RARA-AVIS: Re: Crais' Women

From: temporary spider ( temporary_spider@yahoo.com)
Date: 16 Jul 2000

Just to clarify from the outset, 'secondary sex characteristics' is a phrase used by researchers to describe attributes that develop in adolescence and signal sexual maturity (in a physical sense, not an emotional one). I believe they're called secondary because they develop later in life (a second stage of development, as it were). I was in no way insinuating in my earlier post that females were secondary.


I agree with Kevin and others that Crais' writing has improved over time, but I still think his ability to write convincing women has a way to go. Another option (a la Pelecanos, from what I've read of him) is just to leave them out altogether but Crais doesn't seem to want to go that route. Dolan is an improvement on Lucy, and, no, I didn't think it stretched credibility at all to think that an LAPD homicide detective would be tough and hard-drinking, female or not. Flawed characters are always more interesting than perfect ones, and in fact, this explains much about why I liked the Cole of L.A. Requiem much more than the Cole of Monkey's Raincoat. Someone
(Jim?) hilariously described Cole as "Peter Pan," an apt description. I think if Crais were more comfortable making Cole genuinely flawed and not so supposedly irresistable, Cole would be more interesting than he is.

I was interested in Dolan (hell, even the cat liked her) which is why I think Crais is getting better, but I wasn't fully convinced. I didn't find it credible that right off the bat Dolan, assigned to babysit Cole and trying to figure out how to work her way back into her department's good graces, helps Cole, no matter how begrudgingly at first. Crais needed that as a plot device to get Cole the info he needed at various points but it made little sense otherwise for a character as tough and self-reliant as Samantha. She may distrust some of the folks in the LAPD but to ally with Elvis, whom she had never met before the events of this book, didn't jibe to me. If it were just a matter of her being attracted to Cole, I could see that. As Kevin notes, attraction is rarely rational. But she has been a cop for years, and not only a cop, but a homicide detective in the central downtown office. She would not have gotten there were she at war with the department, as Kevin claims, and I doubt she would turn her back on the force so quickly.

> >I haven't read Demolition Angel, but I'd be happily surprised
> if
> >Crais manages to make her a 3-dimensional human who doesn't
> >sound like a man who happens to have female secondary sex
> >characteristics.
> I'm not sure where you're going with this. Does this mean
> you're
> implying Dolan isn't credible because she sounds like a man?
> Because
> she's a woman who's tough, tenacious and defiant? Or because
> she drinks too much sometimes, and acts like an asshole?

None of the above. It wasn't a comment about L.A. Requiem at all. It was a comment about how many authors have trouble writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. Martin Amis is a gifted writer, for example, but in _Night Train_, his female detective sounds like a man who happens to have breasts
(hark, those pesky secondary sex characteristics <g>). I'm drifting into the realm of the highly subjective here, because I'm talking about whether an author can make a character sound
'female,' or sound 'black,' or sound like a war veteran, etc., as if there were a way these characters were "supposed" to sound. I don't think there is a single way but I do think that on an intuitive level and for whatever reason, in your gut you develop an opinion about whether a character sounds convincing. And based on what I've read of Crais, I find it unlikely that he could pull off a woman's perspective. YMMV.



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