Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Faust, Flynn, and Abbott: The New Noir

By Steve Weddle

I just don't know anymore, honestly. I mean, have you seen this Guardian article? The one that says a "new wave" of crime writers are bringing female characters "out of the shadows"?

The article says -- and perhaps the common argument is -- that publishers don't like women writing noir, that women should write series characters in more traditional mysteries.

Yes. Let's base our reading on that. Let's end up with Twilight fanfiction and committee-written thrillers, shall we?

These dumb arguments go on about how women authors shouldn't be pigeon-holed. Then the article -- this one, many like it -- will list some more women authors who shouldn't be pigeon-holed.

Here are a few women writers who are breaking barriers. Let's box them all into this neat little Women Authors of Noir Books, okay?

So this "new wave" of women is sweeping over the noir world, is it? Breaking news and all.

Flynn has at least three well-received books out, all of which have movie deals tied to them, I hear.

Christa Faust has been at this for many, many years, as has Megan Abbott. All have written fantastic books.

I hope those three sell a billion books by lunch. My lovely bride and I listened to GONE GIRL on a recent roadtrip and, you know, holy wows and all.

But just because some reporter at a magazine or newspaper or website stumbled across something doesn't make it a new wave. Maybe it's an old wave you should have been paying attention to. Maybe it's not a wave at all. Maybe it's the tide coming in. Maybe it's the ocean rising. Maybe it's an iceberg, with a billion other writers underneath. (Probably went a little long with that, didn't I? Sorry.)

Oh, and GONE GIRL isn't noir. mkay?

And, yet, it's fantastic to see our friends and neighbors in the Guardian and at the Gawker sites and all over the best-seller lists.

What happens is that the media -- reporters, bloggers, whoevs -- cover this as if it were a sudden, new phenomenon. What happens is that, traditionally, these trends themselves don't have much staying power. Burns bright for a moment, then coverage fizzles.

When you're only covering something because it's trendy, the next trend displaces it.

Vampires. Zombies. Women authors.

Faust and Flynn and Abbott aren't women authors. They're amazing authors.

Having them covered in the big London paper is fantastic, of course. I guess calling them the Poster Children For Women Writers of Noir can boost sales on these titles. I only hope that each author continues to receive coverage, not because of their womanlinesses, but because of their writerlinesses.

Calling someone a "great regional writer" hurts as often as it helps.

Talent and hard-work have put these authors where they are. They should be on every shelf because of that, because of their great writing.

I'm looking forward to the time when authors such as these can have that extra adjective dropped.

When they become "authors" instead of "women authors" or "regional authors" or "genre authors."

When they're covered, not because their books are trendy, but because they're just flat-out terrific.

When they sell a million copies, not because they're writing about "women's issues" of family and cancer and divorce and family, but because they're writing books people can't stop talking about.

I'm looking forward to the day authors are on talk shows and in newspapers because their books become required reading, not beach reading.

And, I guess, the more readers Faust and Flynn and Abbott can reach, the more likely this is to happen.


Nick said...

Dont know if THE NEXT TREND DISPLACES IT, but I get what you mean. Trends are easy to look over.
I had never heard of two of these writers. I'll check that.

Anonymous said...

Fuck you for making me read that dumb newspaper article.

Kent said...

"Faust and Flynn and Abbott aren't women authors. They're amazing authors."


That Jezebel article yesterday was pathetic in the complete lack of knowledge it displayed. Is good press from an uninformed writer still good press?

Steve Weddle said...

Nick, OK.
Anon, You're welcome.
Kent, Yeah. That's kinda what I was struggling with. I just hope readers who pick up F,F,A's books because they're "trendy" pick up the next ones, too.

Jason Dennis said...

Seems like any coverage is good coverage.

Christa Faust said...

It's nothing new, this Ladies Noir Auxiliary thing, but thanks for this heartfelt response. it's probably never going to go away, but getting people talking about it and questioning that kind of mentality is always a good thing.

I do hope that some of you might check out the author that didn't get mentioned in this post. Cathi Unsworth is aces.

Anonymous-9 said...

"Faust and Flynn and Abbott aren't women authors. They're amazing authors."

Thank you Steve. Exactly. Let's leave gender and color out of this. if the writing is good, that should be the end of it. Don't marginalize me in some ghetto with my gonads, thank you.

Gerard said...

Vampires. Zombies. Women authors.

Why pigeonhole them even more? I don't see why women cannot be both vampires and zombies.

mamacasz said...

These additional identifiers have always bothered me, whether we're talking women or the first to accomplish X. However, it's important still to note that those identifiers help others to, um, identify, model and aspire to. Not that Faust et al signed up to be anyone's hero. That's not what I'm saying, just saying that sometimes the identifier helps others who might follow in footsteps. Especially since for so long those footsteps looked like Stacey Adams and not Killer High Heels.

Regardless, I agree, it would be nice to live in a world where that's not necessary and the identifiers are just amazing, incredibly talented and hard-working.

mamacasz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GreekHebrew said...

Talent and hard-work have put these authors where they are. They should be on every shelf because of that, because of their great writing.