It’s Good To Be A Woman In Noir: Guest Post by LM Pruitt

If I say “detective story”, what’s the first thing you think of? For the majority of people, it’s going to be a hard, cynical, world weary detective solving a seemingly impossible case. A male detective. Let’s face it, even with the advent of characters from Stephanie Plum (who’s really supposed to be a bounty hunter but always winds up smack dab in the middle of some crazy case) to Kay Scarpetta, the image of Humphrey Bogart tracking down the person who killed his partner is something etched into our cultural memory. Men in noir, whether the film versions or their precursors, the hard-boiled detective story, are rough, dangerous and just a little sleazy. In other words, pretty damn sexy, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Women? Oh, buddy. Did we ever draw the short end of the straw there.

There have been a number of studies on the gender roles and rules portrayed and perpetuated in noir and crime fiction. I’m not going to rehash them—because by a number, I mean a lot—but I am going to hit a few of the high points. For one, it’s actually pretty interesting, and if you’re like me, you’ll walk away with a new respect for film analysts/critics. For two, it’ll help to understand how different a character Frankie is, and why I’m so proud of that fact.

Crime fiction has been around for almost two hundred years, with the earliest known crime novel being published in 1829 by a Danish author, Steen Steensen (sidenote: why is it the Nordic people adore crime novels? Is it too cold there for anything else? Something to think about). What really launched the genre was the advent and evolution of print mass media, i.e. serials, more specifically newspapers and magazines. People who couldn’t previously buy books, usually for lack of funds, were suddenly able to keep up with the latest literary sensation, since the mass production of these serials made them both cheap and disposable. Crime fiction, among other genres, benefited from this market explosion, splitting into a number of subgenres.

One of those subgenres, the hard boiled school, became the basis for the film noir era of the 1940s and 1950s. These books and movies were distinguished and characterized by their unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex, emphasizing a world-weary, cynical attitude. Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler were among the most prolific writers of the genre, and a number of their books were the inspiration for noir movies.

Noir (which actually refers to the lighting and camera angles just as much as the storyline) films share a number of elements, as one would expect. They usually revolve around a crime, most likely murder, with greed and/or jealousy being frequent motivators. The criminal investigation is the most prevalent story point, although it’s far from being the dominating plot in the genre as a whole. You can expect false suspicions, accusations of crimes, betrayals and double crosses. You’ll probably see the story taking place in either L.A., Chicago, San Francisco or New York, with the characters spending a ton of time in bars, lounges, nightclubs and gambling dens.

Speaking of characters, expect to see the hard-boiled detective (of course), the femme fatale, a jealous husband, a claims adjuster (really? Where did this come from?), and a down and out writer. And don’t be surprised if you see them all smoking. A lot.

Actually, scratch that—according to the National Film Registry, in only four noir films is the star a private eye. And actually, the majority of films don’t feature a femme fatale, either.

It’s been postulated that with few exceptions, women in noir films fall into one of three categories: the femme fatale, the nurturing woman, and the “marrying type”. The femme fatale will try and seduce you, maybe kill you. The nurturing woman, usually a “good” girl, is dull, boring, featureless, conventional—the type of woman women of the 40s and 50s were expected to be according to society. The “marrying type” somehow managed to be a blend of both, in the worst way possible—she’d trick you, all right—straight into marriage.

In other words, being a woman in noir means either being super dangerous and dying, or being good and boring. Wow—way to make one of the most exciting genres trite and boring.

So the birth of Frankie, previously discussed on my blog, is something remarkable. She embodies the good and bad characteristics of both gender roles, while still managing to be her own person. When she interacts with males, she doesn’t need to emasculate them—in fact, they tend to be more masculine through their interactions, while Frankie herself is still able to stand her ground. Her sexuality isn’t based on others perception of her or their expectations—it’s based on her own wants and needs and her desire to see them realized. Her brains are her own, her feelings are her own, and she takes responsibility for her actions.

For once, it’s good to be a woman in noir.

Shades of Blood
Book 3, Jude Magdalyn Series
If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Felipe, one of New Orleans’s most infamous—and crazy–vampires is back in town. And to say he’s unhappy is an understatement.

Duprees and Williams have to track down Felipe, fast, before he claims any more victims. If that means making a deal with the Devil–otherwise known as St. Germaine–and using an untrained dhampir, so be it.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve also got rebellious teenagers, feuding couples, and a suddenly full social calendar.

The more things change….

 

Shades of Desire
Book 2, Jude Magdalyn Series
All I wanted was a little peace and quiet.

Instead, I’ve got dead Covenant members and a steady stream of letters from the new guy in town. His beverage of choice? A 2002 Merlot, with a shot or two of powerful virgin blood.

On top of that, I’m breaking in a new police liaison, failing at playing matchmaker, and fighting nausea like it’s a full time job. All I wanted was a little peace and quiet.

Instead, I’ve got dead Covenant members and a steady stream of letters from the new guy in town. His beverage of choice? A 2002 Merlot, with a shot or two of powerful virgin blood.

On top of that, I’m breaking in a new police liaison, failing at playing matchmaker, and fighting nausea like it’s a full time job.

Did I forget to mention that I’ve also got enough girls living at the Crossroads to start my own boarding school?

Peace and quiet? Out the window.

Buy Link: Kindle

 

Shades of Gray
Book OneJude Magdalyn Series
Jude Magdalyn Henries lives what many would call an unconventional life.  

Orphaned at birth, raised by nuns, a teenage runaway living on the streets… she now earns a living at odd jobs, including one as a fake tarot card reader. Very little about Jude’s life appears normal, by any scale. 

When she accepts a gig to do a private reading, unconventional takes on an entirely new meaning. Life as she knows it ends when she’s thrust into a world she never knew existed-one filled with magic, vampires, and her beloved New Orleans on the verge of an underground war. 

To make matters worse, she’s got two men in her life vying for attention, Williams and Theo. Both call to a different part of her, but one scares her just a little bit. 

Can she step up to the challenges set before her and make the right choices for the greatergreater good?

Book 1 Shades of Gray for your Kindle, in Paperback

 

Hole in the Wall (#0.5) 
Before Jude could throw fire…Before she could heal…Before she chose between two men… 

She was a bartender. 

Find out what Jude was up to the night before her world went nuts. 

Hole in the Wall is available as an exclusive ebook to celebrate the release of the second edition of Shades of Gray

 

Buy Link:  Hole in the Wall a Jude Magdalyn FREE Kindle short 

 

About the Author:
L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She is the author of the Jude Magdalyn Series as well as New Moon Rising, featuring Cari Gravier, and Taken, featuring Frankie Post. She is currently at work on the next book in the Moon Rising series, Harvest Moon Rising, due out April 2012. Ms. Pruitt makes her home in Florida with two cats–one smart, the other not so much.

Connect with LM!

Facebook     Blog     Twitter @lmpuritt

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