Thursday, January 7, 2010

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, winner of the Nebula Award for her novel The Healer's War, is the author of numerous fantasy novels. Her latest novel with co-author Anne McCaffrey is Catalyst.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Since my new book is about cats, can I tell you about some of my favorite cat books, fictional and non? I've revisited several of them while working on Catalyst. Some I've read fairly recently (like Dewey) and some are favorites from my childhood. My first favorite cat books were by Paul Gallico (Thomasina, made into a pretty good Disney movie, and The Abandoned (in the US.; in England it was called Jennie). While distracting the kittens from a tragedy in Catalyst, Chessie teaches them to the all-important cat skill of washing, drawing on lessons learned from "one of the classics of feline literature" (referring to Jennie, whose motto was "when in doubt, wash.") Having been imprinted by these books at any early age, I am of the opinion that abandoning a cat, or any other pet, is a hanging offense. I also loved the H. Allen Smith Rhubarb series about the gnarly old tomcat who owned a baseball team. Then there was the book upon which the Disney movie, changing the name from the original for the sake of the easily-shocked parents, called That Darn Cat. I think it was originally called just DC or Damn Cat. A favorite cat short story inspired some of the sequel to Catalyst. "The Game of Rat and Dragon" by Cordwainer Smith is the most memorable short story I've ever read about cats in space. It's copyright free to download online here.

My recent favorites include a whole clowder of mystery cats, each in his or her own series. Midnight Louie, Carole Nelson Douglas's "chat noir" detective, is a favorite at my house and I read bits to my black cats, who don't look nearly as impressed as I expect. I like the Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun too, although the cats aren't in them enough to suit me, unlike Louie, who has whole first-person scenes to himself. Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Joe Grey mysteries are a continuation of a fantasy series she started, before morphing it into a mystery series. I do believe her talking cats were among the first "paranormal" mysteries. Rita Mae Brown's and Sneaky Pie Brown's Mrs. Murphy series is the only one or the lot co-authored by a cat. I buy every one of these in hardback and read them the same day. My other more or less recent favorites are by Terry Pratchett: The Unadulterated Cat and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The former is a very funny non-fiction book and the latter gives Maurice prominence as the most notable feline denizen of Pratchett's Disc World. My favorite cat quotes also come from Pratchett (well, except for Ogden Nash's observation that "the trouble with a kitten's that, eventually it becomes a cat"). While attending a suicide, Pratchett's Death character, who always speaks in capital letters, responds to a spoiled young man's complaint that there is nothing worth living for, "CATS. CATS ARE NICE." And with unsentimental admiration, another character observes that, "If cats looked like toads we'd all realize what nasty little buggers they really are." Cat lovers and cat writers do feel that it's fair game to gripe about their feline overlords. We're certain the cats are doing the same about us.

I read a lot of stuff not about cats but this seems the most relevant right now. I just picked up Eliot Pattison's newest Colonial America mystery, Eye of the Raven, sequel to Bone Rattler. I think his books set in contemporary Tibet are my favorite series. I'm also a big fan of Phil Rickman, who I've been reading since he wrote straight horror. He now writes a series about a woman vicar who is also an exorcist on the Welsh border. Good stuff. Now that Tony Hillerman is gone, my favorite two writers of American Indian mysteries are Margaret Coel and James Doss. I really enjoyed Peter Bowen's Metis cattle brand inspector, Gabriel Dupres, even though his drunk driving made me nervous. Of course, I read tons of non fiction articles and books as research for my own books too but these are my recreational reading.
Visit Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue