Women. Crime. Justice. At least the search for it. On the mean streets, the back allies, the dark corners.
These are stories of tough women in hard places. The nights are long, the women are fast, and danger is always a short block or quick minute away. Edited by award winning author/editors J.M. Redmann and Greg Herren, Women of the Mean Streets is an anthology of some of the top, tough women crime writers today, noir stories with a lesbian twist.
I eagerly scooped up Bold Strokes Books’ new anthology Women of the Mean Streets, because it fills a gap long empty in noir. For most of history, female characters in this mystery subgenre have been relegated to serving as either femmes fatale or victims.
Women of the Mean Streets, however, offers a wide range of roles for women in a wide range of literary styles, and can be enjoyed far beyond a lesbian audience.
Readers may pick up the title for Laura Lippman’s “A.R.M. and the Woman,” but my two favorite stories in the anthology, ones that illustrate the range of the collection, are Miranda Kent’s “Some Kind of Killing” and Lindy Cameron’s “Feedback.”
“Some Kind of Killing,” besides being incredibly dark and creepy, is highly stylish in its prose and features a narrator that intrigues from beginning to end. Is she criminal, victim, or something else?
We were those people. The people on the news. The story where they show the house and almost whisper the news story to the camera because it’s so awful and so tragic and none of the neighbors had any idea and someone said they kept to themselves. We were that story. I was that story… the detective leaned in toward me, which made me want to lean back away from him, but I knew I was supposed to stay still, so I didn’t move. The detective told me he had two daughters of his own and I sat and listened as he told me about them. Two little girls just like me, he was saying. I was pretty sure that the detective didn’t live in a crazy house and that all the doors to all the rooms were open and that his daughters and his wife all sat in the living room together and watched TV or sat at the dining room table and ate dinner together and that no one sat and waited while the food got cold for the phone to ring but it never rang and that the detective, the father, came home for dinner, even though he was a policeman and his job was to open the doors on the rooms with the flies and maggots and blood in them. So I was pretty sure that his daughters were nothing like me. Because they weren’t there, in the police station, with the detective, were they? They were home with a mother who wasn’t crazy and where there was probably no screaming. And probably no creepy quiet, either. And definitely no blood.
Lindy Cameron’s “Feedback” is in complete contrast to the Miranda Kent story. It’s futuristic noir with a brash, first-person narrator, who’s made more interesting by being legless and depending on technology to get around. Except for the science-fictional technology and being Australian, she could fit right in with Marlowe.
Capra, that’s me. Agent Capra Jane—cybercop, attached to the Southern Indian-Pacific Corps, headquartered in Melbourne City. I trawl the mean streets of Cy-city and the other virtual resorts—the ones that ordinary beat cops fear to tread. And that doesn’t mean they’re gutless and I’m some kind of hero. Far from it. In fact, even I’d agree that statement says a boat-load about common sense versus foolhardiness. They have it—common sense, that is—and I, well I basically don’t give a shit.
It makes me incredibly happy to see female characters who do as many things as male characters in the rest of the genre. Think of it this way. I’ve seen several action movies this summer, and none of them had more than one significant female character, as if one was enough. That one woman might have had the appearance of being tough and competent, but in the end, the male characters always took over any hint of an active role she might have had, while she became simply a romantic interest or a victim. This anthology, in which women can be cynical, can kill people, can make mistakes, and solve the resulting problems themselves, is a welcome antidote.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.