Friday, March 16, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of March 16th, 2007)

Super Spectacular Women’s History Month (Expanded!!) Edition #3!

I adore Nancy Drew, Gentle Reader, and have ever since I was a Young Girl. She’s smart, and sassy, with two fabulous friends who help her in tough scrapes. But more importantly, she’s smarter than any of the high-powered, high-profile men around her. Chief McGinnis seems to be if not her inferior than at least her equal in intelligence, while her lawyer father, Carson Drew, is so rarely around that Nancy raises herself, with mother figure Hannah Gruen lending a helping—and molding—hand. Even in the few Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew crossovers that I’ve read, Nancy is more competent than Frank or Joe. What does this all add up to, you ask? Well, This Humble Author believes that characters like Nancy Drew—these “Girl Detectives,” if you will—paved the way for the female sleuths we see lining the shelves of our bookstores today.

Of course, it starts before that. We have Wilkie Collins’s charming, original “petticoat detective,” Valeria, from The Law and the Lady, who attempts to save her new husband from the Scottish verdict “Not Proven” for the suspected murder of his first wife. Valeria does several fabulous, progressive things to prove her husband’s innocence: she wears makeup, for starters, and consorts with some people Victorian society would consider “beyond the pale.” But further, Valeria *solves the mystery*, with the help of some men, yes, but they function, mainly, in witnessing roles rather than advisory ones. And it is because of her femininity—that is, the prescribed regimen of domesticity, housekeeping, and wifeliness that the Victorian Era requires of her sex—that she is able to solve the mystery: she disturbs the dust heap, a common part of the household, and finds the wife’s suicide note.

Agatha Christie gives us Miss Marple; Dorothy Sayers gives us Harriet Vane. With Sara Paretsky we have V. I. Warshawski, and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of female sleuths before and after. Stephanie Plum, Temperance Brennan, Kinsey Millhone, these meddling fictional women prove that professional or amateur, they can get the job done. Call it women’s intuition, call it skill or eye for detail or dumb luck, it’s all the same. There has been a plethora of women solving mysteries and crimes in literature for the past 150 years, and they’ve been Quite Exceptional At It.

Recently, Nancy Drew has been updated, as seen with the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective novel series, the Nancy Drew computer games, the upcoming Nancy Drew movie, and the Nancy Drew graphic novels written by Stefan Petrucha. (Come, come, Gentle Reader! You knew I’d find a way to bring this back to comics, didn’t you?) This series is, like Nancy herself, fun, smart, and sassy, with suspenseful storylines, great art, and updated sidekicks, Bess and George. Bess is still boy-crazy and fashion-obsessed (which, as This Humble Author believes and writes on an academic basis, every day, is a particular arena of power for women), but she’s also a skilled mechanic, who can, ultimately, fix any machine or car that is in her path. George, too, while still a sporty no-frills kind of girl, is now a computer geek and, as some suggest, Hacker Extraordinaire. These two sidekicks, in all of their unique skills and support, are the very complements that Nancy needs.

I’ve given up the love for the sidekick before, and as we all know, I am greatly inspired by Wonder Woman’s famous “Woo! Woo!” sidekick, Etta Candy. Many, many detectives, like many, many superheroes, have sidekicks, and those sidekicks are important, essential parts of the partnership. One could ask, what is Holmes without Watson? the same as one could ask, what is Batman without Robin? But overall, it seems that male heroes get the ego-boosting, back-getting, live-to-learn sidekicks more than female heroes do. And rarely, rarely do male heroes get a female sidekick, or vice versa, and when the first happens, it so often ends badly, not because of incompetence, but because it seems—just seems, Gentle Reader!—that a medium overwhelmed by male writers, readers, and artists can’t truly conceive of a viable, healthy, happy Girl Wonder.

Wonder Woman had Etta Candy, yes, but she doesn’t any longer, and she doesn’t have The Holiday Girls anymore, either. Batwoman, fresh on the scene, has yet to find a sidekick (although This Humble Author has heard in the Blogosphere, but can’t remember where, a suggestion for her sidekick, “Sparrow,” which I think is Marvelous! Please, Friends, if you know who said this, send me the link so I can attribute properly!). Supergirl, in her previous incarnation as Linda Danvers, had Comet, although that was more of a friendly-pairing-with-romantic-sparkage than sidekick material. Mr. Reads has just informed me that in Ms. Marvel’s series, she has just picked up a sidekick/trainee, Arana, although since I’m not reading it, I didn’t know it! But other than this, Gentle Reader, can you think of any others?

