RARA-AVIS: Re: Hardboiled dames

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 08:15:29 -0400

>As I've said before ... I don't see any reason why a genre cannot be "boys
>only" ... girls and boys don't only look different, but they think different
>too and a big part of being hardboiled is the mindset of the character ...
>an old school masculinity that a female writer can emulate, but a female
>character can only pull it off in drag ... equality is a nice thing when it
>comes to treatment, but to say a genre has to have it's female or male
>equivalent is ludicrous.

>While a lady on the other hand is
>traditionally more valuable due to her child bearing and chocolate chip
>cookie baking abilities (to name an extreme few for brevity's sake).

Yep, guys in monasteries are the acknowledged experts when it comes to women...everyone knows that.

Keep yourself pure, pilgrim.

And Mark brought up some great points on the scarcity of true lone wolves these days, male or female. Where have they all gone, indeed?

One of the threads in Grafton's work I find rather intriguing is her constant struggle to remain a lone wolf, independent of others. It's a neat spin on Archer lurking outside in the shadows, looking through the window, wishing he could get in. Millhone, on the other hand, is already in, through no fault of her own, but wants out. The Grafton books are a refreshing change from other current series featuring series P.I.'s (and not just women gumshoes) who seem to have an obligatorily overly-large and cloying cast of supporting characters. Kinsey, at least, is one sister still doing it for herself.

(Not that a large cast of characters is necessarily bad. It's just that not every writer can make it work, and prevent it from devolving into maskish melodrama. But writers as diverse as Norbert Davis, Stephen J. Cannell and Rob Kantner have shown a large supporting cast can work in a hardboiled context).

(And another thought: two series that have developed strong supporting characters have recently had novels where the authors have attempted a sort of house-cleaning; perhaps an acknowledgement that their books have wandered a bit far from lone wolfery. I'm thinking of Lawrence Block's EVERYBODY DIES and Robert Crais' LA REQUIEM, both very powerful books, both which suggest a new approach to their respective series characters are in the works.)

Some great points on Amos Walker, too. Estleman's eye is a great character, cranky as hell, and one of the few true loners. A real throwback, too, as Mark points out--pulp 90's style. Hell, he even wears a fedora! A recent Estleman might be an intertesting addition to the reading list.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ This month: Sci-Fi P.I.'s, and thrilling new detective fiction by Chris Mills and Jack Curtin.

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