RARA-AVIS: Re: male PI sexuality

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 24 Feb 2000

maura wrote:

>here's something to discuss. i was just mulling over in my mind the general
>and consistent failure, in my eyes, of female writers to produce female
>protagonists with any sort of real visceral fortitude of the sort you see
>in the archetypal male PI. i think this missing element is commonly
>identified as testosterone. does anyone agree/disagree that a good PI has
>to have a strong heterosexual orientation?

Some thoughts:

Well, as far as heterosexuality being a requirement for P.I.s go, Joe Hansen's Dave Brandstetter was certainly one of the more exceptional exceptions--as tough and tersely written as Hammett. And he definitely has a sex drive. And he was actually in a long-term relationship. Come to think of it, Hansen broke all kinds of "rules" besides the obvious one. It's a shame how under-rated this uncompromising series is. Last I heard, some of the books were being reprinted in the U.S. by Alyson, a small gay/lesbian press. Great news, as it goes, but it would be great to see them published by someone a bit more mainstream.

As for female eyes with "visceral fortitude":

Max Collins' Ms. Michael Tree, who has a pretty good sex drive, gave birth during a case, and there was even a breast-feeding scene, I think. Another male-written female eye, Reed Stephen's Ginny Fistoulari certainly qualifies, as well. You really have to hand it to her. And Greg Rucka's Bridgett Logan has plenty of guts, too. One of the reason's I think a lot of women found her unrealistic is that she just doesn't fit the stereotype. Of course, Max and Reed and Greg are all guys, so I guess they don't count.

I haven't read it yet, but supposedly V.I. Warshawski's latest has her subjecting herself to some real crap to crack a case. And, if I remember correctly, Liza Cody's Anna Lee was a pretty tough little cookie, in a hard-bitten Brit sorta way, certainly not the soft, warm, gooey at the centre, friend to all living things creature too many female-written female eyes try to be. Jenny Siler's character in the recent EASY MONEY isn't a P.I., but she seems to show some real balls, as well. Perhaps Siler's will eventually cough up a suitably-tough female eye.

Then again, if all women do is try to write like men, what's the point? Then it becomes a sort of gender-based minstrel show. I think there are all kinds of toughness, and the more different voices detailing them, the better. (As long, of course, as the voices don't get in the way of the story). Certainly, most female eyes will never be mistaken for stone-cold looney-toons like Race Williams, Mike Hammer or Burke, but a lot of them make up in resolve and commitment what they lack in stature and testicular development. It's always easy to snort like a bull and thump on your chest like King Kong and get all NFL when you're six-five, 250 pounds, armed up to the wazoo, and have a psycho sidekick watching your back. But it takes real courage to stand up when you're all alone, 5-4, 130 pounds and only armed with your instincts. That's real guts.

Oh, and if anyone's had difficulties e-mailing me lately, keep trying. My ISP assures me they almost have it fixed. Yeah, right...

And Dennis? Buy Maura some capital letters for her next birthday, okay?

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ Now: The last few days to vote for The Thrillies. Soon: The P.I. Poll on Short Fiction, plus new stuff of our own.

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