hated, to coin a phrase. So no one was surprised when he was murdered in his own backyard.
That was the first time I heard the cat's "death howl," a bloodcurdling experience!
Kao K'o Kung-that smart cat!-then walked downstairs and moved in with me. I recall giving him some turkey from the Press Club that I had been saving for myself.
So here we were! Thrown together by fate! First thing I did, I changed his name to Koko.
He made no objection. He knew which side his bread was buttered on! In the days that followed we invented games to play, both athletic and intellectual. I was at work all day but made up for it by reading to him every evening-either the Daily Fluxion or the dictionary; he was not particular.
Then I began to find fault with the old mansion. It seemed to be the ancestral domain of a dynasty of moths, which were eating holes in my bathrobe and neckties. But where could I move? Apartments in my price range specified "no pets allowed." I discussed the problem with Koko, who listened thoughtfully. I told him that a friend of mine was going to Europe for three months and had suggested that I house-sit. Koko squeezed his eyes. We were getting to be pals. Then, to my surprise, he turned out be a self-appointed bodyguard and somewhat of a bloodhound!
One day he wanted to go upstairs to his old haunt. The murdered man's treasures had been removed, but I had a key to the apartment and the supply of cat litter. But that cat seemed to have his own urgent reason; he ran up and down the stairs ahead of me in anticipation.
Sure enough, there was a large tapestry still hanging in a hallway, and Koko was determined to paw his way behind it. When I went to his assistance, I discovered a door back there, which the landlord had found it advisable to conceal. It led downstairs to a small ground-floor apartment in the rear of the building, and it was filled with clues to the recent crime. It had been used as an artist's studio and still had an odor of turpentine.
Just as I was snooping around in amazement and Koko was getting some kind of early high from the paintbrushes, I heard a key turn in the rear door leading to the backyard, and a big man walked in. For a moment we were both frozen in surprise. Then he looked about wildly, grabbed a palette knife, and came at me!
Before I could find a chair to swing at him, Koko threw a catfit! The room seemed filled with snarling animals, attacking him from all sides with claws extended! I was able to clobber the guy, and we left him on the floor while we called the police. Koko spent the next few hours licking
* * *
I was glad to move into my friend's posh apartment on the fifteenth floor of the Villa Verandah. Koko seemed happy, too. I think he liked the view. Then one day I came home from work and found a large hole in the green wool upholstery of a fine wing chair. As I examined it, with horror, Koko jumped onto the chair seat and upchucked a green fur ball-still moist!
I immediately phoned the Press Club bartender, who always had the answer to all questions.
He listened and said wisely, "Sounds like an emotional problem. You need a psycatatrist. I can tell you where to find one."
It sounded like a hoax, especially since the address he gave me was on the edge of the red-light district. And I was even more suspicious when I phoned for an appointment and was told to come alone without the cat ... but I was desperate! I reported for the consultation.
It was a tawdry house, but there were cats on every windowsill, and that was promising. I was welcomed by a kindly woman in a faded housedress accompanied by at least a dozen cats who seemed quite well adjusted. She ushered me into the parlor and gave me a cup of tea with the inevitable cat hair floating in it. No matter.
What I learned, after stating the problem, was this: Siamese, when troubled, become wool eaters. My ties and bathrobe were undoubtedly wool. Koko was lonely because he was accustomed to having someone at home all day. He needed a nice little Siamese female for a companion. Neutering would make no difference. They would be quite sweet to each other.... I found this concept extremely interesting.
Now all I had to do was find a little female Siamese....
Panic time! Here I was-a lifelong cat illiterate-involved in matchmaking between temperamental Siamese! I phoned the Press Club bartender for advice once more.
"Call the catteries listed in the Yellow Pages," he said with authority. "Check the classified ads in the paper. Call the pet hospitals!"
I did. My efforts turned up only one available candidate, and the asking price was more than my weekly paycheck at the Fluxion. I was just getting back on my feet financially. I needed to make a down payment on a used car.
Meanwhile I was afraid to leave Koko alone in the borrowed apartment; he might start eating the rugs! Once, as a test, I shut him up in the bathroom, and he howled so continuously and with such volume that there were five complaints to the manager.
Someone suggested selling Koko; it would solve the whole problem.
I considered that unthinkable. Already I felt a kinship with him that was hard to explain.
I'll never forget the frantic search for a companion who would stop Koko from eating wool!
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Book Description Thorndike Press, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Hardcover. LARGE PRINT. Providing superior service since 2002. Unconditional money back guarantee. Seller Inventory # 58507
Book Description Thorndike Press, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0786256923
Book Description Thorndike Press, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1. Seller Inventory # DADAX0786256923
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0786256923