Regardless, we can say With Some Certainty that what the Women do, and Do Well, is The Support Team. Perhaps this is the Nature of Women, or the Talent of the Writers, but whatever it is, it’s done Quite Well. Wonder Woman had her Holiday Girls, and Nancy Drew had Ned, Bess, and George. There are the Birds of Prey, certainly, and Buffy has an entire Scooby Gang to help Save the World. The Powerpuff Girls, even, work not as sidekicks but in tandem together. It’s not that the Men don’t have teams; of course they do, and they have wonderful ones. But the overwhelming amount of male-heroes-with-sidekicks—Captain America and Bucky, Daredevil/Matt Murdock and Foggy, the ever-familiar Batman and Robin—suggests that the sidekick is, above all else, a “guy thing.”

What does this say about male/female divides in sleuthing, in pop culture, in comic books, in The World? What does it mean when a hero has a somewhat-inferior person trailing behind, either learning how to wear the mantle, or supporting the hero’s actions, or providing comic relief? And I say “somewhat-inferior” not to mean “not good enough,” but rather, to mean “learning to be as good as or, most likely, better.” Arsenal seems to have outstripped Green Arrow, after all. He’s on the JLA, while Ollie wasn’t asked this time. The Team lends support, yes, and they are not “as good as” the hero, certainly, but here’s the thing: they aren’t asked to be. The Team is formed, *specifically*, to cull varying talents into one super-powered (intellectually, meta, or otherwise) Force To Be Reckoned With.

Part of this Glorification of Mine for the Overwhelming Tendency of Heroines for Teams stems, of course, from the annoying, somewhat terrifying stereotype that Women Cannot Work Together. You’ve heard this before I’m sure, Gentle Reader, the idea that women will backstab and pick and poke and hurt other women in a corporate/work/school situation because *that’s what women do*. This stereotype, that Woman’s Worst Enemy Is Woman, is one of the very things that hampers Woman’s Success In The World. If we believe we defeat ourselves from the inside, then we’re too busy paying attention to the inside to even notice the problems outside. And what happens outside? Nothing at all, because we can’t be bothered to change *that*.

The worst part of this stereotype is that so many people, men and women alike, believe it to be Gospel Truth. People truly believe that if a person happens to have 2 X chromosomes, then she is predisposed to catty behavior. Or, if you believe in social construction as opposed to essentialism, then if a person happens to be “girled” at the moment of birth—wrapped in a pink blanket and given a dolly (gratitude, Ms. Butler)—then she is predisposed to catty behavior. Reinforced and reinforced, ad nauseam, until we actually believe we are Our Own Worst Enemies.

I’m not anti-sidekick, Gentle Reader. Far from it! I adore the sidekick because, in all actuality, the sidekick is the more interesting, the more human, the more sympathetic half of the equation. Male or female, the sidekick ends up intriguing This Humble Author more than the hero, male or female, ever does. But there is something about the formation of the Team, particularly in support of the Heroine, that is truly extraordinary.

I may not have mentioned it before, but Spring Break Week is winding down for the Family Reads. Soon, we’ll have to return to the mundane world of dissertating, teaching, and work, work, work. But for now, we’re rather enjoying ourselves at home, playing the Wii, reading comics, visiting with the Parents Reads, hanging out with friends, and just generally, lazing about. But to prove that I’m not *too* lazy, I offer you two, yes, *two* lists this week, for the price of one! In celebration of the Support Teams of many Heroines, powered and non-powered alike, I offer you a list of my Seven Favorite Heroines And Their Sidekicks or Teams—one for every day I Read the Week, of course! And then, after that, I offer you a list of my Seven Favorite “Girl Detectives”—one for every day I Read the Week, as well!

Seven Favorite Heroines and their Sidekicks or Teams

1) Buffy Summers and the Scooby Gang – Oh, Gentle Reader, what can one Buffyholic say about Buffy that you haven’t already heard, a million times over, from other said Buffy fanatics? Remember that the origin of the word “fan” is “fanatic”! But I’ve always been a bigger Buffy-and-the-Scooby-Gang fan than a Buffy-by-herself fan. I think the end of Season 4, the defeat of the Big Bad, Adam, proves that when Buffy’s good, she’s very, very good, and when she’s good, she’s with her team.

