July 17th, 2009

there!, Hello

Sunny Randall: Beset By Women In Trouble

47) Perish Twice by Robert B. Parker (Putnam, 2000, 293 pages)

Alas, I missed out on book two of the Sunny Randall, PI series and went from book 1 to 3. Here, I thought the author was making some leaps in the character relationships (folks got divorced, other folks hooked up) all as background. Nope, it just turns out that the books are isolated enough to not demand slavish devotion to every. entry. in. the. series. :) Perish Twice fills in some of the gaps.

Surprisingly, mystery is not really the driving thrust of this mystery novel. There is one, but it plays something of a secondary role to the game of relationships. Sunny certainly has her hands full with three "clients": (1) a feminist receiving death threats (the actual paying client, though Sunny gets fired for being "too nosy" before long), (2) her annoying older sister on the outs with her husband, and (3) her best friend coming to grips with her own dissatisfaction with the married life . . . Throw in Sunny's own strange relationship with her ex-husband (ever hear how some folks end up a happier couple after separation? That's Sunny and Richie in a nutshell), banter with a large cast of extras (including hookers, pimps, gangsters, cops, and occasional restaurant patrons), and no less than three murders and you've got this book in a nutshell. Stepping back, it's a potential mess of gnarled plotlines. However, Parker pulls it off and makes it look easy.

The ending is an odd one, in that the typical expectations of a mystery are not particularly satisfied. Oh, we know whodunnit, but if readers are expecting a nice tidy little bow and no dangling threads, they will be sorely disappointed. That many of these threads are not picked up in book 3 is somewhat puzzling. And the absence of a central character from the first book -- an aaaangsty teenager, staying with Sunny while she figures out what sort of a relationship to make with her penitent-but-not-yet-forgiven mother -- is certainly odd. There's no hint that she even existed, or that her plotline was ever resolved. Weird.

At least the character of Spike is still his lovably curmudgeonly self. Spike -- Sunny's gay, tough guy bff -- remains my favorite character, overflowing with more witty, vitriolic quips than even bonisagus. *Sigh* Reading these books makes me miss the Worcester gang all the more.

On Gender and Writing

So, this post from nihilistic_kid sent me to the latest Storyteller's Unplugged from Bev Vincent, which has to be read to be believed.

In a nutshell: Bev Vincent, a very nice fellow, recounts the time his story was savaged by a substitute-editor on an anthology because the story's male protagonist was not perceived to be very "male." And it was written by a man. In a way, it's funny. In another way, it's outrageous. Ultimately, it fills me with such levels of despair and disgust that I just want to scream . . .

. . . because it reminds me of my mother-in-law (not a writer, only a reader and a teacher), who was extolling the virtues of a male writer who could "put aside his gender" to write a "mostly convincing" female protagonist (she was referring to Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, series of books) . . . Does she realize how closely she adheres to outdated and downright destructive gender based stereotypes? What must she make of me? I know I don't fit into the typically masculine: I don't do cars, I couldn't care less about sports if I tried, and *shock and awe* I read romance novels. Oh, and poetry too. *gasp* (Rhetorical. I don't really care to know what she thinks of me.)

. . . because it reminds me of the time I submitted a feature length screenplay to a Famous Screenwriting Contest, wherein author names were struck from the manuscripts and those scripts were then judged by peers/fellow contestants. My screenplay, which dealt with date rape on a college campus amongst other things, was pretty well castigated for its portrayal of men (I was actually called a manhating, feminist bitch by the commenters; one person thought I needed to get laid, that exposure to the cock would soothe me). I'll admit, I was aiming for a controvery with that piece (those were the days when subtlety for me was the difference between a sledgehammer and a jackhammer) . . . So, Bev, I also apparently write like a woman. Albeit a very angry woman.

What? The? Fuck?