In Carole Nelson Douglas’s CAT IN A WHITE TIE AND TAILS, hard-boiled feline PI Midnight Louie goes along as chaperone when PR whiz Temple Barr and her fiance, rising media star Matt Devine, head to Chicago so she can meet his family. Matt’s mother has a tragic past primed to rise and bite anybody in reach, even the ex-alley cat sleuth. When Louie is snatched and takes down the two local mobsters who did the deed, the catnapping’s surprising motive loops back to Vegas and a string of unsolved murders connected to magic…and ex-magician Max Kinsella, Temple’s former significant other.
Skeptical homicide lieutenant C. R. Molina has commissioned Max to investigate the cold case murder she suspects he committed two years earlier. With traumatic amnesia from a recent attempt on his life, the once infallible Max is more sitting duck than predator. It will take an alliance of frenemies to solve the serial deaths before one of them joins the fatality list.
To learn more about CAT IN A WHITE TIE AND TAILS, Midnight Louie interviews Carole Nelson Douglas:
Now that our 24th mystery novel, CAT IN A WHITE TIE AND TAILS, is out, it is time to clear up a few matters. I believe we are the longest lasting human-cat collaborator team in mystery-thriller. A lot of folks think I am just your purrsonal muse instead of a literary lion. They think I am a mythical beast. How about setting the record straight about my many lives off and on the page?
Sure, Louie. I always like setting you straight. A few of the mystery series books have the dedication, “For the real and original Midnight Louie, nine lives were not enough.” This led some folks to assume that you were my adopted cat, but we know you never were. Although, I hasten to add, you are real, and an original. So I understand the confusion about our long and complex relationship.
Now, do not make this sound like a chick flick.
You must admit we did have a “cute meet.” I was a St. Paul, Minnesota, newspaper reporter when I ran across a long, expensive, and therefore intriguing classified ad. This $30 ad offered “Midnight Louey” to the right person for a dollar. It described “eighteen pounds of cuddly pussycat, equally at home on your best sofa as in your neighbor’s garbage can.”
As the Cowardly Lion said, “The nerve!” Not that I am ever cowardly. That is hardly a flattering description. And why the funky spelling of my name in that ad?
I don’t know about the spelling, but I do know the name was given to you by public acclamation.
I knew it! I had “my public” even before you ever heard of me or met me in the flesh and fur.
True. When I called the woman who placed the ad, I learned she’d “met” the cat at Dinah’s, an upscale motel in pricey Palo Alto, California. She was there on business and you were the “house cat.” One night she found the local big black stray cat ankling up to her at the soft drink machine before bedtime, wanting to get into a room for the chilly night. Louie, you were always a ladies’ man. If someone was “in the kitchen with Dinah,” as the old song went, at Dinah’s it would surely be you. They called you “Midnight Louie.”
What a heart-warming tale. I always protect and serve the female gender, no matter the species. And they return the favor. I recall my old stomping ground with great fondness. Just how upscale are my old haunts now?
Way past the Coke machine days, as are you. I wonder if the owners know they’ve spawned the world’s first feline PI. Your are to Palo Alto as Sam Spade is to San Francisco.
And you are no Dashiell Hammett.
Except for the “Thin Man” concept, I’d rather be me. Your former home is now called Dinah’s Garden Hotel: “Our six acres of gardens featuring koi-filled lagoons, tranquil waterfalls and art objects from the Pacific Rim will transport you to a tropical paradise. . . Come discover why Dinah’s has been a favorite Palo Alto destination for more than 50 years.” Here’s a link for your smartphone, Louie.
Very amusing. You know I do not have room in my Spandex catsuit for gadgets. When it comes to devices, I must count on the kindness of strangers. Yumm. Those koi-filled lagoons sound most toothsome, but of course I am nowhere near fifty years old.
If you say so, Louie. Anyway, most motel cats are feral, a starving and pitiful lot. You, however, were a solid eighteen pounds because you’d been copping koi, those priceless Asian goldfish, from the motel pond. The management didn’t know what to do, other than sending you down the river of no return to the city pound. So your Coke machine pick-up flew you back to St. Paul in a borrowed puppy crate.
