OK, confession time…
I went by Border’s fully intending to leave with something by a Nobel laureate or at least a book that people won’t sniff at … but I left with Guilty Pleasures
, the first in Laurell K. Hamilton’s series of SF/detective novels about Anita Blake, professional zombie raiser (“animator”) and sometime vampire destroyer.
It’s the setting that catches your attention—St. Louis in a long, hot summer of trouble. But, it’s not any St. Louis we’ve ever been in. In Anita Blake’s world, magic, were-animals, and zombies are a fact and vampires run nightclubs, perform in strip clubs, and even have their own church, “The Church of Eternal Life.”
Vampires are also the victims of a serial killer—which is why the underworld leaders of the vampire community force an unwilling Anita, professional animator and sometime vampire killer dubbed by the vampiric community as “The Exectioner” to help them.
I can see why the prof put this in the regular semester version of the women & media class as an example of the hard boiled female detective genre. There is a definite acknowledgement of the masculine counterpart. Like many hard boiled detectives, such as the Hammet’s Op and Chandler’s Marlowe, Blake is a liminal figure working on the fringes of legitimacy—she is human but can raise the dead (“I raise the dead for a living, no pun intended”); her friends are policemen but she allies with were-rats and shyster versions of the un-dead. She’s also one tough cookie with her arsenal of crosses, silver knives hidden on various parts of her body, and firearms. Its not for nothing that she is dubbed, “The Executioner.”
But, Blake is also not like male hard boiled detectives. For one thing, she doesn’t drink and though the novel has sexual themes, to borrow an e-zine reviewer’s phrase, they’re sort of PG-13—mainly fairly standard vampire-eros-thanatos
type stuff. Like male detectives, Blake has many scars but she worries about how to hide them (and also the arsenal that seems to be apropos to the vampire destroying profession—a particular challenge when it comes to slinky nightclub outfits). But, at heart, she’s really a softie and tears appear in a way that I don’t remember happening in a Ross MacDonald or Philip Kerr story. Here’s more about Guilty Pleasures including some interesting book covers
From “Women Writers: A Zine” comes a pretty readable review including an interview: Womenwriters.net on Laurell. K. Hamilton
[BTW, for grad students out there, Womenswriters.net has an amusing “Grad Student Barbie” about 3/4s the way down the page on the discussion about Barbie] Barbie