Re: RARA-AVIS: Female protagonists in hard-boiled fiction and roman noir

From: uplandharmabooks (
Date: 21 Dec 2006

Hey Mark,

Yep, I knew Sanders is Willeford...he's one of my favorites (along with Thompson, Goodis, and Charles Williams, to name a few). That's one of the reasons I was so excited to stumble across this book; I thought I'd never get to read it because of the cost.

And you're gets to a point to where my line gets fuzzy. Like you said, women play a huge part in noir, often as femmes fatale. What got me interested in this aspect of it (woman as protagonist) was a review I read about Branded Woman; the reviewer said: "In the pulp crime novel genre there are many sub divisions. One of them is the woman's revenge story." Having read hard-boiled and roman noir for a few years I'd never heard of this sub-division and wondered if there were enough titles to warrant making this a category of noir. That eventually led me to wonder about female protagonists (main characters) in general. This is where I get fuzzy LOL. Are femmes fatale the same as protagonists? I guess they could be, after all, like Phyllis Nirdlinger in Double Indemnity.

Having read Branded Woman, Cay Morgan is unlike any female character in the genre I've run across. She's independent and not aberrant as a result (at least not any more than the usual male protagonist); she's not man-candy; and she's not anyone's doom but her own.

I like Charles Williams' women because they're not simpering shrinking violets. They're quite human in their need of help; who doesn't need the help of others every once in a while? But they're not needy and weak; and I don't really see them as femmes fatale although the guy usually gets into trouble as a result of meeting them. Can a femme fatale be one without meaning to? LOL

So after being Chatty Cathy here, I'm back to: where do I draw my line? I guess it would be those books that incorporate a female character in a leading role or equal role as the guy(s). For example, in Whiphand the girl is one of about 7 other characters, all guys, but her role was equal to all of them and in the end maybe more important. And in Thompson's The Getaway Doc and Carol are also co-main characters.

Now, I've either really cleared things up or I've confused it even more LOL Thanks for bearing with me!


--- In, DJ-Anonyme@... wrote:
> By the way Amy, you mentioned Whip Hand by Sanders. You do know it was
> co-written by Charles Willeford, right?
> Also, thought of another (sorta) female protagonist book -- Lawrence
> Block's Girl with a Long Green Heart, also recently reprinted by Hard
> Case Crime. She's not the main character, the two con men partners are,
> but she plays a very important role. Which kind of leads to a question:
> Where are you drawing the line for how big a role the woman must play?
> For instance, Hard Case's recent Charles Williams book, A Touch of
> Death, revolves around an uneasy partnership between a man and a woman.
> It strikes me that, to varying degrees, that relationship often applies
> to noir, between a man and the femme fatale he lusts after.
> Mark

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