Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Shaken Not Stirred: The Vesper Martini

Today is National Martini Day, and perhaps the most iconic Martini is that of James Bond aka 007! The Vodka Martini is as synonymous with 007 as the Walther PPK and the Aston Martin DB5. James Bond first ordered his trademark drink  in Ian Fleming's debut novel Casino Royale (1953):

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm . . . er . . . concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

Having invented his own signature drink for Bond, Fleming left the reader hanging for the name for the drink until Vesper Lynd entered the novel. Bond thought her name was perfect for his preferred drink:

'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'... She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?'
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said.
'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'

The 'Vesper' Martini created by Bond in Casino Royale and liked by Fleming:

Add 3 measures Gordon's Gin
Add 1 measure Vodka
Add 1 measure blond Lillet vermouth
Shake very well until it's ice cold
Garnish with a slice of lemon peel

The medium-dry Vodka Martini preferred by James Bond in the films:

4 measures Vodka (use a tbsp or an oz as a measure to fill one cocktail glass)
Add 1 measure dry Vermouth
Shake with ice. Do not stir. (Shaking gives the misty effect and extra chill preferred by Bond)
Add 1 green olive ( James Bond prefers olives)
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel
Serve in a cocktail glass

Thanks to MI6-HQ.com for the citations

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

FAN AND NOT-SO FAN EMAIL: Guest post by J.A Konrath

Hi, Mystery Author JA Konrath here.

As a semi-popular writer, I'm lucky to get occasional fan emails. I think it's terrific when a reader reaches out to say nice things.

But sometimes what they say isn't so nice.

I think I like those emails even more.

Here's one of my recent favorites:

Mr Kornarth (sic)

I recently read your free ebook WHAT HAPPENED TO LORI BOOK 1 and I hated it. It sucks. I hated the punctuation and that new punctuation you made up was distracting and stupid. Your characters were all unsympathetic jerks with secrets to hide. The sex scene was to explicit. You had all of this weird interesting stuff happening but didn't explain any of it because you want to force people to buy BOOK 2. I know you warned readers it would end on a cliff hanger but the cliffhanger made me so angry I will never read another book by you.

(Name Deleted to Protect Privacy)

PS I pre-ordered BOOK 2 anyway because it was only 99 cents but only to find out what happens. I'm positive I won't enjoy it.

End of fan mail.

Joe sez: You can get WHAT HAPPENED TO LORI BOOK 1 everywhere, for free. I apologize that it sucks. :)
*** 
New Novel from JA Konrath… and it’s free! 

In a previous newsletter I referred to a super-secret project that I've been working on for over a year. It's fun. It's crazy. It's unpredictable. It's an epic gearshift thriller duology 

BOOK 1 is currently free on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple Books 

Or you can get Book 2 for FREE!... if you write a review of Book 1 and link to it on social media. 

Here's what you need to do if you want BOOK 2 for free. 

1. Read BOOK 1 (it's already free), and then write an honest review somewhere. A review on the ebook platform where you bought it, or on Goodreads, is perfect. It's okay if you hate the book, but if you post spoilers, make sure you mark them as spoilers. Also mark any predictions you may have as spoilers (you'll understand what that means when you get to the end.) 

2. After you review it, post a link to your review on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress). 
3. Email me the link to your social media post with the email header LORI REVIEW. If you do that, you'll get BOOK 2 for free, before it is officially released on August 30. You get to read it first, without paying for it. 

This new two-book series is unlike anything I've ever done, and unlike anything that anyone else has ever done. It's massive, and I wrote it to be the ultimate beach-read page-turner. Lots of mystery and intrigue, a dash of violence, a pinch of sex, and a bunch of mindblowing twists that no one will ever see coming. 

So let's do a quick Q&A. 

Q: What if I'm not on social media? 
A: I need folks willing to post their reviews as many places as possible. Folks willing to spread the word. Folks willing to shout about this insane new book they've just read. If you aren't on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler, or don't blog, let me know where you want to post your review instead, and I'll consider it on a case-by-case basis. 

Q: What if I don't like the book? 
A: I still want you to post a review. A negative review is perfectly cool. 

Q: Why are you giving away new releases? 
A: My new super-secret project is the most buzzworthy book I've ever written, and I want to get the word out, and that's why BOOK 1 is free, and BOOK 2 is cheap. I want to see how many people I can reach. I'll be blunt and heartfelt: I need you. Does Stephen King ever tell you he needs you? How about JK Rowling? Nope. But I need you. And you'll be able to tell everyone you read LORI first before it goes viral. "I read that before it was even published!" you can say to your friends and family as they stare, wide-eyed, full of venomous envy. 

