Today, the Femmes Fatales welcome guest blogger Catriona McPherson. (Just for the record, Catriona is pronounced just like Hurricane Katrina--nothing gets her goat like calling her "cat-ree-oh-na," and McPherson rhymes with "person." Just so you know.)
Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh in 1965, the youngest of four daughters, and educated at Edinburgh University. She left in 1996 with a PhD in Linguistics and spent five years working as a university lecturer in Leeds before giving up academic life and starting to write fiction.
She is the author of seven-and-counting crime novels set in Scotland in the 1920s featuring the gently-born (but nevertheless rather kick-ass) private detective, Dandy Gilver. The first, After the Armistice Ball was shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Dagger in the UK. The Proper Treatment of Bloodstains (DG No 5) was bought by St Martin’s Press to launch the series in the US, where it was one of Hallie Ephron’s top 10 crime picks of 2011 in the Boston Globe. It has now been nominated for the Sue Feder Macavity. The 2nd US book An Unsuitable Day for a Murder was published in June.
For ten years Catriona lived on a ramshackle farm in a beautiful valley in Galloway, running in the hills, swimming in the rivers and gardening in spite of the wind. Then she moved - with her cats and her scientist - to Northern California, where the running is flatter, the rivers are warmer and she can grow cantaloupe as well as cabbages. The new farm, however, is just as ramshackle as the last.
Reigning Cats or Dogs?
Never mind Romney or Obama, noir or cozy, Wars or Trek. If you really want to get a bead on someone the question is: cat or dog?
And the answer is cat.
That was easy.
But since this is a blog, not a tweet, I’ll elaborate.
I’m a cat person. I got a sixth share in my first cat when I was five: Tabitha. And since then there’s been Maggie, Arthur, Poppy, Clive, Carrie, Spud, Dennis and Rachel. They all came as kittens and lived out their lives. Poppy died in front of the Rayburn at fifteen, Clive met a car at two. Dennis and Rachel are six and coping well with rattlesnakes, black widows and coyotes.
But that’s just me. My detective, Dandy Gilver, is a dog person. She certainly loves her Dalmatian more than she loves her husband. Her children? Well, I couldn’t comment, but she didn’t send her dog to boarding school when it was seven.
And it’s this that usually convinces readers I’m not Dandy and she’s not me. The fact that she’s dark-haired, upper-class, born in 1886, and English, whereas I’m “blonde” (Thanks, Salon Blonde), working-class, born in 1965 and Scottish are just details. But a dog-lover and a cat-lover? That’s no Mary-Sue – that’s really fiction.
Dandy’s reasons for preferring dogs are traditional, tribal almost. Upper-class Brits are always nuts about their dogs. I think a lot of them probably do prefer the puppy to the hubby. And they really do send the kids away to school and keep the dogs at home, so who knows.
My reason for preferring cats is easy. I don’t mean to start something but . . . cats are better.
Dogs might herd sheep and save mountaineers, but cats do endless work around the house. From wrapping birthday presents:
To putting away groceries:
They take part in your hobbies too. From jigsaw puzzles:
To gardening. They particularly enjoy pruning the Nepeta:
(aka catnip) but will also act as decorative mulch sometimes:
Cats have fluffy tummies. Dogs’ tummies look like something that should have underwear on.
Dogs smell. People say cats smell. What they usually mean is that litterboxes smell. But if you had a litterbox it would smell too.
Cats love who they love. (Dennis loves everyone. Rachel loves me, the undergardener a bit and almost my mum.) Dogs love whoever has the bacon bites.
A dog’s internal monologue goes like this: “What will I do? Where should I be? Tell me what to think! Where are you going? Do you still love me? Are you going away? Don’t you love me? Alone, alone, alone, aloooooooone. Back! You came back! You saved me! You love me! What will I do? Tell me what to think!”
A cat’s internal monologue goes like this: “Consider the stars . . . mmmmm . . . ’ opens one eye ‘Is that you, Catriona? I love you, you know. Perhaps later I’ll show you. Perhaps not. Mmmmmmm . . . Consider the earth . . . ’
(I do realise I’ve made both sound as if they’re completely off their heads, only on different drugs, but I stand by my argument.)
Finally, twenty thousand New Yorker cartoons can’t be wrong.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been house-sitting, teen-sitting and dog-sitting. Me, Dennis, Rachel and the undergardener moved back into the granny flat where we first stayed when we moved to America two years ago and I’ve been in charge of the bacon bites for Harry.
I’ve been walking him twice a day (dealing with his warm little bundles and his endless love of lamp-posts) and hanging out with him while I write and he . . . well, to be honest I don’t know. I’ve tried to interpret his many whines and groans, tried to understand what he wants, what’s wrong (usually), what’s right (occasionally) what’s worrying (always).
And he has somewhat grown on me. I always liked him. He’s as cute as a cupcake made of daisies to look at and was the perfect host to two strange, jet-lagged cats when we first arrived here. Now, I actually think I’ll miss him when I go home tomorrow. I know he’ll miss me, until he realises the bacon bites are staying.
Anyway, last night Dennis was lying on the dining table, accepting the adulation of a staff-member (dogs have owners; cats have staff), just one set of claws out to remind us that he’s no schmuck . . .
and I looked over at Harry, curled up as small as a dot, still recovering from the trauma of his Welcome-Home-Mom-&-Dad bath, and felt a twinge.
Just for a minute I found myself thinking: ‘Look at that smug, elitist, too-cool-for-school cat just rolling about there and look at Harry, being a dot, hoping he won’t get washed again.’ Then I found myself speaking.
‘Who’s a good boy?’ I said.
Dennis, Harry and the undergardener all looked up. But only one of them wagged his tail. And there was the answer.