2) Oracle and the Birds of Prey – While Gail Simone has created a more egalitarian Birds of Prey—and This Humble Author cannot thank her enough for it!—the Birds were, at their root, Oracle’s revolving team of superheroes. Even now, it’s obvious she’s the leader; even when Canary was on the team, it was obvious then, too. Oracle is the heart and soul of the Birds. There is never any doubt about that.

3) Wonder Woman and the Holiday Girls – What to say other than huzzah Wonder Woman and her girly antics! The Early Years, those of a Golden Hue, are bizarre at times, certainly, but fun nonetheless. And Etta had a big heart to go with that big candy appetite (definitely My Kind Of Girl, Friends!). Her support of Wonder Woman kept things going for a long, long time.

4) Nancy Drew and George and Bess – I’ve already Waxed Poetic about Ms. Drew and her Gaggle of Girls, but the newest incarnations, in particular, really show that there is no “girl toys” and “boy toys.” Both George and Bess master what’s stereotypically considered to be masculine, and they do an amazing job at it.

5) Josie and the Pussycats – Complete with long tails, and ears for hats! I adore Josie and the Pussycats, not only for their crimefighting, but also for their music. Do remember, Gentle Reader, that I was born in the 70s! Josie was my Saturday bread-and-butter, as was Jem and the Holograms, and She-Ra.

6) Catwoman (Selina) and Holly – Here we see a true hero-and-sidekick pairing, as Holly is, literally, learning to wear the mantle of Catwoman. Selina is more than happy to teach her, certainly, but also to give her access to the world that she’s known. That includes having various superheroes teach Holly to fight.

7) Manhunter (Kate Spencer) and Dylan Battles (and sometimes Cameron Chase) – This is a New One on the Ms. Reads Radar, and I will gush my love for Manhunter in my next post. But for now, let us marvel over what is somewhat an anomaly in the superhero world: a Superheroine with a Male Sidekick. We love Kate for a reason!

Seven Favorite “Girl Detectives”

1) Nancy Drew – What else is there to say about the original Girl Detective? She was a Meddling Kid long before Scooby Doo and Gang came on the scene.

2) Harriet Vane – Dorothy Sayers created something truly fabulous here. First introduced in Strong Poison, Harriet Vane is on trial for murder. She’s suspected because of the research she’s done on poisons for her novel. She defines “amateur detective,” and helps launch the genre.

3) Renee Montoya – Renee, an actual detective, has come a long way since her Gotham Central days. She’s changing as the world changes (don’t forget the 52!), and she’s very, very smart.

4) Amelia Peabody – This Victorian archaeologist, created by Elizabeth Peters, is exceptional for her no-fear attitude, her progressive character, and the silver-tipped parasol she uses to protect herself. In This Humble Author’s Humble Opinion, Ms. Peabody redefines aggressive femininity.

5) Lois Lane – What is a reporter, a journalist, if not a detective? And Lois Lane always gets her man/woman/story. Perhaps one of the few people Babs Gordon is truly afraid of, Lois has been chasing stories into Certain Danger for several decades now. She’s also, in truth, one of the few reasons I venture Superman way.

6) Sydney Bristow – Syd! Alias started to fall apart in its latter seasons, but Sydney Bristow was always, always brilliant. Something about the Global Detective intrigues, and Sydney was the best at what she did.

7) Dana Scully – Scully is still, to this day, one of the best television heroines I’ve ever encountered. She’s smart, determined, and above all, willing to believe. What would the X-Fileswithout her?

14 comments:

Johanna said...

I quite adored Dorothy Sayers' mysteries during my phase with that genre... and given your knowledge, I would love to see you address the criticism that I've seen about how Vane was a Mary Sue, created because Sayers had herself fallen in love with her creation of Lord Peter.

Matthew E said...

Every time somebody does a list like that I have to come up with my own list to accompany it. Why do I do that?

Harriet Vane wasn't the only Mary Sue in classic detective fiction; Agatha Christie had her own. Her character Ariadne Oliver, a dotty-yet-shrewd mystery writer who occasionally assisted Poirot, was obviously supposed to be Christie herself. Oliver's detective character was a Finn, and she often said, "Why did I make him a Finn? I don't know anything about Finland!"