Q: Is there a deadline? 
A: Yes! I need you to post your review by July 31 if you want to get BOOK 2 for free. So grab BOOK 1 for free and read it. If you write a review, link to it on social media, send me the link, and you'll get BOOK 2 for free as well. If you don't want to bother writing a review, go ahead an pre-order BOOK 2. I'm fine with that. 

Thanks for reading! Joe

Sunday, June 16, 2019

NERO AWARD FINALISTS

O.K. This is a bit of an enigma. I've seen two stories about specific nominees for the Nero Award. I'm hoping you can help. I'm sure there are other nominees but I haven't seen a press release from The Wolfe Pack or any other mentions in social media. If you know who else was nominated, please let me know, and I'll update this post. Thanks. I should have the update on Monday.

The Nero Award is sponsored by The Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe society, named after the fictional character in the mystery series by Rex Stout. The Nero Award is presented annually for the best American mystery. The award is given to those books that are written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. The award winner will be presented at the Black Orchid Banquet in December in NYC.

NERO AWARD FINALISTS (incomplete list --soon to be updated)
The Fallen Architect by Charles Belfoure
The Man Who Couldn't Miss by David Handler
(more nominees to be posted)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

HARPER LEE PRIZE FOR LEGAL FICTION FINALISTS: You can vote!

The Finalists for the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction have been announced, and now readers will have a chance to weigh in. The books nominated for the ninth annual award are:

The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Class Action by Steven B. Frank
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Vote HERE:
http://www.abajournal.com/polls/2019HarperLeePrize

From The ABAJournal
“This year’s Harper Lee Prize was particularly difficult to judge,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “We were evaluating so many gripping and compelling reads.”

The prize, which was authorized by the late Harper Lee, was established in 2011 by the University of Alabama Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

“The finalists represent the diversity of this year’s submissions, from a novel about Sri Lankan refugees seeking a new start, to the story of a trailblazing woman lawyer fighting for her clients in 1920s India, and finally a charming middle school book featuring a spunky student who goes to court after he’s suspended for protesting homework,” said McDonough. “The characters are as inspiring as they are engaging.”

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction will be awarded at an August ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival. The winner will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee. The authors whose books have previously won the prize are John Grisham (in 2011 and 2014), Michael Connelly, Paul Goldstein, Deborah Johnson, Attica Locke, James Grippando and C. E. Tobisman.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, June 30.

VOTE HERE!
http://www.abajournal.com/polls/2019HarperLeePrize

FATHER'S DAY, Fathers and Sons, & Fathers and Daughters in Crime Fiction

Father's Day. My father passed away 16 years ago, but I still think about him every day. He encouraged and supported me throughout my many careers and educational pursuits, and he always told me I could accomplish anything and succeed in whatever I chose to do.

My father was the ultimate reader. His idea of a good vacation was sitting in a chair, reading a good mystery. It didn't mattered where he was, the book took him miles away.

So many times when I finish a book, I say to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." My father engendered my love of mysteries through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. I like to think he's up there somewhere in a chair surrounded by books and reading a good mystery.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

The following are updated lists! As always let me know any titles that you think should be included.


FATHER'S DAY MYSTERIES

Father’s Day by John Calvin Batchelor
Father’s Day by Rudolph Engelman
Father's Day: A Detective Joe Guerry Story by Tippie Rosemarie Fulton
Father’s Day Keith Gilman 
Dear Old Dead by Jane Haddam
The Father’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
Dead Water by Victoria Houston
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
On Father's Day by Megan Norris
Father’s Day by Alan Trustman

Murder for Father, edited by Martin Greenberg (short stories)
"Father's Day" by Patti Abbott --short story at Spinetingler
Collateral Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection  e-book of Father's Day themed short stories.

Let me know if I missed any titles.  

**
And a very short list of Crime Fiction that focuses on Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Daughters. Have a favorite Father / Son Father/Daughter Mystery? Post below in comments.

FATHERS AND SONS and FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS in CRIME FICTION

Carriage Trade by Stephen Birmingham
His Father's Son by Tony Black
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
Secret Father by James Carroll
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
Hot Plastic by Peter Craig
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne 
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Lars and Little Olduvai by Keith Spencer Felton
Unsub by Meg Gardner   
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
King of Lies by John Hart
Damage by Josephine Hart
The Good Father by Noah Hawley
1922 by Stephen King
A Perfect Spy by John LeCarre 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh 
The Son by Jo Nesbo
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Roman Hat Mystery; other novels by Ellery Queen (Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay)
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
The Senior Sleuths: Dead in Bed by Marcia Rosen
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
The Father by Anton Swenson

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Men of Mystery: Endeavor & Grantchester Coming soon to Masterpiece!

