RARA-AVIS: Re: Hardboiled Dames

Kate Derie (cluelass@cluelass.com)
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 22:07:31 -0700

Tell me again, was the question whether a woman could write a hardboiled book, or whether a woman could be the protagonist in same? IMHO, the gender inverse of the romance novel is the men's adventure series--you know, The Destroyer, or The Mercenary, or whatever. Churned out in mass quantities according to a strict formula (which does not always exclude merit). Not *exactly* the same as hardboiled. My concept of hardboiled can be defined by what it is not--not sentimental, not pretentious, not polite, not optimistic. All gender-neutral concepts.

S. J. Rozan is doing some very solid work in her series, in which alternate books are written from the point of view of P.I. Lydia Chin and her quasi-partner Bill Smith. The books written from Bill's POV are my favorites: Concourse, and No Colder Place. Bill is another lonesome schmoe, as Lydia insists on keeping their relationship strictly professional. Also, in both "his" books, he goes undercover, which automatically places him in a very isolated situation and subtly raises interesting issues of truth and identity.

Jo Bannister writes an excellent series of police procedurals, called the Castlemere series (name of the fictional British town). Not quite as gritty as Rankin or Harvey, more traditional in following the activities of several members of the team. The Irish police sergeant is particularly memorable (although his name, obviously, is not). Very worthwhile entries in the sub-genre, but I can't say about her other books.

For a tough, believable female protagonist there is L.A. criminalist Smokey Brandon, appearing in two books by Noreen Ayres. It's been a while since I read these, but as I recall Smokey is neither peppy nor spunky nor cheery nor feisty (thank God). As I remember she has a tendency to be looking for love in all the wrong places, but that's not unheard of in the male of the species.

I have heard good things about Lynn S. Hightower, who writes about Cincinnati homicide cop Sonora Blair -- anybody read her?

Regards, Kate Derie Creator of the ClueLass HomePage, http://www.cluelass.com Editor of the Deadly Directory, http://www.deadlyserious.com

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