Irrelevant Reviews: The Cat Who Series

When I was growing up, I’d often spend the night at my grandmother’s house on the weekends. There were plenty of benefits to this: strawberry ice cream was served nightly at 7pm, there was a cherry tree in the back yard, the guest room featured a typewriter concealed within a roll-top desk, as well as a heated waterbed…and plenty of books to read.

A large portion of these books were from The Cat Who series, Lillian Jackson Braun’s cosy mystery series about a mustachioed journalist named Jim Qwilleran, who solves mysteries with his two Siamese cats.  They always had a fond place in my dusty memories, so imagine my delight when a tall stack of them were for sale at the local library for 20p a pop! I bought them all, of course.

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Series author Lillian Jackson Braun with one of her own Siamese cats.

As it’s a lengthy series of fairly cookie-cutter books, I’ll be reviewing the series as a whole.

What Fired Me Up:

The books are quick and very readable, making for light reading or a good palate cleanser. The antics of Koko and Yum Yum are sure to delight readers of all ages, and prove that cats have always been cats. Qwilleran’s upbeat yet dogged personality is endearing, and he’s refreshingly human, frequently making mistakes and suffering small clumsy injuries. It’s also fun to read books written and set in times before the digital revolution. I guess these are vintage mysteries now?

The protagonist also doesn’t actively seek out the nefarious deeds he ends up uncovering. It’s fun to watch him attempt to just enjoy journalism, but seek out justice when something seems a little too easy.

What Fizzled:

I can understand how this flew over my head when I initially read these books as a child, but the series has a lot of product-of-its-time style sexism. Another thing I didn’t remember from my first pass through this series is the constant references to Qwilleran’s mustache. Its tendency to tingle like a Spidey Sense in a world otherwise devoid of magic or supernatural goings on took me out of the narrative each time, as did the constant stroking and touching and general hyperawareness he had for it. Maybe I’m just showing my ignorance. Facial-haired fellows, a question for you: how many times a day do you think about your mustache? It’s for research.

Verdict:

While they’re not groundbreaking in any way, even at the time, and haven’t aged particularly well in other ways, they’re still fairly enjoyable little reads. Their brevity and lighthearted approach, as well as gentler setting, can prove an easy salve for a frantic, sometimes cruel world. I’m not as heavily invested in them as I was when I was a child, but I do still recommend them.

Want To Read Them?

You can pick up some of these fun little books on Amazon.

Want More from Me?

Check out my other reviews here.

Winchester Writers’ Festival

winchester writers festival

Image result for winchester writers festivalLast week I got to spend the whole day amongst my fellow creative types at Winchester’s 38th Writers’ Festival.

It would have been great to spend the whole weekend there, taking full advantage, but I just had neither the bandwidth nor the finances to make that happen. Maybe next year!

What’s it all about?

Writing! Publishing! Editing! Marketing!

The festival programme was packed with informative sessions led by proven, knowledgeable speakers. Three days of workshops, panels, discussions, readings, and networking.

While I had to step out of two of the talks I attended for 1-2-1 appointments, I thoroughly enjoyed attending Jacquelina Saphra‘s interactive talk on poetry, hearing Hanna Jameson talk about writing tips, as well as learning about commercial women’s fiction from Sareeta Domingo and short story structure from Susmita Bhattacharya. They were all really interesting sessions, and I also got to meet other writers and make some friends.

Fun features:

The open mic night was a wonderfully intimate place to read pieces, and people from all walks of life read novel excerpts, flash fiction, poetry, and even script snippets (scrippets?). I read a few of my more politically motivated poems to enthusiastic applause. The added benefit of it being entirely for and by writers was that you also got more helpful feedback after reading.

Winchester Writers’ Festival also offered 1-2-1 sessions with industry professionals. Some of these were purely to workshop a piece submitted in advance, but there were also a lot of literary agents handing out offers. I pitched one of my works, and received some really great feedback that will help me improve future drafts.

The flipside:

THE PRICE. HOLY CATS THE PRICE.

And this is frankly endemic in writing festivals/conferences/conventions.

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As someone who has done events management and budgeting, I feel like the steep prices could be undercut, and still have a good event. But I also get the feeling that the fact that there is no other event like the Winchester Writers’ Festival anywhere near Hampshire does allow them to hold their delegates hostage.

While they do have about ten scholarship slots that receive free cost of attendance plus accommodation, and a small bursary fund (I qualified for one of those bursaries), it still leaves a lot of people with a searing hole in their wallets.

We need events like these that are affordable because otherwise the writing and publishing world turns into this classist community where your own bank account is gatekeeping you out of it.

That’s why today I’m at the much more reasonably priced TLC Writers’ Day at the Free Word Centre in London. I’ll be writing about this event for my next blog post!