Saturday, November 10, 2007

Death Prowled The City

The retro cover of D. Gunther Wilde's CLAWS is kind of interesting, though more fitting for a book published in 1958, rather than 1978. In fact, I suspect the screaming woman was probably ganked from an older cover, and a new artist added the (too large) claw and the tear lines (though I don't understand how the claw could be "ripping" air!). I also suspect "D. Gunther Wilde" doesn't exist, though he/she seems to have written some erotic paperbacks and an article for a 1974 ESCAPADE. There appears to be virtually no mention of CLAWS anywhere online...which, as you may have noticed, is a big place...making the Leisure book somewhat obscure.

And probably deservedly so, as it really isn't very good. There is no mystery involved, as we know right from the ad blurb who the killer is: "killer cats." New York City is plagued with a series of several dozen extremely brutal murders in which the corpses are found torn, ripped and clawed up, usually without faces. The coroner can't figure out how they were killed, as none of the victims were shot, stabbed, strangled, poisoned, etc. All were killed outside very late at night with no one nearby hearing a sound. Not only can the cops not figure out what weapon was used, how were the victims killed so ferociously without even defending themselves?

Young policewoman Darcy Ryan thinks she knows, but sexism and youthism has left her riding a desk, instead of cruising in a patrol car. She doesn't know how or why, but she's pretty sure New York's massive contingent of stray cats is causing the deaths. Of course, her superiors would never believe her (not that they have any better leads), so she takes a few weeks leave and teams up with her boyfriend Tully to creep around the subway tunnels looking for clues. And what does a mean old homeless woman named Dirty Gertie have to do with anything? Indeed.

The concept of killer kitty cats is absurd, and CLAWS, despite passages describing the brutal mauling of the victims and their hideous remains, doesn't do a whole lot to dispel the notion. It suffers from too few characters and no interestingly drawn ones. And the ending doesn't make any sense; once the human villain is dispatched (in a predictable but implausible manner), CLAWS implies that the cat killings are over, but I don't see why they would be (though Wilde leaves it open for a possible sequel).

CLAWS was written during the late 1970s, after JAWS had created a cottage industry of films and novels about wild animals on a rampage killing people. I don't remember any others about cats. For obvious reasons.

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