Ed here: I wish I'd known, back when Marty Greenberg and I were editing a series of shirt story collections called Cat Crimes, just how good a) a mystery writer Mike Resnick was and b) the brilliance he could bring to cat mysteries.
First of all Cat On A Cold Tin Roof is a fine formal whodunit. It is also smile-bringing throughout. One of my favorite albeit a short scenes is when our detective dreams he's a young photographer who just happens to be spending the day on an isolated stretch of beach with famous model and lust-babe Betty Paige. Betty Paige! Short but sweet with Eli Paxton telling her how much he loves her. I also love the set-up--Fluffy leading various chases while wearing a few mil in diamonds around her neck. If you like flat out fun reads this is for youse.
With no email, GPS, or cell phone, Eli Paxton is, as they say, doin’ it old school in Resnick’s entertaining third mystery featuring the tenacious Cincinnati, Ohio, PI and ex-cop (after 2013’s The Trojan Colt). Jim Simmons, a cop buddy of Eli’s, figures the police can handle the murder of wealthy Malcolm Pepperidge (formerly Big Jim Palanto), “the financial adviser to Chicago’s biggest Mafia family.” But Pepperidge’s widow, according to Jim, wants a private detective to track the victim’s cat, Fluffy, who fled the crime scene wearing a collar studded with diamonds worth millions. When Eli finds Fluffy—sans collar—the grieving widow all but tosses the feline to the hounds. That’s when a little game of cat-and, er, louse gets serious, with the involvement of Bolivian drug lords. Good times ensue for fans of Cincinnati or old-school PI yarns or both. Agent: Eleanor Wood, Spectrum Literary Agency. (Aug.)
I’m known as a science fiction writer, which makes sense. Of my 74 novels, 71 are science fiction, and according to Locus I am the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short science fiction.
But I also don’t have tunnel vision, as a reader or a writer. I grew up loving not just Bradbury, Asimov, and that whole crowd, but also Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Fredric Brown’s mysteries as well as his science fiction, even the Milo March mysteries of “M. E. Chaber” (Kendell Foster Crossen). When Lawrence Block and Ed Gorman hit the scene, I became a fan of theirs as well. Ditto, a few years later, James Elroy.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at a mystery novel. I wrote titled Dog in the Manger back in 1991 and offered it to Ace, which was one of my science fiction publishers back then. They wanted it, but would only agree to buy it if I signed a contract to write two sequels. (Why didn’t I? Because they were paying me literally five times as much for my science fiction. Would you have taken an 80% pay cut?) I thanked them, pulled it back, and sold it as a stand-alone a few years later – and promptly got so busy I didn’t even consider writing another mystery.
At that point my science fiction editor at Pyr, Lou Anders, told me that Prometheus, the parent company, had started a mystery line called Seventh Street. I didn’t really have any more time on my hands, but I had just turned 70, and I realized that it was now or never, so I sold them reprint rights to Dog in the Manger plus a new novel with the same detective, The Trojan Colt. Then, a year later, I sat down and wrote a third one, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof.
By the time I wrote my mysteries, I had very strong ideas about detective stories, circa the present era. My detective wouldn’t consider the police his rivals or his enemies. A former cop, he’d let them know where he was and what he was doing, if for no other reason than to save his ass if it became necessary. He would never be hired to solve a murder. No way a lone detective can compete with a massive police force equipped with the latest forensic technology. There were always murders, of course – I had a readership to consider – but they were unearthed only in the process of solving the seemingly easier and less dangerous jobs he accepts.
I gave my detective some personal quirks – he doesn’t own a cell phone, can’t use a computer, doesn’t like his dog (which of course is named Marlowe), and cetera – and so far the critics seem to enjoy that, though they keep pointing out that he’s living in the 19th Century. (Note: so is the author, who also refuses to own a cell phone, and has never played a computer game in his life.)
I currently owe 4 science fiction books, so there almost certainly won’t be a mystery novel out next year, but I enjoy writing them, and I’ll put another one on the schedule as soon as it’s economically possible.
- Mike Resnick