Ooof. Did you have to mention my decided unfeline and unstudly form of transport?
Her noble rescue effort didn’t turn out so well. Apartment life was not for you, so she wanted to find you a place in the country through the classifieds, and did.
I did not adapt? That joint was not a free-minded feline’s paradise. First, the lady’s husband was a shyster; you know, the complimentary term for “lawyer.” Second, the two hoighty-toighty females in residence had no time for me at all. Then there was this Transformer monster I had to battle weekly to keep it quiet in the closet. And they expected me to dig to China in this tiny sandbox in the corner.
Uh . . . Louie. Seems to me you represent yourself as lawyerly by signing books, “Midnight Louie, Esq.” And the resident females had been spayed and naturally wouldn’t welcome your relentless advances. The “Transformer monster” in the closet was a household appliance, a vacuum cleaner, and a litter box is meant for burying deposits, not kicking all the stuffing out of it. Anyway, the ad sought a better home for you and my newspaper story made that much easier.
The key moment came when I started writing the article, beginning with the who, what, where, when, and why. The rest of the story, I realized, should be in the cat’s voice and point of view. And that’s when Midnight Louie, the literary lion, was born.
I am lion, hear me roar! Who knew that my back-ally baroque point of view would help you out when you felt confined to the same old sandbox in your job ten years later? Favor returned.
That’s so true, Louie. Not long after I’d moved to Texas to write fiction full-time I came up with the idea of you as a first-furperson part-time narrator of a series of mysteries. Obviously, with your colorful past, playing a gumshoe was second-nature.
Enough Memory Lane! Tell us about my latest oeuvres.
There you go using French again, Louie. You certainly have been putting on the dog lately. Your most recent books are Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta and Cat in a White Tie and Tails. The series started with Catnap and Pussyfoot, but went to an interior title “color” word on the third book: Cat on a Blue Monday. So the series is nearing the end of its story arc.
Now you are getting fancy. “Story arc?”
The Midnight Louie mysteries are designed as a 27-book series. Although there’s an “up-front” murder mystery in every novel, the series has four point-of-view human characters: two men and two women, two amateur and two pro crime-solvers. So there’s an overarching crime backstory and also a romantic triangle, or quadrangle.
The series is written like a three-year, ensemble-cast TV series. (There’s even a “Previously in Midnight Louie’s Lives and Times” in the front of the later books, to update readers new and old on the continuing mysteries.) You write your own intermittent chapters to tell how you help the humans solve the crime (and sometimes personally nail the perps). Gradually, a parallel universe of animal characters evolved. You have many “confidential informants” in the animal kingdom, and your unacknowledged daughter, Midnight Louise, is a feisty crime-solver on her own.
So what is my mission besides fronting what you call a “cozy-noir” mystery series? There is nothing cozy about me. Simply because I have taken Miss Temple Barr as a roommate does not mean I have lost a whisker of my macho. My hidden shivs are always ready for action.
Well, Louie, our books combine the charm and humor of gore-free “cozy” mysteries with underlying social issues and characters that change and grow. The Las Vegas setting’s mob history offers more elements of a crime novel and even an international terrorism element. Your series is also packed with mysteries beyond the murder or murders in each book. And you are such an uber-cat that it’s a balancing act to keep your part of the action credible. You do nothing a big, strong cat couldn’t do, if he could think like Sam Spade.
That is moi down to a dewclaw. What type of feedback do you receive on our books?
Your readers are a special breed. They enjoy revisiting “old friends” and tell me that the adventure and humor helps them to survive the stresses in their lives. One woman wrote that she was reading one of your books on vacation, on a ferry from Innisfree in Ireland to the Aran Islands.
I have been to Ireland? I do have green eyes but they are seldom smiling.
And when she got to the book’s end, she leaped up, shouting, “No! It can’t be true!” Her husband and the other passengers wondered what terrible tragedy in her life was transpiring. I love it when readers get that involved in my books. The real draw of this series is the continuing mysteries about the human characters’ hearts and minds. And you, above all, of course.
