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Frequently Asked Questions About the Joe Grey Novels

(For questions about Shirley Murphy, her other books, and her advice for aspiring writers, go to the FAQ page at www.srmurphy.com.)


How many books are there in the Joe Grey series? In what order should they be read?

So far 19 have been published. They're numbered on the home page and on the page that describes them.

When is the next Joe Grey book coming out?

No date has been set yet; it depends on my publisher. Shirley Rousseau Murphy with a cat

Will Cat on the Money, the serial novella that began in Cats Magazine, ever be published?

It is too short to be issued as a printed book, but it's available as an ebook. Also, the entire story has been here at my website since Cats Magazine ceased publication, and it will remain here as a printable PDF to download as well as chapter by chapter to read on the screen. In time sequence, this story comes after Cat Spitting Mad. (There are a few references to its events in later books that may puzzle people who haven't read it.)

Are your other books available as ebooks?

Yes, ebook editions of all the Joe Grey books and The Catswold Portal have been issued by Harper. Some of my Young Adult novels are also available in ebook editions.

Are audiobooks of the Joe Grey Series available?

All the Joe Grey books, charmingly read by Susan Boyce, have recently been released in a new line by AudioGo. They are available both to download at online retailers such as Audible.com and on CDs.

I'd like to get hardcover editions of Cat on the Edge, Cat Under Fire, and Cat Raise the Dead. Do they exist?

No, the first three books of the Joe Grey series were originally published in paperback. Publishers often don't start issuing hardcovers until a series is well enough known to become popular.

Is Molena Point a real place?

Molena Point is based loosely on Carmel, California, where I now live--but there are many differences. I don't try to be too factual, I go for the atmosphere, for the feel of this small and charming village.

Did you base Joe Grey on a real cat? Joe Grey, the real cat

I met the original Joe Grey some years ago, when we lived in Atlanta--a skinny, half-grown kitten belonging to some neighbors who were so obtuse they put his meals on the floor. Their big dogs got it all. The kitten hadn't a chance. Nearly starving, he found he could slip in through our cat door to share supper with our calico, Mousse. She didn't like that much, but Joe prevailed; we doubled the rations; and when he appeared one day with a broken, infected tail, we asked the neighbors if we could have him.

We could, with pleasure! The real Joe Grey with a dog

Most of his tail had to be docked, leaving a jaunty two-inch stub. We nursed him back to health and meant to keep him. But Miss Mousse had other ideas. When she remained hurt and sulking, we found Joe a home with a bachelor friend and his golden retriever. Dog and cat hit it off at once, sharing bagels and donuts from the top of the refrigerator after Joe knocked them to the floor, opening cupboards, enjoying endless mischief.

When our friend got married, Joe was soon running a household of dogs amd cats with iron-clawed authority. An indomitable and clever tomcat, his masterful attitude soon inspired me for a brand new leading character: a smart-mouthed detective, a high-rolling feline sleuth.

In the Joe Grey books you sometimes say a cat is "flehming." That word isn't in the dictionary. What does it mean?

Here is an explanation of flehming from www.peteducation.com: "When a cat smells something and then opens his mouth slightly, wrinkles his nose, and curls back his upper lip, he is exhibiting what is called the 'flehmen reaction' or 'flehming.' He is drawing in air, capturing the scent, and transferring it to a small specialized sac called the 'vomeronasal organ' or 'Jacobson's organ.' This organ is located high up in the roof of the mouth, and has a large blood supply. It traps the odor molecules and sends signals to the brain regarding the scent."

Another word that's not in most dictionaries is "clowder." What do you mean by a clowder of cats?

"Clowder" is a collective term meaning a group of cats. There are specific collective terms for many other kinds of animals--for example, pack of wolves, pride of lions, and troop of monkeys. They're used for animal species that generic terms such as "herd" or "flock" wouldn't fit, but because domestic cats don't live in groups as feral ones do, "clowder" isn't seen often.

Why is Kit referred to as a "tattercoat" cat?

Tattercoat is the name of one of the many versions of Cinderella and Kit is, in a way, a Cinderella cat; but tattercoat is also self-descriptive. A long-haired tortoiseshell cat, because of the mottled variations in color, often looks to me as if she is dressed in a tattered or patched fur coat.

Is the Gaelic folklore referred to in your books real folklore, or did you make it up?

The wonders of Celtic tales helped to inspire The Catswold Portal, and later the Joe Grey books--particularly the folk stories of doors to an underground world. But, as with my fictionalizing of Molena Point, I digress and wander astray as the mood suits me.

Will Joe Grey or Dulcie ever change form like Kate Osborne and the cats in The Catswold Portal?

I wish I could say that Joe Grey wants to be able to change to human, but the truth is, he doesn't, and wouldn't do so even if he could. Joe is stubbornly happy with being just what and who he is. And while Dulcie has mixed feelings on the matter, lately she's come to realize even more fully that the complications of such changes might outweigh the rewards--she's beginning to see that Kate Osborne herself isn't too happy with the dual role.

Does the Cat Museum described in your novels really exist in San Francisco?

I wish I could say that the Cat Museum is a real place, but it is not. The museum is one of my dreams, a place I would love to build myself and that I do enjoy writing about so that I can visit it in my imagination.

I have information about three cat museums, none of which are in the U.S. If you know of other such museums (not just specialty shops), e-mail me the particulars, and we'll add them to the list.

  • The Cat Museum in Kuching, Sarawak, Eastern Malaysia (see Cat Fancy, February 1994 and November 1996).

  • A nice collection in an antique shop owned by Rosemarie Muller in Basil, Switzerland (see Cat Fancy, August 1985 and Cats magazine, July 1995).

  • The Katten Kabinet in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which has all kinds of cat material, including sculptures.
Also, there is the cat collection at the Central Library in Glendale, CA (see Cat Fancy, October 1984). This includes books, posters, small items and clippings but apparently not paintings or sculpture.

Why aren't you online personally?

Call it a quirk, call it contrariness, I like not being online. If I had Internet access I would know that silent and invisible messages were there in the computer waiting for my attention, an insistent offstage voice, at a time when I prefer to remain totally in the world of the book.