Seven More Girl Detectives

Veronica Mars. Please tell me you're familiar with Veronica Mars. I'd a lot rather her on the list than Scully or Sydney Bristow.

Irene Adler. In a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, Carole Nelson Douglas has Adler solving mysteries with a genius equal to Holmes, although more often taking the form of intuition and theatricality than the logic Holmes used.

Victory Nelson. Ex-cop heroine of Tanya Huff's vampire-related detective series. (Set in Toronto!)

Sally Lockhart. Young heroine of Philip Pullman's trilogy (tetrology, if you count The Tin Princess, which Sally doesn't appear in) of Victorian-set mystery-adventures.

Jonni Thunder. Noirish L.A. detective in a 4-issue DC miniseries of the '80s. Jonni acquired some mysterious electrical superpowers, which she later lost in a forgettable Infinity, Inc. story, but as far as I know the character is still around, and I'd like to see DC give her some attention.

Dakota North. Star of a Marvel private-eye comic of the '80s. I had a couple of issues of it, and liked them.

Emma Peel. I don't want to not provide a comment for Emma Peel, but I can't think what I could say that wouldn't be superfluous.

Seven More Heroines with Sidekicks or Teams

Dol Bonner. Theodolinda Bonner is a private investigator and owner of her own all-female detective agency in the Nero Wolfe novels, and Rex Stout actually wrote a whole book about just her; it's called The Hand in the Glove but also has another title, which I forget. Miss Bonner and her operatives are among the most respectfully presented characters in all the Stout books; very competent and formidable. When you read The Hand in the Glove, it's hard to believe that it isn't just one of a larger series. It should have been.

Granny Weatherwax. Main character in Terry Pratchett's witches-of-Lancre subseries of his Discworld series. I don't want to overuse the word 'formidable', but she is. She's a lot like Batman: she's got a powerful dark side that she's too proud and moral to give in to, but it's there. Her 'team' is the rest of the local coven: the motherly, vulgar Nanny Ogg, who understands a few things that Granny Weatherwax doesn't, Magrat Garlick, the soppy young new-age type witch, and Agnes Nitt, who is of two minds about everything.

Jane Wooliston, the Pink Carnation. Scarlet-Pimpernelesque character in Lauren Willig's novels, with her own League.

Modesty Blaise. I've never actually read any Modesty Blaise; I'm just including her here on reputation.

Kim Possible, and her sidekicks, Team Possible, from the TV shows and movies.

Nancy Blackett, pirate captain of the Amazon, from Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons' novels. Nancy Blackett is one of the great characters in the history of fiction. The first 'Swallows and Amazons' book was published in 1928, and it must have been quite odd for a female character of such personality--not just strong, but completely indomitable--to play such a role in a book at the time.

I don't have a seventh, but instead I'll mention a couple of female sidekicks who rise above the ordinary. Both are female sidekicks to male main characters, which is unusual. The first is Della Street, Perry Mason's secretary. Della and Perry are in love, but never do anything about it, because, according to the social rules of the time, Della would have to quit her job, and she's not willing to do that. It's too much fun, and she wouldn't be able to go driving around looking for revolvers under hedges at 2 in the morning and stuff like that. She's brave, loyal and astute, and if she needs to be rescued every now and then, it's only because Perry Mason miscalculated something. (By the way, Mason's receptionist/operator Gertie is modeled very much on the Etta Candy pattern.) The second is Sally Kimball, Encyclopedia Brown's assistant. Encyclopedia is the brains of the outfit, but Sally is plenty bright herself and often ends up being the one to solve the case. What she really brings to the table, though, is muscle: if Bugs Meany starts any trouble she can clean him out, and the rest of the Tigers, without breaking a sweat.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Johanna,
I quite adored Dorothy Sayers' mysteries during my phase with that genre... and given your knowledge, I would love to see you address the criticism that I've seen about how Vane was a Mary Sue, created because Sayers had herself fallen in love with her creation of Lord Peter.

