Cat Out of Hell
By Lynn Truss
$14 Random House Group
Here is a book about a couple of cats, but I don’t think it will appeal to real cat lovers. It is more likely to be a book for those who are pretty sure that cats are wicked types more apt to consort with Beelzebub than snooze by the fire.
These are not cute little Puff and Ginger who snuggle up and purr, but cats who let you live with them and gleefully relieve the property of mice and birds. The author is Lynn Truss, famous for Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Approach to Punctuation, and the very funny Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life.
This book is funny … well, it’s a bit funny, but if you go looking for it at the bookstore, you will locate it in the Horror section, and rightfully so.
One of the cats is Roger, a talkative type, born in London’s East End in 1927, of a most beautiful young mother cat.
Father unknown, of course, but that wasn’t unusual and needn’t be discussed. The other cat is large and black and has survived all of his nine lives, and now, of course, having done that, will live forever. His name is Captain and he leads a rather lonely life. What he would really like is another cat who has similarly survived, who could be his companion. Both of them would then continue their pursuits down through the years with no decline.
Captain has cultivated several young cats but none of them lived for more than three or four lives, never nine. Then he meets Roger, who is smart and tough and soon, after a fair bit of brutality, Captain has his companion. So these two have for many years travelled all over the world. Roger, besides being a talker, is quite literary, learning poetry and doing the Cryptic Crossword from The Times.
A terrible thing happens, at least from Captain’s point of view, when Roger is taken away by a young boy with a wicker carrying case, leaving Captain alone again.
The big black cat must now search the world for Roger. But when he locates him, Roger has been taken in by various cat loving people, who Captain will not tolerate. (As I said, it’s a brutal tale.) People begin to “disappear,” accidents happen, of course.
But Roger has decided life on his own has its good side. He wants to tell his real story to someone, preferably before Captain catches up to him. And what a story it is!
There is a fine little dog in this story, a small brown fellow named Watson, who does all sorts of entertaining tricks on command, and is an ideal and charming little companion. He doesn’t have a large part in the book, doesn’t speak or recite Tennyson. He just runs in circles and barks. After dealing with murderous cats, it does make you think.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance book reviewer.