According to Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, this is what the Captain looks like.
The Captain is a powerful cat that takes another cat, Roger, under his wing in Truss' horror novel, Cat Out of Hell. If the British critics are right, this is supposed to be a funny horror novel featuring cats who have died eight times and are in their ninth life, a life that goes on forever. It's a story told by a retired librarian. My opinion? Don't believe everything you read on the flap of the book. The summary has an error. There are a few humorous lines. And, the story, for a mystery reader who doesn't like it when animals die, is more horrible than horror.
Alec Charlesworth narrates the story, although he doesn't identify himself immediately. He's been forced to retire from his job at an academic library because of his age, and his wife just died. So, he views a delivery of a manuscript, supposedly a screenplay, as an escape mechanism. It's written by a man named Wiggy, an actor who was called to his sister's house only to find her and her dog missing, and a cat named Roger there. Roger proceeds to tell Wiggy the story of his life, in a voice remarkably like Vincent Price's. Roger was born in 1927 in London, a street cat who met the diabolical cat, the Captain, who took him under his wing, and then proceeded to kill him in all kinds of ways in order to see if he was that one in a million cat who had nine lives. The two cats proceeded to travel the world while the Captain sometimes left death in his wake.
The remainder of the story is Alec's account of his search for answers. Why did he receive the manuscript? Is the story of Roger and the Captain actually true? As he searches for the truth, he uncovers more deaths than he ever imagined and a history of cats and Cat Masters that goes back through literature. Alec provides the few comic moments in the book. In one, he sums up his own story, writing to Wiggy. "Since my life is evidently in danger from talking cats with lethal powers who can penetrate academic libraries and engineer the cruel deaths of inoffensive terrier dogs, and since there is no one else in the world with whom I would dare even raise the subject of talking cats - could I persuade you to act as my archivist?" And, Truss does have a wonderful paragraph about cat behavior in which Wiggy says, "When they hiss at us, you see, you can tell that they really expect us to fall over and die." Anyone who is owned by a cat will appreciate that paragraph.
As to the rest of Cat Out of Hell? I'm not an appreciative audience. I found it a little dull, a little too gruesome in the violence done to animals, and nowhere near as funny as it was supposed to be. Maybe I don't get the British humor. Maybe I'm a typical mystery reader who won't continue reading when an animal gets killed. I finished the book just to see if I thought it was any better or any funnier. I didn't.
(And, thank you to Jinx for portraying the Captain.)
Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss. Melville House. 2015. 9781612194424 (hardcover), 163p.
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