RARA-AVIS: What is this REALLY about?

From: marianne.macdonald@lineone.net
Date: 28 May 2000

Damn it, this is like arriving late at the party when everybody there is blind drunk and you've been out at a bar yourself for the past 4 hours. I keep wanting to shout, What do you mean, 'hoaky' and 'stink'? I'm starting to wonder What do they mean, 'hard boiled'?

Doug, you're talking as though there is a very specific, limited thing which is HB. Well, if you define it as "something that women don't do", then Whee! woman PIs just can't be hard boiled.

I start with this: any genre is constantly expanding (if it's still alive), and the fun and life of it is the way that people change it as they use it -- all cliches are there only to be messed with. Cliche is a dead thing, it's the thing you don't have to look at because you've seen it a hundred times before. Yes, I enjoy Muller and Grafton (though not all the time because like anybody else they're grinding out one a year and sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it was a poor plot to start with, and sometimes they're tired and would rather have done something else) -- not because they copy some earlier writer or format but because they use and alter it.

Statistics do say that female criminality is increasing. You don't write fiction about statistics -- not if you're wise. In fictional terms,I think that almost all female criminality is dead boring. (Not so different from male criminality, then.) I'm not sure what point you can make about the junkie's tale or the whore's tale, if we're talking hard-boiled. Junkies aren't hard boiled (except maybe in fiction) but, like all the whores I've ever known, deeply damaged. But this isn't crime fiction; these are victims, not avengers. ( I'm talking real life.)

What I find really interesting is the story of the perceptive but damaged avenger. Say, Bogart finding out the truth about the Maltese falcon and handing the girl over to the police because after all she did kill his partner. Say, the police detective in Edinburgh who finds himself surrounded by the corruption of his colleagues and has to deal with the potential effects of this on himself. Say, Warshawski discovering a strain of oppressive corruption in society and putting herself into the role of its victim in order to reveal it and destroy its power.

As somebody said, the difference between these examples is that with a female protagonist there is always the _additional_ spoken or unspoken danger of male aggression, and that occurs with the added complication
(and frisson) of sexual danger -- simply, of rape.


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