RARA-AVIS: The Lady in The Lake is All Wet, and Other Thoughts

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 21 Aug 2001

Mark, writing about whether the hero (?) of MEMENTO is a P.I. or not:

>Well, he was an investigator, fulfilling the I, but technically, he
>wasn't private, so no P. He was a company man, on the staff of the
>insurance company, unlike Joseph Hansen's Daid Brandstetter, say, who
>did most of his insurance work on a freelance basis.

For the purposes of my site, I tend to cling closer to the Private Eye Writers of America's definition, essentially that it's someone who investigates crime or does other police work for a fee (or makes trouble their business, if you will), for a private concern, not the state.

The Op not a P.I.? Sheesh!

I know, I know -- I have all sorts of characters listed on my site that don't match that criteria exactly, but this ain't rocket science, and I have to draw the line somewhere. It's an ongoing thang.

As for Jim's comment that V.I. is "little more than Mike Hammer with tits and a shrill, offensive left-wing agenda," well, gee, I always thought Hammer was little more than V.I. with balls and a shrill, offensive right-wing agenda.

I tell ya, it's about time we got these two crazy kids together. They'd love each other to death.

As for Juri's preference for the film THE LADY OF THE LAKE over the film V.I. WARSHAWSKI...

>"The Lady" is annoying alright, but at least they were trying something.

To make a bad film? Well, they succeeded.

Still, they were trying for something in V.I. WARSHAWSKI, too, and their intentions were probably at least as honourable as Montgomery's, and probably a little less egotistical. But whatever the intentions of the parties involved, both films failed, at least in an artistic sense.

In Lake's case, it was the weakness of Montgomery's vision, and in V.I.'s case, it appears to be studio meddling with the tone and plot. The story goes that the studio didn't trust Turner (who was also a producer, I believe) and Paretsky's instincts to basically bring the character, with all her abrasiveness, directly to the screen. Instead the studio insisted on injecting all sorts of lame stuff (the little girl, a vague half-assed romance) to soften up the character and make her more audience-friendly (the average movie audience being about fourteen years old, I believe).

If there's one thing V.I. has never been accused of, it's being
"audience-friendly." Trying to recast her as Mary Tyler Moore, P.I. was bound to fail. As Jim points out, V.I's pretty shrill and unlikable as a person. But I find these same traits make her interesting and compelling as a character.

She's about as in-your-face as series private eyes come these days. I mean, it's not coincidence that Jim and I (and others) have drawn parallels between Paretsky and Hammer over the years.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
Let's go to the movies! Plus new fiction from Hugh Lessig, John Alvar, O'Neil De Noux and Graham Powell. Plus web comics: Odd Jobs and The Damnation Gambit and soon, the return of Femme Noir. -- # To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # majordomo@icomm.ca. This will not work for the digest version. # The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

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