Midnight Louie, Epic Survivor

Carole Nelson Douglas is an award-winning journalist (former) and bestselling author of 63 novels in the mystery/thriller, epic and urban fantasy, and women’s mainstream and romance fiction genres. She was the first woman author to  spin off a Sherlock Holmes series, featuring the first woman from the Canon  to star in her own series, Irene Adler, the only woman to outwit Holmes. Good Night, Mr. Holmes was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, among other awards. Midnight Louie is the part-time feline PI narrator of 32 cozy-noir novels.

http://carolenelsondouglas.com/

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“A cat is said to have nine lives.
Where I live, on and off the Strip, the odds are your
average hip but homeless street cat will be Las Vegas lucky
to live three lives.”

—Midnight Louie, Cat in an Alphabet Endgame

Today, Oct. 29, is National Cat Day. For real.

Oct. 31, is cat detective Midnight Louie’s birthday. So he says. He spits in the face of idiotic human superstitions. And hisses too. Halloween is a Black Cat Power Day to him.

Either way,  it’s a great day to celebrate one long-ago cross-country cat rescue that has become a 44-year writing collaboration over 32 books and assorted short stories, including an Agatha nominee.

And now, for the first time ever, all of the Midnight Louie “alphabet” mystery series books (many out of print) are available for binge-reading (Louie hopes) in eBook, all 28 from Cat in an Alphabet Soup to the A-Z titles in-between to Cat in an Alphabet Endgame.

Midnight Louie himself started out homeless and struggled through foster homes both real-world and literary to conclude his adventures after 44 “lives”, if you count years as cat lives.

So Happy Birthday to you, Midnight Louie, as your interviewer-turned long-time collaborator thinks back to when we met in 1973. Assuming your stray self was six years old back then, that’s 40 lives for you, with more to come. Not bad for a homeless motel habitué destined for the needle at the sunny Palo Alto, California, pound.

Writers claim to invent characters, but Midnight Louie appeared fully formed and pre-named in the Classified Ads in snowy St. Paul, Minnesota. A cat-loving newspaper reporter, I always scanned the Classified “Cats” for sale column. Among the half-inch, tiny-type ads was three long expensive inches of Midnight Louie “available to a good home for $1.00”.

Who would pay $30 to virtually give a cat away? A woman who had flown him home in a borrowed puppy crate to escape a death sentence in California. She wanted him to be “the only cat, free to roam and not fixed”. She had me at “as at home on your best sofa as in your neighbor’s garbage can”.

I called her for an interview.

Midnight Louie had been named by the patrons of an upscale California motel. He survived by eating the $2,000 large Koi swimming in the pond. He ankled up to female guests at the outside food dispensing machines and wormed his way into their rooms for the chill northern California nights. She was working temporarily in Palo Alto and decided that such a master survivor would not die on her watch.

ML and I met only once. He was a big, black American shorthair with a piercing green gaze. Alas, Louie was not adapting to apartment life. He used the litter box to tunnel to China and naught else. Politically incorrect, he was “inappropriate” with her two fixed female cats. He attacked the Hoover upright vacuum until it was subdued in a closet again.

Back at the newspaper, I wrote the story’s “who, what, when, where” first sentence. My fingers hovered above the keys as I made the most significant decision of my reporting career. I decided to let Louie tell his story in his own voice. Good decision: he was smart, sassy and brassy. Why not? He’d been a champion big game fish catcher, successful con and ladies man, a motel detective protecting the dames feline and human in the dark of night. So what if he was wanted dead or alive?

He’d landed in clover again.

Yes, he had. He went to a farm in Minnesota and I went on to sell my first novel in 1977. After a huge “sleeper” national bestseller epic fantasy novel in 1982, I moved to sunny Texas to write  fiction full-time in 1984. Then the fantasy publisher dropped me for selling too well. (Long, disgraceful story). Writing short romance novels for Harlequin was a quick buck, but the formula didn’t thrill me and single book advances were too low to eat on.