Coming soon to Masterpiece! on PBS: New seasons of Endeavor and Grantchester!

Endeavour, Season 6, premieres Sunday, June 16, 2019, 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS. 
Shaun Evans charms audiences with his portrayal of the cerebral and solitary Detective Constable Morse in Endeavour, written by Inspector Lewis creator and Inspector Morse writer Russell Lewis.

In Endeavour, Season 6, Shaun Evans has a new look as DS Endeavour Morse. The latest installment of Endeavour is set in 1969. Evans will also be putting his directorial mark on the show, heading behind the camera for the second 90-minute episode of the season. Endeavour will also be facing new challenges, with Morse having started a new role as a uniformed officer at the Woodstock police department and embracing the fashion of the period by growing a mustache. Alongside Evans, the new series will see celebrated stage and screen actor Roger Allam return as DI Fred Thursday, alongside Anton Lesser as CS Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby as DS Jim Strange, James Bradshaw as Dr Max DeBryn, Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday, Abigail Thaw as Dorothea Frazil and Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday. Following the dissolution of the Oxford City Police and the merging with Thames Valley Constabulary at the end of the last season, the new season picks up with the team dispersed as they find their feet in their various new roles.

Grantchester Season 4 premieres Sunday, July 14, 2019, 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

Grantchester returns to MASTERPIECE with a new vicar: Tom Brittney (Outlander, Call the Midwife) who joins the cast of Season 4 as Reverend Will Davenport — man of the people and crime-solving partner to Robson Green’s Geordie Keating in 1950s Grantchester. James Norton, who plays the charismatic, jazz-loving clergyman Sidney Chambers, makes his final appearance during the series. Confident, caring and self-assured, Grantchester’s new young parish priest channels his boundless energy into a quest for social justice. He is a man of God, but with the devil inside of him. As Geordie draws him into righting the wrongs of criminal Cambridge, Will’s own troubled past is unearthed. About his character, Brittney says, “Will has a very strong moral compass with a thirst to change things, but underneath, there is a dark and troubled past that drives him in what he does.”

Watch a Preview Here

Friday, June 7, 2019

NGAIO MARSH AWARD BEST NOVEL LONGLIST

Longlist for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel

The Ngaio Marsh Awards have celebrated the best New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing since 2010, and this year’s longlist runs the gamut of settings from rural New Zealand to New York City, time periods from the 1940s to modern day, and themes ranging from teen bullying to societal discrimination and the verisimilitude of memory.

The longlist for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel:
  • NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)
  • CASSIE CLARK: OUTLAW by Brian Falkner (OneTree House)
  • THIS MORTAL BOY by Fiona Kidman (Penguin)
  • MONEY IN THE MORGUE by Ngaio Marsh & Stella Duffy (HarperCollins)
  • THE QUAKER by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)
  • CALL ME EVIE by JP Pomare (Hachette)
  • THE STAKES by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
  • MAKE A HARD FIST by Tina Shaw (OneTree House)
  • THE VANISHING ACT by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • RAIN FALL by Ella West (Allen & Unwin)

The longlist is currently being considered by a judging panel of crime, thriller, and suspense writing experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The finalists will be announced on 2 August, along with the finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel and Best Non-Fiction. All the finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, as part of a special WORD Christchurch event on 14 September. 

For more information on this year’s longlist, or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson,craigsisterson@hotmail.com

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

LAMBDA LITERARY AWARDS 2019


Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, announced the winners of the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards – or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known.

Here's a link to all the winners in the 24 categories. Congrats to all!

For the purposes of this blog, here are the winners in the MYSTERY CATEGORY:

Lesbian Mystery
A Study in Honor: A Novel, Claire O’Dell, HarperCollins / HarperVoyager

Gay Mystery
Late Fees: A Pinx Video Mystery, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books

PWA SHAMUS AWARD NOMINEES 2019

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA SHAMUS AWARD NOMINEES 2019 for works published in 2018. (The lists below are in alphabetical order by author.) The winners will be announced at the PWA Banquet at Bouchercon. 

