Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Riot of Attitude

By Hilary Davidson

The first time I met Marian Misters, co-owner of Toronto's fantastic
Sleuth of Baker Street, she told me how much she loved Lily Moore's attitude.

"Attitude?" I asked. "What are you talking about?"

"She's got attitude in spades! Think of the riot."

I suspect most parents go through this moment at some point in their lives. My sweet child with attitude? I don't think so. When I picture Lily, I think of a woman who's been deeply wounded by her family history, someone who finds it impossible to trust anyone fully, no matter how much she cares for them. Sure, she's streetwise, but she has to be. The fact that she lies to the police, hides evidence, and starts a riot... well, not exactly a riot. More like, she turns passersby into an angry mob to attack a private investigator who's been shadowing her.

Here, you be the judge. From The Damage Done:

Once I started looking for the man following me, he wasn’t hard to spot. I caught sight of him in the reflection of a shop window, then again, after zigzagging a few blocks and pulling out my lipstick case on the street. He stared at me in the reflection over my right shoulder, then feigned interest in the cars on the street when I turned around. His appearance was unremarkable. He wasn’t particularly tall and he had an average build. He was white, his coat was black, and he was wearing jeans.

I walked alternately north and east. Stopping at the Strand Bookstore at Broadway and 12th Street, I fingered the well-used paperbacks that sat on shelves outside, even in winter. The man stood across the street from me, waited a bit, then went around the corner. When I moved around the block he reappeared. How did I shake off a professional stalker? If I pointed him out to a cop, what evidence did I have? The man was always at least half a block away from me, and I was sure that he’d be able to feign surprise and pretend that I was the crazy one. Assuming that he was working alone, I needed to find a building with multiple exits. That wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Several stores had entrances on both the north-south avenue and the east-west street, but all you had to do was stand at the corner and you could watch both.

My anger and frustration were mounting. Why was I running away from him? I made a 180-degree turn and headed straight for my shadow. I was close enough to catch his startled frown before he darted across the street mid-block. After a taxi passed, I followed him. He glanced over his shoulder and I almost smiled; this wasn’t what he’d bargained for. Finally, he decided to make his stand in front of a store window, staring into it fervently as if hoping I’d pass by, so I could be the target again.

“Hey, Gregory!” I called loudly as I came up to him. “How’d you get out of jail?” A couple of passers-by turned their heads to look at us.

“You’ve mistaken me for…” he started to say, but I was just getting started.

“I can’t believe they’d let a child molester out of jail,” I yelled. “How many kids have you attacked since you got out, Gregory? Are you still going after little girls, or are you going after little boys, too?”

People were stopping in their tracks and craning their necks to watch the show now. Gregory put up his hands. “Look, I’m not…”

“You are a disgusting excuse for a human being! I can’t believe any court would let a child molester like you go free.”

By the time the police get to the scene, Gregory (who is not a child molester, I should add; Lily made that up) is on the ground, having been punched and kicked. Also, Lily is nowhere to be found. I told you, she's streetwise. She's not hanging around to talk her way out of this!

(Above: At Sleuth of Baker Street on November 17, 2010: [L to R] Marian Misters, me, Tom Best, Rita Silva, and J.D. Singh; photography courtesy of Dave Cuthbertson. Sleuth recently relocated to 907 Millwood Road in Toronto: 416-483-3111,


GigglesandGuns said...

Lily is a soft name for someone like this character. Hope you were being sarcastic about attitude because it pours out of your "baby."
I really have to read this book.

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks so much! To tell you the truth, I had Ava Gardner in mind when I was writing Lily (I even kept a photo of her up on my desk). That combination of toughness and vulnerability is amazing to me.

Kirtan Bhatt said...

this is a book? I'm soooo going to get it to read.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Lily thinks quickly on her feet ~ she's a resourceful gal!

Pop Culture Nerd said...

I love that scene but didn't get attitude from it or any other scene. I just thought Lily was smart enough to come up with clever ways out of potentially bad situations.

Kelli Stanley said...

Great scene, Hilary, from a fabulous book!

I love Ava, too ... and interestingly enough, Miranda is partially inspired by Rita Hayworth's Gilda, who also projects that combustible combination of vulnerability, toughness and self-conscious allure.

Here's to the goddesses!! :)

BTW, if you haven't seen Ava in THE BRIBE (with Robert Taylor and Charles Laughton), check it out!!

Hilary Davidson said...

My thanks to Kirtan, Kathy, PCN, and Kelli for stopping by, and for the kind words!

Kelli, I know exactly what you mean about THE BRIBE — that is an incredible film. Since Lily is a longtime fan of Ava's, one bit of "research" I did was watching almost every film the actress ever made. A toast to Ava and Rita, and to other great femmes fatales!