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Book Review: Night and the Cat by Alan Adler

Alan Adler, a Topanga screenwriter and novelist, has written a compelling noir novel with petty gangsters and a menacing mountain lion. Adler’s novel, Night and the Cat is about redemption, says the author, the founding director of the Fox Studio Archive. “I spoke for the icons – Tom Mix, Tyrone Power, Darryl Zanuck.” The author is also a film historian and collector of rare movie posters.

Night and the Cat was inspired by a dream. In the dream, Adler says, he was sitting in the old Carolina Theater in Asheboro, North Carolina, watching a movie. Adler dreamt the black and white movie that starred Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, and Claire Trevor. The title of the “dream movie” was Night and the Cat, and it even had a Warner Bros. logo at the beginning. Adler said the dream was so real that he immediately wrote a treatment before he got out of bed. It then took him five years to craft a novel based on the dream.

Night and the Cat is a noir novel set in 1945, written with such detail that it could easily be crafted into a film. The novel involves gangsters who end up tracking a mountain lion named Sarah in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Adler says: “The gangsters hunt the lion, the lion hunts the gangsters, and everybody hunts each other.” During the five years that it took to write the novel, Adler realized that he was writing about his relationship with his father, who he described as a “small-time southern gangster.”

Charlie Dawson, the protagonist of Night and the Cat, has been released from prison after five years. He is headed back to Los Angeles from Kansas City on a train packed with soldiers and Marines at the end of World War II. Dawson knows a lot about Los Angeles.

“I knew a couple actors and my share of actresses before the war. They lived on the blind hope that feeds L.A. Their enthusiasm built the system and they were consumed by the if-come of it all. If you were a big ticket blonde, you had one price. If you were a tough kid who’s tired of the street and wanted a home, you had another. The city was filthy with earnest dreamers. And they kept coming.”

Sarah, a mountain lion owned by gangster Arthur Main, and the “cat” in Adler’s novel, drives the action. The novel’s characters are drawn into a deadly hunt when Sarah escapes from her cage. The mountain lion becomes the hunter.

“It was like a lion to figure these upright things had killed those forest creatures and were stashin’em to eat later. The claws of these upright beasts were long and sharp. But instead of disappearin’ into their paws like it was for normal cat-folk, these pink-faced things had the magic to set those claws aside — or hide’em elsewhere.”

Night and the Cat presents a compelling drama of man and beast. Adler observes that humans don’t always come out ahead when compared to the instinctual behavior of animals like Sarah.

Adler’s talents as a novelist are well served by his skill as a screenwriter. Reading Night and the Cat one is impressed by the author’s ability to describe the settings and characters with such clarity that one feels a part of the action.

Following the recent trend, Adler self-published Night and the Cat. The author says: “It’s similar to the 1960’s, when independent films entered the movie market and broadened choices for the discerning audience who wanted more than the average movie fare.”

For further information on Night and the Cat e-mail Alan Adler at

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