Best Original Private Eye Paperback 

She Talks to Angels by James D. F. Hannah (Hannah)                                                                        
No Quarter by John Jantunen (ECW Press)                                                                              
Shark Bait by Paul Kemprecos (Suspense Publishing)                                                             
Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg (Down & Out Books)                                                             
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone (Redhook Books)

Best First Private Eye Novel

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco (MCD Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould (Dutton)
What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Hogarth)

Best Private Eye Short Story 

"Fear of the Secular," by Mitch Alderman, AHMM
"Three-Star Sushi," by Barry Lancet, Down & Out
“The Big Creep,” by Elizabeth McKenzie, Santa Cruz Noir
"Game," by Twist Phelan, EQMM
"Chin Yong-Yun Helps a Fool," by S.J. Rozan, EQMM

 Best Private Eye Novel 

Wrong Light by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho C rime)
Baby’s First Felony by John Straley (Soho Crime)
Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe (Quercus)

THE BLISS POINT: Guest Post by Leslie Karst

Leslie Karst:
The Bliss Point 

Knowing Janet’s love for all things chocolate www.dyingforchocolate.com, I thought that a short essay about why that sort of foodstuff is so incredibly irresistible to us humans would be appropriate for this blog.

As some of you may be aware, I worked for twenty years as a research and appellate attorney before turning my sights from drafting legal briefs to the far more enjoyable vocation of drafting culinary murder mysteries. But before matriculating at law school, I had to undergo the trial by fire of sitting for the dreaded Law School Admissions Test. And while I was preparing for the LSAT, my food of choice to keep me going during the marathon study sessions was frequently a Snickers bar.

I still love that candy bar, though I now indulge only rarely—having entered the stage of life where one’s metabolism is such that the price of the indulgence is paid directly at the waist line.

But what is it about the Snickers bar, I recently pondered, that makes it so highly addictive?

I found an answer to this question in a book by David A. Kessler, entitled The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-End-of-Overeating/David-A-Kessler-MD/9780743596800 Wondering just why a chocolate chip cookie could have such a strong power over him, Dr. Kessler spent seven years trying to discover the reason. The result was this book, in which he concludes that it’s all about the correct combination of sugar, fat and salt. Restaurants and other food businesses spend countless dollars and hours manipulating these ingredients until they reach what Kessler refers to as the “bliss point.”

We all know about this “bliss point” caused by the combination of sugar, fat and salt, even if it’s only subconscious. That’s why the tin roof sundae http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/tin_roof_sundae/ was such a popular ice cream treat back in my grandparents’ days, and why, more recently, dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt has been the “new big thing” for many years running.

 Finding your Bliss Point 
(the addition of the acid in the wine adds an extra level) 

Cooks learn early on that salt is an essential ingredient in baked goods, and that adding a little sugar to savory foods can make the difference between something rather bland and something simply scrumptious. I learned this while a student at my local community college’s culinary arts program: a half teaspoon of sugar or honey added to your vinaigrette makes the taste buds stand up and take notice, providing that perfect contrast to the emulsion of acid, oil, and mustard.

Our brains are simply hard-wired to crave these things. After all, it wasn’t until pretty recently—evolutionarily speaking—that humans had much access to sugar, fat, or salt. Sweets were found only in fruits and honey; wild game would have been quite lean; and salt was rare and, when available, far too expensive for most of the population.

The problem of course, is that now that we have these ingredients in abundance, we can’t resist them. What a perfect opportunity for capitalism to go wild, and for us consumers to chow down plates of fried chicken and waffles drowning in (faux) maple syrup and to scarf enormous bags of salty, buttery popcorn along with boxes of Milk Duds at the movies.

Too bad our bodies can’t seem to handle what our brains tell us to crave.

So what about those Snickers bars? Well, according to Dr. Kessler, they are “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew one, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts in such a way that the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth all at the same time.

And yes, they did help me get into Stanford Law School.

***

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco, Murder from Scratch), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. Visit Leslie at lesliekarstauthor.com or at chicksonthecase.com

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: Cats


KAY KENDALL & TERRY SHAMES: LIT SALON IN BERKELEY 6/12

Upcoming Literary Salon in Berkeley, CA

When: Wednesday, June 12, 7:00 p.m.

Who: Kay Kendall, Terry Shames
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA)
This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend.
Space is Limited. Address of venue sent with acceptance.
 
Please make a comment below with your email address

Kay Kendall

Before Kay Kendall began to write books, she was an award-winning international public relations executive, working in the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, and Europe. She has graduate degrees in Russian history and was a Woodrow Wilson Scholar at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Because of her degrees in Russian history, Kay often brings Cold War elements into her tales. She takes great pains in her books to get historical settings and details right—no anachronisms allowed.

Kay Kendall has written three historical mysteries. Her second book, Rainy Day Women (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series. The first was Desolation Row (2013), published by Stairway Press. Her latest mystery, After You’ve Gone, is an Austin Starr prequel. Kay and her husband live in Houston, Texas. They’ve rescued abandoned pet bunnies for twenty years and currently have three rabbits and a bemused spaniel.

