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Ask a Cat [and] The Fuzzy Princess, by Charles Brubaker – Book Reviews by Fred Patten.

by Pup Matthias

Ask a Cat, by Charles Brubaker. Illustrated.
Martin, TN, Smallbug Press, June 2017, trade paperback $9.99 (127 pages).

The Fuzzy Princess, vol. 1, by Charles Brubaker. Illustrated.
Martin, TN, Smallbug Press, July 2017, trade paperback $10.99 (184 pages).

Charles Brubaker is a fan and expert of comic strips and Japanese TV anime. He has been drawing his own comics for several years. Both The Fuzzy Princess and Ask a Cat currently appear on the internet, the former in color and the latter in black-&-white. Now he is producing collections of them through his own Smallbug Press.

Brubaker says in his Introduction to Ask a Cat that it began as a minor throwaway panel within a comic strip about a little witch that he was preparing to submit to a syndicate. It was a parody of the “ask a character” fillers in other strips where readers can send in questions about the strip. Since Brubaker’s strip about the witch hadn’t come out yet, he filled the “ask” panel with a cat, and asked on a message board for silly questions about cats for him to answer. He got more questions about cats than he expected, and the syndicate liked his throwaway panel better than his strip about the witch. Ask a Cat began on June 22, 2015. The solicited message board questions were soon replaced by genuine questions submitted by his readers. Now, after two years, here is a collection of his panels.

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Murrin Road, by L. B. Kitty – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Murrin Road, by L. B. Kitty
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, October 2016, trade paperback $9.00 (171 pages), Kindle $3.00.

This is an Irish novel with funny animals. It begins:

“Lexy stood hunched and huddled by a billboard as the rain came streaking down, sometimes blowing along Murrin Road in waves. His fur matting where the moisture had penetrated, droplets resting on his whiskers and breathing heavily, he looked at the gleam of shining rails before him, and as he took a step out from the end of the road he could hear the hum of the vibrating steel.” (p. 1)

Lexy is a black cat in the gritty industrial part of London. While he is standing out and getting soaked in the rain, a truck roars up, throws something out, and speeds away.

“He walked slowly towards whatever it was the moved in curled flicking motions like a leech sucking goodness from the gutter. The rain was now really running through his clothes, it felt like it was pouring through his soul, could it cleanse him? He stood two foot away and looked down; in the faint orange glow of a distant street-lamp he saw a familiar shape. Except for its lumpy looking end, he recognized a Feline figure, he leaned down and saw that whoever it was looked like they had been beaten, bloodied, tied up and even had a sack placed over their head. He reached his paw slowly down ‘Just a little further…’” (p. 2)

Excuse me for not putting [sic.] throughout that quotation. The something is a sack with a white cat in it, who says to just call him Kitty. Brian O’Connor, “The Celtic Tiger” (he’s a Tiger – Kitty the author capitalizes all animal nouns), a mob boss, has ordered that Kitty be disposed of. Lexy objects to having trash dumped on his doorstep, so he takes Kitty and marches into Brian’s working-class pub headquarters to complain. Brian tells all his lieutenants to shoot Lexy. Kitty saves him, and the black and white cats become an Odd Couple-type best friends and eventually very chaste gay lovers.

Murrin Road is a good example of how not to write a furry novel – or a novel at all. The characters are unusually superficially funny animals. A couple of major supporting characters are Terri, a barmaid, and Lee, a biker. Terri and Lee are identified as a Fox and a Tiger when they are introduced, and then their species is hardly mentioned for the rest of the novel. They might as well be humans. “By this time Lee was awake and making coffee, Junior was sitting up eating plain toast.” (p. 92) That’s a tiger drinking coffee and a wolf eating toast. Inconsistently, some characters are named by species almost every time they are mentioned, like Marriot, an Otter:

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Léonid T. 2, La Horde, by Frédéric Brrémaud & Stefano Turconi – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Léonid. T. 2, La Horde, by Frédéric Brrémaud & Stefano Turconi.
Toulon, France, Soleil, May 2016, hardcover 10,95 (48 pages).

My thanks to Lex Nakashima, as usual for this French bande dessinée album.

Brrémaud is the author-artist of those French wordless “Love” animal albums that many fans collect, but in this case he is only the author. Turconi is the artist.

