Born Merlin James, James Mackintosh Qwilleran (to be known later to just about everyone as "Qwill") grew up as an only child with a widowed mother. His father had died when he was very young. He and his mother had always had some hard times, but even now he gives his mother credit for raising him alone and raising him well.
As a boy he had dreamed of playing baseball professionally, but when his knee went out (and went out for good), his dream was pretty much a dead thing. So he went into journalism. He was (and still is) a prize winning writer and earned much recognition. He even wrote a book entitled City of Brotherly Crime, which made it on to the New York Times Best Sellers List for a short time. He traveled 'round the world through his journalism, writing for papers in such places like Washington DC and Chicago and spent some time in other countries as an overseas news correspondent. He got married, and that's where the main problems in his life began.
He and his wife had a very bad time of it, and Qwill ended up turning to the bottle. His alcoholism became so bad that he almost lost his life when he drunkenly fell off of a subway platform when there was a train coming into the station. When he was pulled out of the way of the subway, he decided that he also needed to pull his life out of the drain, too.
He kicked his alcoholism and, not too long after that, joined the staff of the Daily Fluxion. There he met up with a childhood friend, Arch Riker, who was the features editor at the Fluxion. At the paper, he became art writer, food critic, cat owner, and… billionaire? The art writer and food critic are easy to explain… they were positions he took at the paper. Qwill became owned by two beautiful Siamese cats as a result of two separate deaths that he uncovered and solved during the course of the two writing positions. He became master of K'ao Ko Kung (Koko for every day purposes), an outspoken, inquisitive male cat, and Yum Yum (also known as Qwill's "little sweetheart"), a female cat that isn't quite as intuitive as Koko, but still has plenty of intelligence and a mind of her own.
But billionaire? The money was the result of a freak inheritance from his "Aunt Fanny," a.k.a. Francesca Klingenschoen. Aunt Fanny was not a blood relative, but the best friend of his mother while she was growing up. Qwill was named sole beneficiary of a billion plus dollars, and that shocked all of Fanny's hometown of Pickax City and surrounding Moose County, because in Fanny's advanced age, she had made many promises to the citizens for money that she never did make good on. So, as a requirement of the will, Qwill packed up Koko and Yum Yum and moved to Pickax City, the county seat of Moose County.
No one knows quite where Moose County and Pickax and these other places affectionately referred to as "400 miles north of everywhere" are, but from the many upper Midwestern cities mentioned in Qwill's adventures, one would guess this area to be somewhere in northern Minnesota or Wisconsin. Of course, one can never be sure. Since Qwill was never used to, or was overly fond of, having countless amounts of money at his disposal, Qwill set up the Klingenschoen Memorial Foundation to distribute the money to various good causes throughout Moose County. Among other things, Qwill was able to fund a small newspaper called the Moose County Something, where he writes a popular column, "The Qwill Pen."
Through his journalism, Qwill is able to poke his nose into many places, sometimes where it doesn't really even belong. And together with Koko and his sixth sense for murder, and even little Yum Yum, who pokes a paw into the excitement whenever she can, Qwill uncovers, and solves, mystery after mystery, murder after murder.