Wild Cat

Many of the things my shop, Alley 53, has for sale come from estate sales, which generally means they are old and some of them are a little unusual. For instance I have weird little girl with one arm, playing the violin. She is made out of shells and came with a silver vanity tray and some other odds and ends. I have a copy of a book which has an inscription from one sister to another, along with a rose that was apparently pressed in 1968. I had no idea dried flowers lasted so long. This week I was going through a bunch of books from the sixties through the eighties which included an obsolete encyclopedia, out of date cookbooks, elementary schoolbooks written by nuns, mysteries and, best of all, Gothic novels. I still have a soft spot for these often ridiculous stories. I set aside a book called Wild Cat by Laura Black thinking it would be good for a laugh.

It's not your usual Gothic and the cover doesn't feature a woman in front of a brooding manor wearing a diaphanous nightgown, but it does have a very common trope found in romance; that of a woman disguised as a boy. Cat is the pampered daughter of a spendthrift inventor father and an ailing bubbled headed mother. When she is still a child her father spends all of their money and they have to move into a series of more and more rundown homes. As their circumstances worsen Cat becomes angry, jealous and bitter. She takes to hiding from her former friends, too proud to let them see her in shabby clothing, doing the shopping when she used to have tons of gorgeous clothes and useful servants.

So when she is a teen and meets a dashing, handsome, charming and rich, rich, rich, neighbor, she is delighted when he pays court to her. Too late she discovers that he is a sadist who has complete legal control over her. She flees from him, wearing his wedding clothes, but has nowhere to go. While trying to survive and come up with a plan she becomes a witness to a murder and now has another kind of monster after her. The leader of a gang of thieves and killers knows he will hang if she can tell anyone what she knows.

I thought this book was going to be pretty silly and dull but to my surprise it was suspenseful and I read it all in one sitting. Ms. Black pulls the reader into Cat's world and her descriptions of Cat's dangers and actions are compelling. Much of the book consists of play by play descriptions of Cat's desperate escape ploys and it was easy to visualize the sequences.

As I was looking for an excerpt online, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Laura Black is a pseudonym for a gentleman called Roger Erskine Longrigg, who also wrote under the name Ivor Drummond. I absolutely loved his novels about three friends, Lady Jennifer, Sandro and Colly, who solve mysteries. (I know it sounds kind of Nancy Drewish, but no, they are all grown up.) I particularly remember that Colly had the ability to throw up on command, which got him out of hot water at least once. No wonder I enjoyed Wild Cat so much; I already had an affinity for the writer's work. Anyway, I am planning to try and find some more books by Mr. Longrigg, under his various names. Apparently he wrote 55 in total! I love it when I stumble upon authors with a gigantic back list. I won't run out of books for quite some time.

Meanwhile I am still rereading Stephen King's novels, in order of publication, which means I am on Cujo. This is one of two books that I never reread. (I am a big rereader and have read some books so many times I practically have them memorized.) Cujo and Needful Things are both so sad that I haven't had the heart to look at them more than once. I read Cujo when it first came out and it crushed me. I don't know if I was so aware at the time, but this time around I feel absolutely awful for the poor dog, as he wants desperately to be a good boy. His illness is not his fault and his descent into madness, misery and carnage is horribly upsetting.

In other news, I just got my hands on a cookbook that came out last month called Dining at the Ravens. It consists of super fancy vegan recipes and I hope to try some of them this upcoming week so I can talk about them next week.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a fairly new story from tor.com. Called recalled to service and written by Alter S. Reiss, it's a deeply detailed story that takes place in a post revolutionary community. It's a little dry, a little hard to get into, but stick with it and you'll find yourself immersed in a details, nuanced science fiction / fantasy story that you will want to tell your friends about. Oh and it has necromancy! Terrorism! War heroes! And a deep, abiding love.