Thursday, April 22, 2010

GUEST POST: Loaded with Sin

I ran into Douglas Corleone through Facebook, clearly the best way to meet people. He grew up in New Jersey, but now lives in Hawaii... (Yeah, I question his decision making as well.)

Anyway, it turns out Douglas is the author of ONE MAN'S PARADISE,winner of Minotaur's Crime Fiction contest. The book's due out on Tuesday and it's getting some great reviews, so I thought I'd give him a shot to speak his mind here. Check it out:

Loaded with Sin
by Douglas Corleone

“I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”
~Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely (1940)

Don’t we all, Ray. Don’t we all. But it isn’t as easy to find such women in modern crime fiction as it was in Chandler’s day. Is it because there are any less of these women around in the real world? Luckily, not in my experience. So, the way I see it, the absence of these smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin, stems from one of two things: (1) crime writers no longer write these women well, or (2) crime writers no longer feel they can get away with it.

As I search through my library for books written in the past two-three decades that feature this kind of woman, I find very few. Scott Phillips provided us one in The Ice Harvest in the form of a strip club owner named Renata Crest, played beautifully by Connie Nielsen in the movie. But who else comes to mind?

Now I’m not talking about your average femme fatale. Nor am I referring to your everyday kick-ass FBI agent like Clarice Starling - there are plenty of those around. And I’m certainly not looking for more lady sociopathic serial killers; I get my fix from Chelsea Cain. No, what I want is Jessica Rabbit on the page. Not deep down bad, just drawn that way.

But Bond Girls seem a thing of the past in crime fiction. Many crime writers now imbue their women with either a childlike innocence or an overinflated sense of morality. These ladies either need rescuing or they’re the ones saving the day. Where are all the bad women? Not the villainous or crazy, but the kind who will go to bed with your hero the same night as his nemesis without giving it a second thought. The human kind motivated by money and sex. The kind of woman who will step over a dead body to grab her purse.

Can crime writers get away with writing women like that in this publishing climate? I can’t say. But I sure as hell think we should try. Crime fiction says a lot about the culture in which it’s written, and I think it’s high-time we let readers know that sin is in again. Let’s ditch the double standards once and for all. If our male characters can act licentious, then so can our girls. Let’s not leave all the female drinking, drug use, and promiscuity to those who write fiction for Young Adults. Because it seems the YA section is where you find all the good sin today. I just can’t bring myself to read it.

Of course, there may be books out there that I’ve missed, or books that I’ve read after six too many drinks. And if there are, by all means, point them out in your comments. Because I love to read. Especially about smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.

1 comment:

Dana King said...

Excellent point. I hadn't thought about it much until I read this, but you're absolutely right. These women used to propel a lot of crime stories; Chandler depended on them. What the hell happened to them.

The down side to your post is that I read it at work and you got me thinking about Connie Nielsen playing Renate and there are no shower facilities available.