Which book is your favorite?
Picking a favorite book is like picking a favorite kitten in a litter. You can’t do it, because you love them all.
Since you never “owned” me—and nobody ever has—tell us about your cat companions in real, not literary, life.
I did have as many as seven cats and a rescue dog at one time. This was after I adopted the irreplaceable Midnight Louie, Jr. in Lubbock, Texas, during a book tour. We’ve taken so many ousted one-year-olds off the street (often not the cuddliest sort by then) that I got two pet-quality Persian kittens, Summer and Smoke, a shaded silver and a smoke Persian, who lived to be 19 and 20.
Summer is the model for the object of your affections in the books, the showgirl purebred you call “the Divine Yvette.” She is dainty and but no wimp, rather like a feline Miss Piggy. Midnight Louie, Jr., was adopted in 1996 during the first ML Adopt-a-Cat tour sponsored by my publisher, Tor/Forge Books, for several years. We combined bookstore and animal shelter signings with cat adoptions, and placed hundreds.
I did hear Junior is a chip off the old block and suckered you into adopting him as a seventh cat.
I know, no one needs seven cats, but they need us. The publisher first tried the tour out in Texas, where I live, but the publicists didn’t know about no-kill shelters and sent me to all the big-city shelters. I saw so many cats abandoned after only one year, beautiful, loving cats. It became heart-breaking. So I snapped in Lubbock when I picked up a small black cat who was scritching at me from the floor. Its tummy was shaved and its tail broken in two places. I couldn’t take it home because I was scheduled to go to other cities, but two weeks later my husband, Sam, and I drove back to Lubbock to adopt “Midnight Louise.”
It’s a five or six-hour drive from Lubbock to Fort Worth, so we decided to sleep over and get acquainted with our new kitty. We set up Louise in our motel room with food, water, and a litter box, then went to dinner. When we came back to go bed, the cat jumped up and spent the entire night moving every two minutes from sitting on one of us to the other, mewing and purring until hoarse in the morning. We didn’t get much sleep, but I’ve never seen such a happy cat! This cat knew she had a home and had angled to make me “the one” who’d adopt her.
So that’s the new chick that showed up in Vegas claiming I was a deadbeat dad who left her mother flat with a six-pack of kittens after a one-night stand.
Louise had a much more interesting birth in real life. I was doing a Book and Author appearance in Fort Worth and the newspaper announcement of the event made your name “Midnight Louis.” I pointed out the error and the ad was corrected, wrongly, to “Midnight Louise.” Authors find inspiration in the oddest places. I decided it was meant to be that Louie have a daughter, a feisty, take-no-prisoners modern girl, and she has become the series’ second-most popular cat character.
So you and Midnight Louise from Lubbock lived happily ever after.
Not exactly. Sam and I had agreed that we couldn’t have a cat named “Midnight Louie,” because there is only one, and you’re somewhere out there in the eternal literary ether. So imagine how we felt when “Louise” rolled over ten days after coming home and pointed out that she was a he! It took us aback, but we decided to rename “her” Midnight Louie, Jr. I even wrote a short story about the fictional mystery ML, Jr. solved before getting to the Lubbock shelter and coming home with us, “Junior Partner in Crime,” for the Creature Cozies anthology.
A few months before my tour hit Lubbock, I’d found a dumped four-month-old chow-husky mix puppy at the stop sign near our house. Xanadu quickly found her inner feline and was with us for almost sixteen years. She and Louie, Jr. became great pals, which helped when Louie, Jr. began going blind at age eight from genetic retinal degeneration. He adapted well, but got cancer in late 2010 and struggled to stay on until the end of July, 2011. The very morning we were about to call the vet to take Louie in for his last visit, Xanadu, herself almost 16, a great age for a mid-sized dog, was playing with an outside feral cat we feed through the glass storm door, when she had a massive stroke, her only health issue in all those years.
