Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whiskers Behind the Words: The Cat in the Book Club, by Leslie Budewitz

We owe our cat to Book Club. 

I first met Ruff and his brother Reddy when my book club met at Joanne’s house. “The boys”—then about two—left dead mice on the back doorstep, leapt over tall buildings in a single bound, and raced around her house like NASCAR drivers.  

Then Joanne died. The boys went to live with a friend, but after an owl killed Reddy, the friend’s old cat began sharpening his claws on Ruff, so he came to live with us. 

And boy, are we glad.  

Ruff is a sable Burmese, meaning dark chocolate with black pointing—black on the face, tips of his ears, feet, and tale. He’s also got a bit of “locketing”—white flecks in his fur that are not signs of age, but typical of the breed. (In some Burmese—though not Ruff—the white flecks take on a locket-shaped patch at the throats.) Burmese have small heads with a distinctive profile. And like their Siamese cousins, they are big talkers. The breed is known for a combination of athleticism and cuddliness. We live in the country in northwest Montana, and Ruff is an avid mouse-hunter. He’s also an avid bird watcher—our bird feeders hang empty much of the year, as he can catch any songbird. Happily, he leaves the hummingbirds and wild turkeys alone. 

But he’s no aloof “hands-off” cat. My husband is a doctor of natural medicine with a clinic in our home. Shortly after Ruff moved in, a new patient came to the house. Ruff met her at the door. “Oh,” she said, bending down to pet him and tearing up, “he looks just like my friend Joanne’s cat.” Turns out he’d been a sort of therapy cat, sitting on the bed and comforting Joanne in her last days. He often comes to the clinic waiting area—aka the library—and sits with a patient waiting to be seen.  

And of course, when Book Club visits, he’s the star of the night.  

So how did Mr. Sandburg come into the Food Lover’s Village Mysteries? In much the same way.
My protagonist, Erin Murphy, is a Montana girl who moved to Seattle after college to work for an international warehouse chain. On her walks around her Capitol Hill neighborhood, Erin met a retired English teacher named Roxy Turner. They became fast friends. When Roxy became ill and was hospitalized, Erin dropped by her apartment to check on Roxy’s Burmese cat, Mr. Sandburg. (Named for his yowl, which does not come in on little cat feet.) Earlier this year, Roxy died, leaving Erin her library of poetry and her cat. Which Erin’s lease prohibited.  

So Erin and Sandburg moved to Montana. And therein lies a tale. Or a tail. I hope you’ll enjoy it.   

Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, is new from Berkley Prime Crime (August 2013). The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as the Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead…  

Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Leslie’s second series, The Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, will debut in early 2015. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband and, of course, Ruff. Visit her online at or on Facebook at 


Unknown said...

We are new to your blog, after finding you on Cat Blogosphere. It was interesting to read these stories and thank you for sharing them.

SeaThreePeeO said...

Such a lovely post

The Paw Relations

Dru said...

Love how you met Ruff. Is Reddy with you as well?

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks, Melissa, for inviting Ruff and me to share our story, and to all you for the warm welcome. Alas, Reddy was killed by an owl just a few weeks after Joanne died, while and Ruff were out hunting mice in the wheatfield next to their temporary home. You can probably guess that Reddy is wearing the red collar and Ruff the blue in the picture from their youth. He'll be 9 in a few weeks.

Cat and DOG Chat With Caren said...

absolutely CATABULOUS!!

KitKat said...

Nice to meet you. I look forward to hearing more from you. Nice post. I have two Sable Burmese.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Oh, another Burmese owner! You know what great little companions they are.

Thanks, again, Melissa, for hosting us. We hope you all enjoy Death al Dente!

Bark At The Ghouls said...

Awww, what a great story! I didn't realize owls were a danger to cats. Yikes, we have two that frequent our neighborhood and they let their kitties out. I'll have to warn them. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. My neighbor had a owl pick up their cat and fly with it over the trees before it dropped it. They spent 10000 (husband was a Dr) it lived of course then a house cat. Burmese are very special much like Birman cats they have a special personality. You are so blessed to have them in your life. Love the new cozy and have it on my to be bought list.