James Bowen & Street Cat Bob: An Update

© Dwayne Senior

Among the first few blogposts I wrote on here was this one about James Bowen, his trusty sidekick Bob the street cat and their book “A Street Cat Named Bob”, which was published in March of 2012 and went on to top the UK’s (and many other countries’) bestseller list for up to a year straight!

Time has passed and quite a few things have happened for these two since the publication of their first book, so I thought I’d do kind of an update post here.

For those of you who might never have heard of James and Bob (seriously, though, have you been living under a rock?), let’s do a quick recap of who they are (everyone else can just skip to the next paragraph):
In 2007 James Bowen was a recovering drug addict living in supported housing in North London, when one night he met Bob, a ginger tom, who was hiding in his block of flats. He thought nothing of it at first but the next day, when Bob was still there, James discovered that he was injured and apparently didn’t live with anyone in the building, so James took him to a vet and paid for his medicine with literally the last money he had left from his meagre earnings as a busker. Then he nursed Bob back to health over the next two weeks and after that Bob followed him everywhere, even on the bus and to his busking pitch in busy Covent Garden. He simply refused to leave James’ side, so James decided to keep him, even though he had more than enough on his plate just trying to take care of himself. Letting Bob into his life gave him a new purpose and a new sense of responsibility, and he decided to get his life back on track after years of just surviving from one day to the next. James got a job as a Big Issue seller and soon the unusual pair were famous all over Covent Garden and later Islington, where James sold the Big Issue as well. It was there that James and Bob were “discovered” by a literary agent who asked James to write a book about their story and the rest is, as they say, history…

Spurred on by the success of this first book (and the children’s version, published about a year later), James was quickly asked by his publishers to write a follow-up memoir about the ways in which his and Bob’s life had changed since becoming celebrities and how “The World According to Bob” was treating them following their success.
After James and Bob then asked their readers “Where in the World is Bob?” with a “Where’s Wally”-type picture book, their second memoir was also re-edited to be published as a children’s version.
In 2014 James and Bob even published a Christmas book, describing in what ways the meaning of Christmas had changed for James after Bob came into his life.

Even though the phenomenon “James and Bob” has managed to capture both children and adult readers in equal measure, the latest additions to their array of publications have catered more to their younger fanbase: Two illustrated picture books, one telling a half-fictional tale of how Bob found his way to James (because obviously James doesn’t know where and how Bob lived before he found him), the other describing Bob’s adventures as the saviour of a lost puppy (yes, sometimes cats and dogs DO get along, and not only in fiction).

Apart from their literary achievements, James and Bob have been busy supporting various charities, they have appeared on TV a number of times now and (and this is probably the biggest development since my last post about them) the “A Street Cat Named Bob” movie has been shot in London and is now in post-production, starring Luke Treadaway as James, Ruta Gedmintas as his best friend Belle and Bob as himself (at least for close-ups). The casting agency even managed to get the likes of “Downton Abbey”‘s Joanne Froggatt, “Merlin”‘s Anthony Head, “Jericho”‘s Lorraine Ashbourne (one of my favourite British actresses) and Caroline Goodall of “The White Queen” fame on the team for this film, so it’s going to be a must-watch, not only for James and Bob fans!

So after all of this it’ll be interesting to see what else there might be in store for these two. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess…


The Incredible Story of One Man and His Cat

A Street Cat Named BobWhenever I’m being asked who my heroes are I’m quick to name Joanne Rowling and James Bowen and Bob the cat. Now I’m sure all of you will be familiar with the first name in that list but what about the other two? And, more importantly, why do I count a cat among my personal heroes? Well, if by any chance you’ve been following the Sunday Times bestseller list over the past year you will probably have heard of James Bowen and his ginger tomcat Bob. Their first book “A Street Cat Named Bob” has been in the Top Ten for a whole year and there’s even a rumour about a forthcoming movie adaptation. Twice there has been an article about the author James Bowen and his ginger tom Bob in the Sunday Times and numerous other online and print publications have written about them, around the world.

What is the book about, then?

When James Bowen, a formerly homeless busker and drug addict, came home one evening from another busking session in Covent Garden to his flat in North London, he befriended a ginger tom that was hiding in his building. He’d been attacked by another animal and as James couldn’t find his owner anywhere close by he decided to take him in. He literally gave every last penny of his meagre income to have the cat treated by a vet and to buy medicine for him. And he gave him a name: Bob.

Once Bob was well again, James wanted to let him go on his way as by then he’d concluded that he was probably a stray, but Bob had made his choice and had decided to stay with James. From then on he not only followed James down the road to the bus stop, he even travelled with him to Central London, where the pair quickly became a sort of tourist attraction to the Covent Garden crowds. While James continued with his busking or selling the street magazine “The Big Issue”, Bob sat at his feet, watching the world go by.

After a while the first YouTube videos of the unusual pair appeared and their fan base grew. However, it was only after a literary agent, who passed the two of them every day on her way into work, had decided to approach James and ask him if he wanted to write a book about their story, that those few videos turned into a phenomenon that incorporated not only a No. 1 bestseller, but also a Facebook page, a Twitter account, numerous TV appearances, an official fan club (The Streetcats), a foto blog with pictures of the book taken at various locations around the world, a special children’s edition of the book that was released earlier this year, a forthcoming sequel to the book that’s coming out in July 2013 and a possible movie adaptation in the vein of “Marley & Me”.

After this phenomenal year James and Bob haven’t stopped going out busking but ever since the first royalties came through they can now take things a bit easier. James has been clean for quite some time now and it really shows when you compare those recent TV appearances with videos from the “early days”. Life is finally treating him well and the friendship with Bob has definitely changed his life quite dramatically. The gratitude and affection that connects those two best friends is clearly visible for everyone. They have found each other at just the right time in both of their lives. To put it in James’s words: “It’s karma!”

I have been following those two since 2010, when I read this blog post about them and watched the video that was linked to in there. On July 11th, 2012 I finally had the chance to meet them on my trip to London (see pic below) and it is still one of the best days of my life! James is such a warm, sincere and affectionate man and Bob is simply amazing (and he has the softest, silkiest fur I have ever felt!). I’m very excited to  see what else there is to come for them!