I haven't seen that criticism! What an interesting read. Do you have any sources for me to go check? I wouldn't be surprised if Vane was a Mary Sue, particularly in light of Strong Poison. I find it really interesting that everything sort of peters off after Gaudy Night; Busman's Honeymoon's not nearly as interesting (in fact, I've never been able to finish it, personally!).
But then, I do think that if an author creates a character very close to her (the write what you know ideal) then critics may automatically see it as a Mary Sue, not because of knowledge, persay (Harriet was, after all, a novelist, too) but because of romance. We all fall a little bit in love with our characters, yes?
I'd love to see any links/articles you can send my way. Thanks for pointing this out to me!
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Matthew,
Every time somebody does a list like that I have to come up with my own list to accompany it. Why do I do that?

Because it's loads of fun :)

Harriet Vane wasn't the only Mary Sue in classic detective fiction; Agatha Christie had her own. Her character Ariadne Oliver, a dotty-yet-shrewd mystery writer who occasionally assisted Poirot, was obviously supposed to be Christie herself. Oliver's detective character was a Finn, and she often said, "Why did I make him a Finn? I don't know anything about Finland!"

Ah, yes, the Belgium/Finland fiasco :) Mr. Reads is actually 1/4 Finnish, and I still don't know anything about Finland!

Seven More Girl Detectives
Veronica Mars. Please tell me you're familiar with Veronica Mars. I'd a lot rather her on the list than Scully or Sydney Bristow.


Don't hate me, but I can't stand Veronica Mars. I tried so hard, and I adored the first 2 1/2 episodes. Then, not so much.
:(

Irene Adler. In a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, Carole Nelson Douglas has Adler solving mysteries with a genius equal to Holmes, although more often taking the form of intuition and theatricality than the logic Holmes used.
Victory Nelson. Ex-cop heroine of Tanya Huff's vampire-related detective series. (Set in Toronto!)


Don't know either of this, and they've been added to the list!

Sally Lockhart. Young heroine of Philip Pullman's trilogy (tetrology, if you count The Tin Princess, which Sally doesn't appear in) of Victorian-set mystery-adventures.

Arg! Can't believe I didn't think of Sally! Did you see the PBS version of Ruby in the Smoke? I couldn't get into it, personally, but the lead actress (Billie something) was wonderful.

Jonni Thunder. Noirish L.A. detective in a 4-issue DC miniseries of the '80s. Jonni acquired some mysterious electrical superpowers, which she later lost in a forgettable Infinity, Inc. story, but as far as I know the character is still around, and I'd like to see DC give her some attention.
Dakota North. Star of a Marvel private-eye comic of the '80s. I had a couple of issues of it, and liked them.


Don't know either of these! Any good?

Emma Peel. I don't want to not provide a comment for Emma Peel, but I can't think what I could say that wouldn't be superfluous.

Yes, the Avengers need no intro, right? :)

Seven More Heroines with Sidekicks or Teams
Dol Bonner. Theodolinda Bonner is a private investigator and owner of her own all-female detective agency in the Nero Wolfe novels, and Rex Stout actually wrote a whole book about just her; it's called The Hand in the Glove but also has another title, which I forget. Miss Bonner and her operatives are among the most respectfully presented characters in all the Stout books; very competent and formidable. When you read The Hand in the Glove, it's hard to believe that it isn't just one of a larger series. It should have been.


Noted! You've recommended Rex Stout to me before, and I'm getting there, I promise!

Granny Weatherwax. Main character in Terry Pratchett's witches-of-Lancre subseries of his Discworld series. I don't want to overuse the word 'formidable', but she is. She's a lot like Batman: she's got a powerful dark side that she's too proud and moral to give in to, but it's there. Her 'team' is the rest of the local coven: the motherly, vulgar Nanny Ogg, who understands a few things that Granny Weatherwax doesn't, Magrat Garlick, the soppy young new-age type witch, and Agnes Nitt, who is of two minds about everything.

I promise to give Pratchett a try soon!

Jane Wooliston, the Pink Carnation. Scarlet-Pimpernelesque character in Lauren Willig's novels, with her own League.

I wanted to like these books, I did, particularly because Willig is/was a grad student. But the writing's just awful. Really, truly awful. I couldn't finish the first one.

Modesty Blaise. I've never actually read any Modesty Blaise; I'm just including her here on reputation.
Kim Possible, and her sidekicks, Team Possible, from the TV shows and movies.
Nancy Blackett, pirate captain of the Amazon, from Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons' novels. Nancy Blackett is one of the great characters in the history of fiction. The first 'Swallows and Amazons' book was published in 1928, and it must have been quite odd for a female character of such personality--not just strong, but completely indomitable--to play such a role in a book at the time.


