Monday, April 2, 2018

Bring Me a Heroine

Q: Which crime fiction archetype do you find truly essential to the genre? Which would you like to see retired for a while?

-from Susan

Essential: A protagonist who is honestly curious, pricked by a desire for justice, unable to let go of a thorny question until she/he can answer it to her/his satisfaction. Whether it’s a true mystery, a detective story, a thriller, or a spy novel – cozy or noir – this role has to exist for there to be a story. Doesn’t have to be an alcoholic or a bitterly divorced person, or someone with a tragic past, although we usually like to know the protagonist isn’t perfect. Can be a paid investigator or a confused amateur. But buried inside this complicated individual is someone who is in her or his soul offended by the crime in question. Some of my personal favorites are Smiley, Blanche White, Guido Brunetti, Inspector Montelbano, Maisie Dobbs.





Who could I do without? At this moment, anyone who is the “Girl” in a title! I’d also be happy to be finished with the Hannibal Lectors of crime fiction – the evil killers who are demonically brilliant, hanker after females as entertainment or food, and supposedly either charm or hypnotize the protagonists and their allies into fatal mistakes that involve torture. In recent years, they get more and more gross, more sadistic, hungrier…



At the other end of the scale, I have to admit I’m bored by the innocent young woman whose romantic life is the pits and who stumbles, clear eyed and chipper, on dead bodies in the organic vegetable aisle of her upper middle class grocery store in her upper middle class town, in an always-sunny world that either doesn’t exist or that I don’t want to visit. Oh, and there’s a cute guy with whom she has a sparky encounter. (Aside: A reader who got an advance copy of DRESSED FOR DEATH IN BURGUNDY griped in a published review that she didn’t like the book because it’s set in France, you know, like Provence and tourist places? But the author wrote about cold, wet weather and so the book was dark and gloomy. Author’s note: The story takes place the two weeks before Christmas, which in that spot is cold, wet, and gloomy. The author knows because she spent two weeks before Christmas there conducting research for the book.)




7 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Susan, I guess your reader never learned the lesson all readers should: never judge a book by its weather :-) .

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, I suppose readers choose books in part because they expect - or hope - for a certain trope. My French series is marketed as a cozy, but I think I subconsciously fight against the stereotype of the sub-genre, aiming to write something not as facile. Who knows...?

RM Greenaway said...

re that review: I'd be more apt to read a novel with a new take on a stereotypical vision, so cold and rain in France, yes!! Some criticism is useful, but some can be chucked as irrelevant, and sounds like that one you received is one of them. Also, haha, the evil genius is on my list of tropes to do away with too, amen.

Susan C Shea said...

RM, so you're not into flesh-eating, glint-eyed sadists either? At least there are two of us! RM, do you skewer tropes in your work deliberately too?

RJ Harlick said...

Count me in too, Susan. I now studiously avoid serial killer books who prey on women. Far too many female victims in crime novels these days.

RM Greenaway said...

Maybe not enough, Susan. I'll make skewering a plan.

lisajohnljc said...

Luv smiley!