To repeat what I said about the first album, “The locale is the farming district of Deux-Sèvres, in central-west France. ‘Léonid is a cat, not yet an adult, but not a kitten, either. Just a young cat. He lives in a house in the district, in the midst of trees, pretty far from any city and close to a farm.’ Léonid is a young housecat, living with two other housecats (Hoa Mai, a Siamese, and Rosso, an elderly orange Pekinese) and a dog (Mirza, a toy terrier). His household is also the home of Atchi, a mouse constantly sneezing because he’s allergic to cat hairs. Léonid is allowed outside during the daytime to associate and play with the local feral cats; the female black-&-white Ba’on, and the males Bouboule (the fat one), Arsène (the nervous one), and an anonymous one (because he’s almost immediately killed). […] The Two Albinos is mostly the story of how Ba’on is kidnapped by the two albinos to be their slave, and how Léonid and Atchi, the sneezing mouse, venture outside to her rescue. They’re successful, but not really because Ba’on reveals that while she was in the albino cats’ power, they boasted that they are just the vanguard of ‘the horde’, ‘the avant-garde of the terror of Great Attila, our guide’ who will kill or enslave all the animals of the district.   Léonid, Ba’on, Aichi, Hoa Mai, Rosso, and Mirza are left wondering what to do when Attila and his horde arrive?”

In t.2, the Horde arrives. The animals in Léonid’s house – three housecats, Mirza the toy terrier, and Atchi the mouse are enjoying their daily life. Old Rosso, who is suffering erratic memory loss, sleeps most of the time. Young Léonid goes out each day to associate with the local feral cats, Bouboule, Arsène, and especially the female Ba’on. They are under the dubious protection of Zeus and Apollo, the farmer’s two large, fierce guard dogs who watch over his small flock of sheep. Before the coming of the Horde’s bloody outliers, Zeus and Apollo would tear apart any cat they could catch; but after the animals’ adventures together against the Horde’s scouts led by the two sadistic albino cats, the neighborhood pets and the guard dogs have made common cause against Attila’s coming Horde.

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The Bad Tom Trilogy, by Jill Nojack – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51edrkkz9hl-_sx326_bo1204203200_The Familiar: A Paranormal Romance, by Jill Nojack
Kent, OH, IndieHeart Press, September 2015, trade paperback $9.99 (277 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $2.99.

Witch Risen: A Paranormal Adventure, by Jill Nojack
Kent, OH IndieHeart Press, September 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (285 pages), Kindle December 2015 $3.99.

Nine Lives: A Paranormal Adventure, by Jill Nojack
Kent, OH, IndieHeart Press, September 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (291 pages), Kindle April 2016 $3.99.

These three books constitute Nojack’s The Bad Tom series. They are meant to be read together, in that order. Amazon has a three-book Kindle package for $10.97.

Up to now, I’ve avoided reviewing the paranormal romance genre. There are dozens if not hundreds of books (probably 95+% e-books only) about handsome, hunky werewolves or werelions or werestallions or werebears who need a human woman to tame them. They’re mostly written from the woman’s point of view – wish-fulfillment fodder.

However, The Bad Tom trilogy features a man spelled into an ordinary housecat, and it’s more about him trying to avoid a jealous witch so he can get together with his true love – and worse. There’s enough non-romantic story here for a furry fan that isn’t interested in romance to enjoy. There are enough clever twists & turns in the trilogy that I have to reveal a major spoiler to cover all three novels.

“Back when her skin was smooth and her lips were juicy as ripe berries, Eunice did the nasty with the devil. And she loved it. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be lurking in the dark, twitching the tip of my tail, trying to keep an eye on what the old witch is up to. Everyone knows spells cast during the Black Moon aren’t illuminated by the Goddess’s light.” (The Familiar, p. 1)

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Helga: Out of Hedgelands, by Rick Johnson – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

41k8zrifsulHelga: Out of Hedgelands, by Rick Johnson. Map.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2014, trade paperback $14.99 ([ii] 583 pages), Kindle $0.99 free with app.

The five volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles are really only four volumes, published between March 2014 and September 2015; with a 37-page appendix only on Kindle, Dragons: The Untold Story, published as volume 5 for readers who want to know more about the backstory of the Dragons in the story. The pricing is designed to encourage the sales of the Kindle editions. The four volumes are vol. 1, Helga: Out of Hedgelands, March 2014; vol. 2, The Overending, March 2014; vol. 3, Silversion, February 2015; and vol. 4, Willowers, September 2015.

Helga was published in March 2014, but carries a 2012 copyright notice. It begins in a small fogbound harbor town, where a stagecoach is just leaving:

“Just outside, Livery Rats scrambled to prepare the Drownlands Weekly for departure. Travelers loaded quickly as burly Dock Squirrels tossed bags and trunks into the rooftop baggage rack. As soon as the baggage was loaded, the Weekly rolled away from the station with creaking timbers and rattling brass, its freshly serviced wheels smelling strongly of snake grease.