I know Kim Possible by reputation, of course, but not the others.

I don't have a seventh, but instead I'll mention a couple of female sidekicks who rise above the ordinary. Both are female sidekicks to male main characters, which is unusual. The first is Della Street, Perry Mason's secretary. Della and Perry are in love, but never do anything about it, because, according to the social rules of the time, Della would have to quit her job, and she's not willing to do that. It's too much fun, and she wouldn't be able to go driving around looking for revolvers under hedges at 2 in the morning and stuff like that. She's brave, loyal and astute, and if she needs to be rescued every now and then, it's only because Perry Mason miscalculated something. (By the way, Mason's receptionist/operator Gertie is modeled very much on the Etta Candy pattern.) The second is Sally Kimball, Encyclopedia Brown's assistant. Encyclopedia is the brains of the outfit, but Sally is plenty bright herself and often ends up being the one to solve the case. What she really brings to the table, though, is muscle: if Bugs Meany starts any trouble she can clean him out, and the rest of the Tigers, without breaking a sweat.

Encyclopedia Brown! God, I used to love those books. Sally, yes, of course. She was loads of fun!
There's a new series out, and I've peeked at it a few times. I think the title is I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason or something like that.

The Parents Reads are still visiting, and Mr. Reads did A Very Silly Thing, which involved a trip to the hospital, so hopefully that explains both the brevity and tardiness of this response! More soon!
Ciao,
Amy

Merle Whitefire said...

What's that? No mention of Jessica Fletcher? I'm sad!

Jessica FLetcher was AMAZING. She was intelligent, usually right, not at all afraid to let people know it, and didn't back down. Ever. Also, she was portrayed by the AMAZING Angela Lansbury.

Though I suppose one couldn't use the term "Girl Detective" for her. She was a "Detective" plain and simple.

Well, no, she was also a mystery writer, but still...

LurkerWithout said...

Female lead w/team or sidekick:

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake before it turned into porn. Large supporting staff full of interesting characters (until LKH had Anita start sleeping with most of them). The Modern Supernatural sub-genre of Horror/Fantasy is pretty heavily dominated by female leads with support groups. Tanya Huff has already been mentioned. Also Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Elaine Cunningham and others. I'm just blanking on the names of most of the characters. Even the ones I read...

Agatha Hetrodyne (Girl Genius): The basic concept of the Foglio's comic, is that mad genius Spark's attract followers. Henchmen, Igor types and what not.

A case could be made that the Authority was originally Jenny Sparks' team of super-followers.

Amanda Waller and the pre-Crisis Suicide Squad?

Engh. Too tired, can't think of more...

LurkerWithout said...

D'oh! Janet Evanovich's Stepanie Plum books. Less than perfect bounty hunter with large group of support characters...

Johanna said...

I'm trying to remember where I saw that particular analysis of Sayers... my mystery reading was a long while ago, and it was all print, before online, and the books are packed away. (Excuses, excuses.)

According to her wikipedia entry, she lived through the same thing Vane did in Strong Poison, living with a man who did it just to test her. That entry mentions the Mary Sue aspect, but it doesn't go into depth.

This has also reminded me of my favorite "girl" detective, Laura Holt. I so wanted to be her.

Timothy Liebe said...

What? No Eve Dallas?!? SACRILEGE!!!!!!!! Eve is one of the greatest kick-ass, emotionally screwed-up Supreme Bitch Cops (Eve's self-description) ever - and she had a superrich, incredibly handsome, slightly shady computer whiz husband who worships her.

Well, Scotland Yard DS Jane Tennyson comes close - except she does NOT have a superrich, incredibly etc. etc. husband....

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's White Tiger comic

Amy Reads said...

Hi Merle,
What's that? No mention of Jessica Fletcher? I'm sad!

Jessica FLetcher was AMAZING. She was intelligent, usually right, not at all afraid to let people know it, and didn't back down. Ever. Also, she was portrayed by the AMAZING Angela Lansbury.


I actually never watched Murder, She Wrote with Any Great Frequency, although my grandmother absolutely adored it. She still catches some of the reruns, and after her recent surgery, I sent her several mystery books to help speed along recovery!