Then Louie started scratching for entry at my mind: he reappeared as a mysterious hotel-detective narrator at a Las Vegas hotel where four couples would meet and find romance in four books. Readers would only discover the mysterious PI narrator was a cat at the end of book four. In solving my money problems (selling four short novels over six months), I also invented the first continuing mini-series inside a romance line of individual books. That went on to become a hot new trend in romance lines for years. Unfortunately, the romance editor wanted to debut this great new idea with her bestselling real romance writers, so I lived on her lies until Louie’s quartet was published in a chopped up version I hadn’t seen, after three years and I got my money after four years. (An even longer, more disgraceful story.)

I should have been devastated, but Louie had a better idea. You don’t abuse the associate of an alley cat PI packing sixteen sheathed shivs and a fish pond’s worth of cattitude. I reversed the concept from romance with a smidge of mystery to mystery with a smidge of romance.

Cat in an Alphabet Soup (formerly Catnap) came out in 1992 with a cast of four human characters: two men, two women; two amateur, two pro crime-solvers whose professional and personal story arcs would play out over each novel as a chapter in a continuing crime and family saga. The series eventually encompassed a quarter century of changing social issues and the Las Vegas scene and could veer from searingly serious to satire, from home-grown murder to international intrigue.

Louie and my partnership had one last, long challenge. Came on little cat feet the eBook. I had rights to Louie books 1-12. Writers who live on their craft get used to delivering book after book a year. For some time I wrote 270,000 words a year: a Louie and a heavily researched Irene Adler novel, plus assorted short stories. Young writers rely on their memories; older ones wonder if memory is as reliable as it seemed. So I went over and over the first 12 novels, with loyal readers like Ken Green, Denise Thompson, and my long-ago college assistant Jennifer Null, volunteering to reread for typos and glitches along with paid proofreaders and myself. I also created the covers.

Finally, this month, Oct. 14th, my husband’s birthday, the twelfth novel, Cat in a Kiwi Con, which combines New Zealand kiwi birds and Science Fiction conventions with murder most alien, went “live” to link up to the publisher’s eBooks Cat in a Leopard Spot through Cat in an Alien X-ray  (those darn aliens again; Area 51 is near Las Vegas). Then I wrote the last three novels, sure I could correct any previous undetected errors.

Besides the rare never-defeated typos that will survive all readers, two sentences in a banquet scene imported somebody’s parents as an afterthought on my part. My afterthought fled and books later I had a character present in the scene say she had never met this parental set. Little fudge, but it leaped out at readers. I “explained” it in one of the last books!

So I’m breathing a big sigh of fulfillment and finishing on National Cat Day, 2017, and wish Midnight Louie and all his clan and their clowders, inside cats and outside cats, tame and feral, lives as good as we can give them.

And I’m thinking about Midnight Louie’s next ventures: the mutilated quartet converted to eBook and the start of his new series for 2018. Forty-five years and counting . . . .

That “ole black magic” called Midnight Louie never gives a collaborator a rest, but thank goodness. Thank Bast.

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Two lucky readers will each win a copy
of Cat with an Emerald Eye
by Carole
Nelson Douglas, one signed hardcover and
one ebook.
To enter the drawing, please
leave a comment below and ALSO state
whether you prefer print, ebook or either.
The winning names will be
chosen at random
on the evening of Wednesday, November 1st and
the books will be sent out after November 7th.
The drawing for the print copy is open to
residents of the US and
the drawing for
the ebook is international.

 

31 thoughts on “Midnight Louie, Epic Survivor

    • Thanks, Pearl! I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Louie’s and my journey. Cat lovers do adore him and his spunky daughter, Midnight Louise, and his mother, “Ma Barker”, head of the Las Vegas Cat Pack. They also like the protagonist people. 🙂 Feisty PR whiz, Miss Temple Barr, Louie’s roommate; hard-boiled homicide detective Carmen Molina; dashing magician Max Kinsella; and ex-priest-radio shrink Matt Devine.

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    • Black cats are the best! Midnight Louie III is sleeping on the drawer pillow next to my desk chair right now. He sends greetings and purrs for your good taste in cats and books. 🙂 Cats also have healthy egos.

