Years ago, when I began writing the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, I knew I wanted to include my cat, Rum Tum Tugger, because I adored him so. At the time, I didn’t know about the plethora of cat mysteries out there. But, of course, when I started writing back in the early 90s, there may not have been so many. Nonetheless, I can’t believe how stupid or unread I was. But at the time, I was only familiar with Lillian Jackson Braun’s cat series, The Cat Who…. Lillian Jackson Braun wrote about two Siamese cats owned (if anyone can own a cat) by a middle-aged, burly ex-reporter of the male persuasion. I never for one minute thought a cat being in a mystery series was a common thing. As I say, stupid! In a way, I’m glad I didn’t know there were so many mystery books with cats. I might not have included Tugger (and now Baba, as well) in the stories and I think they add a lot.
Several screenwriters I know have mentioned that when they write an anti-hero kind of story, they have to make sure the anti-hero Saves The Cat. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson did just that in their first Lethal Weapon movie, where they pulled a cat out of building right before it was blown to smithereens. If you think about it, it’s done all the time. It’s even talked about in an article written by the Coen Brother’s character, Llewyn Davis, in the Guardian, if you care to read it. As he says, once you recognize the formula, you see it everywhere, from Sigourney Weaver in Alien to Marlon Brando in the opening scene of The Godfather.
But that’s not why I did it. I wanted to have fun with my own cat, Tugger. I wanted to have him be a part of my writing experience. Now that he’s gone, having him in the stories even means more to me. For a few brief moments he’s alive again, running, jumping and leaping, getting into all sort of mischief, and being just as loved. For a short time, I can almost hear him purr and smell his powder-puff fur (he was the most fastidious and cleanest cat I ever met). People ask me if I will ever stop writing the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries. The answer is a resounding no, if for no other reason than Tugger is alive again, if only in my mind and heart.