Though I suppose one couldn't use the term "Girl Detective" for her. She was a "Detective" plain and simple.

Girl Detective works for any woman, any time of her life. It's sort of a catch-all affectionate euphemism :)

Well, no, she was also a mystery writer, but still...

I think I end up liking these amateur detectives more than their professional counterparts, the mystery-writer-turned-detective, say, over the gritty cop drama. But that's just me!
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Lurker Without,
Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake before it turned into porn. Large supporting staff full of interesting characters (until LKH had Anita start sleeping with most of them).

I just can't do these anymore. At all. Up until about, say, book 6, I was there, but then it 1) turned into porn, and 2) stopped being edited. I read 3 pages into one of the books, saw a bride walk up the "isle," and stopped reading. Forever.

The Modern Supernatural sub-genre of Horror/Fantasy is pretty heavily dominated by female leads with support groups. Tanya Huff has already been mentioned. Also Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Elaine Cunningham and others. I'm just blanking on the names of most of the characters. Even the ones I read...

I adore Charlaine Harris's books, but I've not read any of the other ones. That is, I've tried Harrison, and I'll poke at Kelley Armstrong every once in a while, but they're just not my cup of tea anymore.
Another good one I left off the list, though not supernatural, is Norah Blackbird from Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters mysteries. Quite Well Done, and solving crime with her sisters, while in vintage Givenchy, no less! (and as I write, academically, on fashion, that makes me Very Happy).

Agatha Hetrodyne (Girl Genius): The basic concept of the Foglio's comic, is that mad genius Spark's attract followers. Henchmen, Igor types and what not.

Yes! She's wonderful! Good call.

A case could be made that the Authority was originally Jenny Sparks' team of super-followers.

I have the Authority in my To Read list, but I'm currently going through some Dark Horse graphic novels right now, mostly Hellboy, and catching up on New Avengers. It's on the list, definitely!

Amanda Waller and the pre-Crisis Suicide Squad?

Would we consider her a detective?

And you also said,
D'oh! Janet Evanovich's Stepanie Plum books. Less than perfect bounty hunter with large group of support characters...

I thought about Stephanie, but I don't really care for the books anymore, so I didn't feel it was fair to put her on my "favorites" list :)
Ciao,
Amy

Engh. Too tired, can't think of more...

Amy Reads said...

Hi Johanna,
I'm trying to remember where I saw that particular analysis of Sayers... my mystery reading was a long while ago, and it was all print, before online, and the books are packed away. (Excuses, excuses.)

No worries! Believe me, I know how impossible it is to remember a source, particularly because I am currently dissertating! I don't plan on going anywhere, cyberly, as it were, so if you find it in, say, the next 10 years, let me know!
(who knows what email will be in ten years, though!)

According to her wikipedia entry, she lived through the same thing Vane did in Strong Poison, living with a man who did it just to test her. That entry mentions the Mary Sue aspect, but it doesn't go into depth.

I confess, I did peek on Wiki after you asked, and found it, as always, a bit sparse. I know a few people who work academically on Sayers. I'll drop them a line and see what we come up with.

This has also reminded me of my favorite "girl" detective, Laura Holt. I so wanted to be her.

Okay, so I confess, I had to Wiki her. But Remington Steele! What a concept! I never knew all of that! I was still 321-Contact-ing it and Jem-and-the-Holograms-ing it in that part of the 80s, so that's probably why I missed it. But now I want to see it! Must. Check. Netflix.
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Tim,
What? No Eve Dallas?!? SACRILEGE!!!!!!!! Eve is one of the greatest kick-ass, emotionally screwed-up Supreme Bitch Cops (Eve's self-description) ever - and she had a superrich, incredibly handsome, slightly shady computer whiz husband who worships her.

I haven't read these, but I've always glanced at them in the store. Worth picking up, I take it? :)

Well, Scotland Yard DS Jane Tennyson comes close - except she does NOT have a superrich, incredibly etc. etc. husband....

Sometimes I find that rich people are the least interesting fictional characters unless 1) they hate their money (a la Bruce Wayne) or 2) they lose their money. Eve's perfect husband sounds a little too, well, perfect.
Although don't imagine me pooh-poohing Mr. Reads' affections if he suddenly becomes Quite Wealthy! ;)
Ciao,
Amy

Johanna said...

I envy you getting to see Remington Steele for the first time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.