Bouncing along the bare track leading away from the Drownlands station, the Weekly rumbled through the sparsely settled frontier of the Rounds. Except for the Weekly and a few cargo wagons, the bone-jarring road was little used. A river of mud when it rained and a dust-choked washboard of ruts in the dry season, the many stones in the Cutoff road gave its only predictable surface.

Three of the passengers in the Weekly on this particular spring day were creatures we will hear much about in this account of former days. There was a strongly muscled young Wood Cow with soft, thick hair and a lively face. Dressed after the manner of her clan – long barkweave jacket and leggings, lizardskin boots, forest green linen shirt – Helga dozed fitfully, her head lolling against the jostling headboard. Although exhausted by her long journey, a smile played across her face. The sound of the rumbling wagon assured her that she was, indeed, at long last coming home.” (pgs. 2-3)

I’ve quoted this at length to give you a taste of Johnson’s writing. Depending on your taste, it’s either incredibly padded and takes forever for anything to happen, or it’s incredibly rich in detail, so much so that you almost object to the action that sidetracks you from the abundant descriptions of the anthropomorphic world in which it’s set – Helga’s world.

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It’s More Fun When You’re Not Allowed, by Isabel Marks – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

599841-1Fred writes: three or four reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet.  I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.

It’s More Fun When You’re Not Allowed: Namir Deiter, Year One, by Isabel Marks. Fredericksburg, VA, Fuzzy Kitten Comics/Studio Ironcat, September 2004, trade paperback $11.95 (128 pages,.

This tidy little package presents the first year’s worth of Isabel Marks’ online Namir Deiter comic strip (November 28, 1999 through January 5, 2001), plus a lot of bonus goodies: biographies of 21 main and minor characters, an original ten-page story, a Fantasy Gallery showing the main gang in s-f and fantasy settings, a foreword by Bill Holbrook, and more. Almost as good as the strips themselves are Marks’ notes on practically each one describing the conditions under which it was written and/or drawn.

Basic advice for writers is “Write what you know about.” Marks appears to have done this to excellent effect. As she explains in her notes, she was a high school senior with some spare time in computer class. She had recently discovered on-line comics and wanted to try one of her own.   What about? High school dating! The first strip introduces four high school gals and a guy. The guy, Devlin, is just present to start the action (he asks Tipper out on her first date). The main cast is the girls: sisters Snickers and Tipper Namir, Blue Deiter, and Joy Satu. Snickers and Joy are relatively demure; Tipper, the youngest, is tomboyish; and Blue, who was neglected as a child and raised herself by watching TV, is self-centered and apparently attention-seeking. As Namir Deiter advances during its first year, Marks points out in her marginal asides the ways in which it begins to evolve. The art style shows her experiments with different computer drawing tools and techniques. The story starts with individual gag strips, and gains depth as her characters develop individual personalities and become involved in more serious human-interest situations.

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Neighbors, by Michael H. Payne – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

5132WJOdC0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Neighbors, by Michael H. Payne
Balboa, CA, “Hey, Your Nose is on Fire” Industries, October 2014, trade paperback $10.00 (212 pages), Kindle $3.00.

August Lancer, the narrator, is a young resident of Haven Space, a sanatorium and rehabilitation clinic in Southern California. Dumped there by his father (who sends expense money but never visits), Gus is a loner in a wheelchair, afflicted by a degenerative condition that has paralyzed him from the waist down and made it almost impossible to talk. His only pleasure is watching a TV cartoon series about ponies.

This all changes when Gus is adopted by a hospital therapy black cat named Spooky, who tells him that her name is really El Brujo.

“‘El Brujo?’ I heard myself ask with words that weren’t words. ‘But … you’re female. Aren’t you?’

Another little smile. ‘I’m a bit of a trendsetter.’” (p. 19)

Gus finds himself able since her appearance to talk with the other animals and birds around him. Serena the squirrel. Jefe the crow and his flock. The sparrows who nest just outside the window. Nobody else notices anything unusual, even when El Brujo and Jefe dance together, so Gus worries about it.

