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Showing posts by: Janice MacDonald click to see Janice MacDonald's profile
Nov 20 2015 3:00pm

“You’ve Come a Relatively Middling Distance, Baby”: Signs of Shift in Female Fictional Detectives


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Back in the 1980’s, I wrote a thesis on parody in the development of detective fiction. My central argument was that the growth of the genre was dependent on the examination and copying of previous elements in antecedent books. New writers paid homage to the writers who had come before. Newer characters were reminiscent of older characters. Dupin’s idiosyncrasies were mirrored by Holmes; Holmes’s bees became Poirot’s vegetable marrows, which in turn grew into Wolfe’s orchids. Hammett’s terseness became Chandler’s similes, which gave birth to all private eyes’ smart mouths. In my studies, one of the things noted across the board was the naming of the female detective, and what resonances and inferences were made by readers as a result. Checking through the lists of new and continuing detectives from thirty years on, things may be changing.

Names such as Kinsey, Sam, Randy, V.I., Hilary, Nikki, Jaime, Micky, Danny, Jo, Fran, Clare, Bo, Sydney, Jordan, Alex, Brodie, Charley, Benny, Jeri, Robin, Casey, Andy, and Bailey abounded in the stories of female private investigators, girl sleuths, talented amateurs, and police procedurals. And don’t forget the sidekicks, like Nancy Drew’s friend George (Don’t wave Trixie Belden’s friend “Honey” Wheeler at me as a counter argument—you’re not the person who named their first daughter Madeleine, now are you?).

[What's the reason for the change?]