A Girl and her Cat by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh. Book review

A Girl and her CatHoney West and T.H.E. Cat: A Girl and her Cat by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh,

Moonstone, h/c, $26.95, LINK

Reviewed by David Brzeski

I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, so I was pleased to be offered an advance pdf to review.

Honey West is a female PI, originally introduced in ‘This Girl For Hire’ (1957), by Gloria and Forest Fickling under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling”. This was the first of a series of nine novels written between 1957 and 1964 (followed by a two book revival in 1971/72). Most people will be more familiar with the short-lived 1965-66 TV series, starring Anne Francis in the lead role. The entire 30 episode run is now available on DVD. Apart from a one-shot comic book from Gold Key in 1966, that was pretty much it, until Moonstone revived the character for a series of comics, including several crossovers with other classic characters. Moonstone have also reissued omnibus volumes of some of the original novels, and this is the first of several projected new prose adventures. One of the strengths of the Moonstone version of the character is that they cleverly combine the best features of the original novel version, and the TV series version. For instance, the books, as would be expected, are raunchier than the TV show, but Honey’s pet ocelot, Bruce, was an invention of the TV version. Both are featured in this novel, to great effect.

Ex cat burglar turned bodyguard, T.H.E Cat is possibly less well-known, as there were no books. The TV series, starring Robert Loggia, ran for just 26 episodes in 1966/67. Sadly, it’s much harder to come by than Honey West, as there has so far been no DVD release. Bad quality, but just about watchable copies of some episodes can be found on YouTube. Other than that, there was just a four issue comic book series, published by Dell in 1967. That is, until Moonstone recently published a 3 issue comic miniseries, featuring both Honey and Cat, which details the first meeting of the characters.

Honey is hired to track down some stolen property, but her employer also seems to want to kill her, and there are definitely more than two agendas at work. When her friend, CIA agent Johnny Doom, is infected with a deadly disease, she shakes off his Mother’s Brother and seeks out the help of another old friend—Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat.

As those familiar with the previous works of Win Scott Eckert would expect, the crossovers do not stop with the main two characters. There are quite a few other characters and places from assorted print, television and film sources, albeit thinly disguised for copyright reasons. The name by which Doctor Shan Ming Fu is better known shouldn’t give most readers any trouble to work out. I won’t mention any others here, as that would spoil the fun to be had spotting them for yourselves. It would be easy, when shoehorning in these various pop-culture references, to mar the flow of the story. Thankfully, Eckert and Baugh are far too experienced to fall into that trap. All the extra character cameos are perfectly logical and, more importantly, it won’t harm the story in the slightest if the reader doesn’t manage to spot some, or even all of them.

I really don’t want to say too much about the actual story. I hate spoilers. Suffice to say that it’s an excellent fast-paced adventure, and one that left me looking forward to more. As I have come to expect from both authors, the writing is of a high quality and, even though I read an advance pdf which hadn’t yet been through its final editing, there were very few typos to be found.

The expected release date is the end of January 2014. The link at the top offers several places that the book can be pre-ordered (usually at a discount). No doubt it will also find it’s way on to Amazon eventually.