“Another thought hit me hard, then, one that I’d tried my absolute damnedest over and over the last bunch of months to stop myself from thinking: what if El Brujo and Serena and the sparrows and crows this morning and the weird little voices I heard in the trees and bushes out in the neighborhood –

What if it was all in my head? What if the shredded chunks of my nervous system weren’t making me understand the animals but were instead making me imagine I could understand them? Was it just a matter of time before rows of dancing chipmunks were telling me to set things on fire and kill people?” (p. 31)

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Krazy Kat: A Novel in Five Panels, by Jay Cantor – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

5fee024128a0dab587e09010.LKrazy Kat: A Novel in Five Panels, by Jay Cantor. Illustrated by George Herriman.
NYC, A. A. Knopf, January 1988, hardcover $16.95 ([x] + 245 + [viii] pages).

The reviews for this unauthorized (since it was written long after Herriman’s death) sequel to George Herriman’s classic Krazy Kat comic strip, all praise how imaginative it is. But they use terminology like “an elaborate intellectual game”, “post-narrative techniques”, “Psychoanalysis, Hollywood, radical politics, television, popular and high art are all grist for Cantor’s satirical mill”, “an X-rated sort-of-sequel to the comic strip”, and “simultaneously maddening, shocking, funny and quite disturbing.” It is, in short, an absurdist, post-modernist novel that carries the cast of the gentle (despite Ignatz’s constant bopping of Krazy’s bean with a brick), isolated Kokonino Kounty into the full complexity of modern civilization.

Cartoonist George Herriman died on April 25, 1944. The Alamogordo test explosion of the atomic bomb was on July 16, 1945. Despite the bomb blast being in the wrong state and over a year later, it is Cantor’s postulate that it was Krazy Kat’s traumatization by the atomic bomb that was responsible for the comic strip’s disappearance.

“Krazy’s unexpected retirement has put the entire cast out of work: KWAKK WAKK, the gossipy duck who sang out Coconino’s dirty linen, has no one to tattle on. JOE STORK, a lean decent creature who brought the babies and the mail from Outside, is a nearly dead letter man, for fickle fans no longer want to get in touch. DON KIYOTI, native-born long-eared snob, lacks an audience to lord it over. BEAU KOO JACK, the black rabbit of thumping paws, finds fancy trade falling off at his grocery store. KOLIN KELLEY, who fired the bricks that Ignatz threw, cleans and recleans his cold kiln, knowing that if Krazy never works again he is cursed king of useless rocks. And MRS. MICE, Ignatz’s big-footed spouse, with MILTON, MARSHALL and IRVING, her Joe-delivered progeny, bicker pointlessly, Dad out of work and time on their hands.

Why did Krazy, they wonder, suddenly shy from the spotlight? And if only she would work again …” (p. x)

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Cat Crimebusters and Other P.I.’s on Paws, Part 5 – Book Reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Cat Crimebusters, Part 1

Cat Crimebusters, Part 2

Cat Crimebusters, Part 3

Cat Crimebusters, Part 4

As far as I am concerned, all of the other “cat cozy” series with cat detectives are phonies. The only two that “sort of” qualify are (1) the Magical Cats Mysteries by Sofie Kelly.

51lAhNCv3iL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_51PrlAw68UL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_51XL0-l2BkL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. February 2011.

Sleight of Paw. September 2011.

Copycat Killing. May 2012.

Cat Trick. February 2013.

Final Catcall. October 2013.

A Midwinter’s Tail. October 2014.

Faux Paw. October 2015.

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Dudley & Gilderoy: A Nonsense, by Algernon Blackwood – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

517OCb8M0tL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dudley & Gilderoy: A Nonsense, by Algernon Blackwood.
London, Ernest Benn Ltd, December 1929, hardcover 8/6 (281 pages).

Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was a prominent British author who wrote many literary fantasies and ghost stories during the early 20th century. His John Silence was one of the most popular psychic detectives during the heyday of that literary genre just before World War I. H. P. Lovecraft named him as a “modern master” of supernatural horror.

Dudley & Gilderoy, published toward the end of his literary career, is an anomaly. Because it features a talking cat and a parrot, and is not a supernatural novel in the horror sense, it has been described as a children’s fantasy although there is no evidence that Blackwood or the book’s British or American publishers ever considered it to be for children. Everett F. Bleiler, in his monumental The Guide to Supernatural Fiction (1983), describes it as “A moving story, although the tragic ending is disconcerting.”

The novel begins with a quotation from the then-recent The Modern Cat: Her Mind and Manners. An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, by G. S. Gates (Macmillan, 1928):

“an attempt to prove that the cat is a more delicate organism and of a higher order of intelligence than any other four-footed beast … also possesses a language much like the Chinese and possibly derived from it. In the word part of the language there are, probably, not more than 600 fundamental words, all others being derivatives.”

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