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    • Purrs to Lewis and Phoebe, both black beauties. I like print myself and, of course, Louie loves to sit on newspapers and book manuscripts. You can’t sit on an eBook.

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  1. Hi, Sue. Louie amped up his purr when he heard he was your favorite. He’s pretty partial to you, too, as you said you love his adventures. He vows to have more for you!

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  2. Great article Carol. Incredible accomplishments and I too have had a black cat in my life, a 3 legged rescue who was as loved as she was beautiful. Happy Birthday Midnight Louie. I am looking forward to the Cat With An Emerald Eye and so is my current rescue, Kori, a handsome tuxedo cat. I do prefer print. Good luck everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how inspiring these small rescue cats can be to people who take them in. Louie has been my “Muscle in Midnight Black” during the ups and downs of my writing career. We’ve rescued so many cats of many colors and one dog over the years. Still, must admit I’m partial to black and tuxedo cats. Midnight Louie sends purrs to you and Kori, Vicki. I will publish what books of mine I do own now in print and eBook.

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    • Louie’s whiskers are tickled by all the comments and Birthday wishes. I have loved writing his series (with his inestimable help).Thank you for reading us! I am lucky I picked up some cattitude from the cats I’ve tried to rescue since a kid.

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  3. How great to read about the original Midnight Louie’s real life, as well as your own, Carole. I really like your new covers, as well, and would love to win a signed print copy of any of your books. 45 years? And I thought Louie was an important part of my life because I’ve spent 25 with him. Here’s to the next chapter for you both … I can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Martha! You’ve been there from the first ML mystery novel. Thank you! I didn’t know Louie would last that long, until I swallowed hard, committed to the “alphabet” title series and gave him his head. And tail. Hearing from enthusiastic readers have kept us going all these decades. That means so much when the chips are down.

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  4. It’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter of a century since you and Midnight Louie entered my life. What an enjoyable ride it’s been. Even though I use a Kindle, there are certain books I always prefer in print – what I refer to as ‘real’ books – and Louie is one of those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We know you’ve been there with us, Barb! Hearing from you is always an upper. Despite Louie being the main attraction, it’s the story of his human crew’s coming to terms with life issues we all face that resonates with so many readers. It’s not just a “cute” cat series, as some would like to say. People who are real readers have compared Louie to Sam Spade, Nathan Detroit, Sherlock Holmes and even James Bond! And one thought his intermittent chapter reminded her of a Greek chorus! Louie, the literary lion. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, it’s not just Louie I fell in love with, but the whole crew, particularly Temple and Matt. I doubt anyone could successfully make a TV series or movie if they tried because it would be hard to find actors that could create the character depth you have.

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  5. Happy birthday Midnight Louie! Halloween was also our feral Shadoe’s birthday, or at least the date we humans chose for it. (By the way, Shadoe is the handsome one featured in my Facebook profile picture, if you were curious.) We only knew him for a short portion of his life, but we will still celebrate this Tuesday. If I won the contest I would want the print version, so I could give it to my mom (she does not yet have a signed copy of one of your books).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Nathan, I hope you win!! Shadoe is truly impressive and it’s wonderful you can memorialize him on Facebook. I’m sure you made that short portion of his life the very best.

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  6. Happy Birthday to Midnight Louie! I have been a fan of his as well as of you Carole for so many years now! If anyone ever asks for a good book or series recommendation you are the first to pop into my head. I have most of the Midnight Louie books, including the Playing Card series which are near impossible to locate now. Louie was lucky to have made his way into your life, and we fans are lucky he inspired you to write books about him. Thank you for so many hours of mystery, intrigue, and love in all of the books you have written. Should I win I would be happy with either version, but I would be quite honored to have a copy of a book that you had signed.

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  7. Thanks for your good wishes and devotion to Louie and Me, Julie! The Playing Card series will come again, on its third life, in not too long a time, I hope. Thanks for recommending us so tirelessly. I am happy to have you and Nathan as such good friends through social media.

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