Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel

Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel

Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel

Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel

Synopsis

Murder by the Book? is a thorough - and thoroughly enjoyable - look at the blossoming genre of the feminist crime novel in Britain and the United States. Sally Munt asks why the form has proved so attractive as a vehicle for oppositional politics; whether the pleasures of detective fiction can be truly transgressive; and when exactly it was that the dyke detective appeared as the new super-hero for today. Along the way Munt poses some critical questions about the relations between fiction and activism, politics and representations, the writer and the reader. This will be an enticing book both for addicts of the genre and for teachers and their students.

Excerpt

Masculinity and masquerade or 'Is that a gun in your pocket?'

Mainstream women crime writers

When we see a tall, dark man walking down a damp, shadowy street wearing a snap-brim hat, trench coat, and gun and hear the melancholy note of a blues trumpet wail up and over the sound of his footsteps on the wet pavement, we know everything we need to know about him. He is the man who goes unafraid down mean streets, the man who is the best in his world and yet is good enough for any world: the detective hero.

Robert Skinner's cameo encapsulates the essence of the hard-boiled dick. The low-lit, monochromatic, American film noir of the 1940s springs to mind, with its city of mystery and shadows, violence and vengeance. Through the mist steps the messianic 'man in the mac', dispenser of commonsense justice, alone in his mission. The image is archetypal-the warrior knight, the tough cowboy, the intrepid explorer-he is the representative of Man, and yet more than a man, he is the focus of morality, the mythic hero. He is the controlled centre surrounded by chaos, and an effective reading must involve identification with this mediator of action, truth, and finally pleasure and relief through closure. Both the form and the content of this scenario are iconically masculine, in a literary and cultural sense. The popular cliché survives now through parody, in such figures as Sellers' Clouseau, but the image endures as one of the folk heroes of modern popular culture. The fact that the detective hero transferred so easily on to film resulted from his position in fiction as reified spectacle, his knowing, evaluative gaze centred the text for consumption by a subservient reader/viewer.

The origin of the detective story stressed the romantic, transcendent

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