Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
I was floored to learn there’s an entire flipping genre of novels featuring talking cats who help old British ladies solve murders.
They even have a name for this genre: Talking Cat Cozies, apparently a subgenre of the Cozy Mystery shebang, which are the natural enemy of Uncomfortable Mysteries — which I imagine has its own subgenre of Scratchy Wool Sweater Mysteries.
So I did the natural thing and wrote the first page of a parody.
What if the talking cat … is secretly the killer?
Before we get to page 2 of the Adventures of Murderous Mr. Whiskers, here are two videos packed full of proof that (1) cats are evil criminals and (2) maybe they can talk a little.
First: the world’s best cat burglar is actually a cat.
Second, this cat seems to talk up a storm, though our evil cat, Mr. Whiskers, technically only knows Words and plans on taking over a small town. He believes in starting small, in proof of concept. Taking over the world is Step 3.
A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER
The Man knows that I have watched him. That I have seen him do bad things.
Riding inside his metal horse, he tried to smash into me. Not because he thinks I know words, or saw what he did in the cave beneath his house. The Man does not like cats. He shoots the birds that sing. He likes to smash and kill, and he does not eat what he kills.
I have seen how he looks at me, and at dogs without owners. He sees prey.
If I could tell the Woman about him, I would. But knowing words and talking are two different things. She wears the clothes of a Person Catcher, with a belt full of tools, and I have sat on her lap as she looked at words and photos of the wounded and the dead.
The Man, though, is the Boss of the Person Catchers, so even if I could talk, and tell her, she would not believe me. She would call the people of science and they would take me away and poke me with needles.
So I watch the Man, and I spend much time thinking.
Because killing a man will not be like killing a mouse or a bird or a mole.
The Woman knows that I hunt. She let me keep my claws to do that, and she is happy when I bring back mice from the barn and moles from the square of green. She is not happy about birds, so I do not show her.
She is always surprised when I kill a rat. You cannot simply corner a rat and bite it, like a mouse. Even a mouse that is big and brave has no chance against a grown cat. The other cats, who are wild and stupid like the Dog, do not hunt rats. They watch me from their perches in the barn.
I do not corner a rat. I am careful. I am smart.
I chase them, and dig my claws into their back legs. I scratch them deep.
After a few days, I chase them again and look for rats who run slow, or who can barely run at all. They have the Badness in their wounds, and cannot run or fight properly.
Then I kill them.
But the Man is not a rat.
And he will not be easy to kill. Not at all.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.