Few novels can boast of having found a way to introduce aesthete author Oscar Wilde to rock wild child Jim Morrison of the Doors, but in Waiting for Gertrude, his whimsical "graveyard gothic," Bill Richardson does just that. Richardson, a radio broadcaster with three previous books behind him (including the popular Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast), brings his sly wit to bear in a fantasy involving a famous graveyard, sentient cats, and internationally renowned (and dead) personalities.
Set in Paris's Père-Lachaise cemetery, where the august personages involved are buried, Waiting for Gertrude tells the story of a brief period when strange things begin happening among the four-legged inhabitants of the cemetery. A leap of faith of almost feline ability is required, but if the reader can accept Isadora Duncan, Colette, Chopin, and Marcel Proust (among others) reincarnated as cats, then everything that follows seems almost logical. Using letters, limericks, music, mock interviews, and press releases, Richardson builds his case well enough to spin a silly yet sophisticated tale full of clever wordplay. Toklas, the chief protagonist, is nice but dull, but her wait for Gertrude Stein, the plot's main thread, is worth slogging through for the good stuff, particularly Wilde's increasingly forlorn letters to his unattainable object of affection, a cat named Jamz. These passages ("I crave but a morsel of your affection, Jamz, but if I cannot have it, could you not at least spare me a tiny paring of your scorn?") are pure catnip. --Shawn Conner