So the pair that came to us within four months of each other left together, the same morning. Although that was a devastating loss, we knew we needed a Midnight Louie III and found a black kitten at the local Humane Society. Two months later, Winter, a shaded silver kitten joined him. Louie III is a long and lean feline machine and all alley-cat active, but Winter is his adorable “moll,” following him everywhere into mischief. You and Yvette, together at last.
Do your cats show up in your books as characters?
Yvette/Summer has a sweeter, shyer shaded-golden sister, Solange/Secret. Otherwise, no.
Surely your cats influence your writing process. Do they keep you company while you write?
Summer used to lie on my lap when I was at the computer, her head resting on my thumb as I typed. She got over that, which is just as well. I now have a cat condo beside my computer desk and the current cats take turns coming up beside me.
My mother wouldn’t allow me to have cats . . . anything else, but not cats. She said I could have as many as I wanted when I was on my own. Well, you can never have that many! Just being around cats allows me to get inside their minds. Some readers have marveled about how much I do that, but it’s second nature. I’d come back as a cat if I could. But a big one.
I suppose I have to ask about what other books you have written.
I’ve written sixty novels, including contemporary and historical mystery and romance, women’s mainstream fiction, science fiction and high and urban fantasy. My second-longest series is set in the world of Sherlock Holmes, and was the first Holmesian novel to take a woman, not a man, from all the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories as a protagonist.
She’s the beautiful, brilliant American opera singer, Irene Adler, the only woman ever to outwit Holmes. She appeared in the first Holmes story, “A Scandal in Bohemia.’ The Adler books are set in the 1880s and move from London to Paris, Monaco, Prague, and New York City. Good Night, Mr. Holmes, the first one, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and won RT Book Reviews magazine and American Mystery awards.
When am I going to become a Continental Op and go to Europe?
Las Vegas is your usual beat, Louie, although you have occasional “past life adventures.” The first one, your ancient Egyptian sojourn, “Fruit of the Tomb,” now in eBook, was reprinted in Germany with a charming illustration. You also had an adventure in Sherlockian London as “A Baker Street Irregular,” but, as an English friend sternly corrected me, England is an island and not Europe.
I began a noir urban fantasy series set in a Vegas of 2013 (soon to be upon us) in 2007 with Dancing With Werewolves. Delilah Street is a paranormal investigator from the Heartland taking on a Sin City crawling with werewolf mobsters and other paranormal powers-that-be. You and Delilah work a case together in her world. I hope to publish the “Butterfly Kiss” novella in eBook soon.
I have now traveled to the future as well as the past? Hmph. I suppose I can forgive you for being unfaithful to me with those other series of yours.
I hope so, Louie. There’s a six-hundred-pound, shape-shifting white tiger named Grizelle that you might like to know in the Delilah series.
Bring her on!
“Twisty, riveting, and intriguing. Even longtime fans of the series are bound to say ‘Wow, I never saw that coming!’ to the very end.”
~RT Book Reviews Top Pick!, 4 1/2 stars on Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme
“If either Mike Hammer or Columbo had a cat, it would be Midnight Louie.” ~Cat Fancy
“In Douglas’s convoluted 24th feline noir (after Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta)… you have all the ingredients for a ‘cat-astrophe.’ Series fans will have fun following all the twists and turns.” ~Publishers Weekly
“The latest Midnight Louie mystery is packed with history, both ongoing and new family drama… The human love triangle has bittersweet edges, and the capers fill out the series’ big picture. Midnight Louie fans should sink their claws into this read. After one dead body, two catnappings and countless family secrets, Midnight Louie is ready to pounce!” ~RT Book Reviews
The first author to employ a Sherlockian woman, Irene Adler, as a series protagonist, she’s reinvented Las Vegas with Sam Spade cats in the Midnight Louie feline PI mysteries and sinister supernaturals in the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator, urban fantasy thrillers.
Douglas’s genre-crossing, character-driven novels have appeared on mystery, sf/fantasy and romance bestseller lists, and are known for suspense, action, wit, and animal spirits. She holds a Lifetime Achievement Awards in Mystery and Versatility from RT Book Reviews magazine.