Kay is president of the Southwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and is a member of the national board of MWA.

Terry Shames

Terry Shames writes the award-winning, critically acclaimed Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. From an early age, Terry Shames wrote stories based on the small town in Texas where her grandparents lived, a fictional version of the town that sparked her imagination. 

Her mysteries have been finalists for numerous awards, including The Strand Critics Award, The Lefty Award, and the Macavity Award. A Killing at Cotton Hill won the Macavity for Best First Mystery, 2013. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake won the RT Reviews Critics Award for Best Contemporary Mystery of 2016. The latest in the series is A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

Raised in Texas and a University of Texas alum, Terry has lived in Berkeley, CA for many years. She is a member of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. 

***
Be sure and RSVP to janet @ mysteryreaders (dot) org
 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: The Motive

HT: Kate Derie

THE TIMELESS TEACHINGS OF GURU ZUZU: Guest post by Tony Broadbent

TONY BROADBENT:
THE TIMELESS TEACHINGS OF GURU ZUZU

If you live with a cat, you live with a teacher: one that watches your every move.

So, unless you’re at work or sitting in a coffee bar or doing any one of the thousand things one does in one’s busy, busy life, outside of home, that cat of yours is probably watching you, right now.

But don't look! Don’t move too quickly to see if you are, indeed, the subject of studied feline gaze. Cats abhor sudden movements.

And, anyway, by the time you do look up, your cat will have already gone back to doing what they do best: staring at nothing you can see; or pouncing on something other; or yawning, sleeping, stretching or knitting; or giving themselves a carefully choreographed wash and brush up.

Or blinking at you in that slow-motion Cat Morse Code that cats perfect from the time they’re kittens; signaling to you that the next mealtime is fast approaching, and a fresh bowl of water and clean litter box wouldn’t go amiss, while you’re at it.

For which you might even earn yourself a “purr” or slow blink.

But you already knew that about cats. You live in their world and your job is to remember your place in it. Which means you simply have to work out how best you may serve their needs. For as all cat owners know all too well, no one owns a cat; cats don't have owners, they have staff.

Or, as the wondrous Terry Pratchett, once, reframed it: “In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”

Which is no doubt why, when at one point I found myself pondering the mysteries of life, earnestly, trying to stay awake, aware, and alert; and to be in the ‘now’; I was as surprised, as anyone, when, courtesy of my very perceptive wife, a certain little, black pussycat came into my life.

I mean, I’d always liked cats; when a child, my family always had cats; and I have many cat stories and snapshots to prove it. But then I left home, went off to college, off to work; changed jobs; even changed countries, and, well, I didn’t have room or time for any cats in my life. And I didn’t really consider myself a cat person, anymore. I very definitely didn’t have need of a cat. I mean, whoever does?

How could I ever have known just how wrong I’d been?

But, then, as the Buddhist Proverb promises: “When the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.”

She was called Zuzu; her name, like her, seemingly, conjured, as if from out of the very air; was extraordinarily patient with me from the very start; never demanding, ever gracious, ever loving. Always, just waiting for me to slow down; smell the roses; smell the coffee: To just breathe.

“Purrfect! Now, you really can begin to live in the ‘now’.”

And so I began purposefully observing Zuzu in all her daily wanderings. Just slowing down enough, often enough, to take note, to see how she navigated her world; how she dealt with “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” and I found she led me to new pathways of thought, new insights, and an unexpected trove of wisdom:

‘Give love, to get love. Love is always a two-way street.’

‘Find out what it is you love doing, and do a lot of it.’

‘Love means understanding that sometimes the one you love simply wants to be alone.’

‘Never forget who and what you are, and that you alone are responsible for what it is you think about.’

‘Always remember; never lose your sense of humor. Life’s far too short.’

And so much more; much of which I’ve included in: The Timeless Teachings of Guru Zuzu. All in the simple hope other people may delight in them, too.

As Eckhart Tolle, acclaimed author of The Power of Now, once observed: “I have lived with several Zen masters…all of them cats.”

How very true.

“To be or not to be?” Your cat will always have the “purrfect” answer.

***
Tony Broadbent is the author of a series of mystery novels about a Cockney cat (yes, cat) burglar in post-war London: The Smoke, Spectres In The Smoke, Shadows In the Smoke; and two books on the early days of The Beatles: The One After 9:09 - A Mystery With A Backbeat and the non-fiction: The Beatles in Liverpool, Hamburg, London. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.