RARA-AVIS: Re: female authors

From: demack5@comcast.net
Date: 02 Feb 2008

> But are they hard-boiled or noir?

All the ones I've mentioned are hardboiled. Some are edgier than others. Barbara Seranella, of course, had a very tough protag--a drug addicted female auto mechanic who once hung out with motorcycle gangs. I've only read HOW LIKE AN ANGEL by Margaret Millar. She had a male protag named Quinn in that one--a traditional hardboiled PI. The ending is downbeat, as I recall, and the story twists like a pretzel, right up to the last line.

I think Mercedes Lambert's protagonist, Whitney Logan, was particularly tough. She's a struggling lawyer who's become estranged from her wealthy family in Maryland to start her own practice in LA. In her first book, DOGTOWN, she hooks up with an Hispanic prostitute to solve a murder connected to one of her cases. The prostitute (who makes a great streetwise foil to Whitney, who's still learning about the streets) ends up being her sidekick in future books. Her client, in true hardboiled fashion, lies to her and uses her, and Whitney ends up in a physical confrontation with her that makes VI Warshawsky look like Mother Teresa (but you don't dislike Whitney for it, because the client's treated her so shabbily). Lambert's second book SOULTOWN, was hardboiled with a noirish ending. The third, GHOSTTOWN, was hardboiled with an ending that incorporated elements of the thriller, noir and magical realism of all things (hard to picture, but it did). Not what I normally read, but it re
 ally w orked for me. Lambert was pushing the limits of the genre with that one. A very unusual story.

Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton are considered among the first women to write about hardboiled female detectives. Of the three, I'd say Paretsky's VI Warshawski is the toughest.

Certainly, none of these women would be mistaken for cozy writers.


Debbi Mack
A Sam McRae Mystery

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