Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good Short Fiction: Coyote Peyote (by Carole Nelson Douglas)

Title: Coyote Peyote
Author: Carole Nelson Douglas
Where I read it: Tails of Wonder and Imagination: Cat Stories (ed. Ellen Datlow)

Midnight Louie works as a detective in Las Vegas. You can find him at the Crystal Phoenix Hotel and Casino by the koi pond, which supplies him his dinner. He cuts a striking figure - black with "tourmaline-green" eyes and "topping twenty pounds soaking wet" - and has a pretty high opinion of himself. It isn't easy being the foremost feline detective (maybe the only feline detective?) in a city like Las Vegas.

In the story he's approached by a wild coyote who needs his help; the coyote death rate has soared at the borders of a real estate development called Peyote Skies just outside the city. Louie's first assumption is that they're getting killed off for trespassing:

No wonder the coyotes are goners. They were trespassing on some high-end new real estate of the first water. I sit under one of the paired yucca trees that mark the development's entrance to read the billboard, which features colors like trendy turquoise, orange and lavender bordered in a chorus line of alternating jalapeno peppers and howling coyotes.

Though I was curious about the mystery of the dying coyotes (and a dark tale it turned out to be) it was really Louie himself - and the idea of a cat detective - that drew me into the story (I'm sure he'd be happy about that). He narrates like a film noir detective - cool and perceptive, given to colorful descriptions, and knowing just how good he is. There's no femme fatale in the story, but he does get a sidekick for a while - Happy Hocks, a half-grown coyote who worships the ground Louie struts on. Along with the humor, attitude, and striking characterizations I loved the strong sense of place in this story: Las Vegas and its environs through the eyes of a feline who's seen it all.


Other stories in this collection include Puss-Cat (by Reggie Oliver) and The White Cat (by Joyce Carol Oates), along with Every Angel is Terrifying (by John Kessel), Tiger in the Snow (by Daniel Wynn Barber), Gordon the Self-Made Cat by Peter S. Beagle, and Guardians by George R. R. Martin.


This post has been linked to at this week's Short Stories on Wednesdays at Simple Clockwork.