Monday, October 18, 2010

Bouchercon 2010: Women with guns

Had I paid better attention during the "Flags of Terror" panel I moderated at Bouchercon 2010, I'd have heard soft clucks of disapproval from a hundred female tongues, and maybe the sound of bullets being chambered as well.

I'd noted that Jassy Mackenzie's protagonist, Jade de Jong, was a crack shot, and I suggested that this was unusual for a woman in crime fiction. Afterward the sister of one of the panelists scolded me gently for my statement and nominated Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone as a female crime-fiction protagonist who knows what to do with a gun.

My remark was a throwaway line; had I had more chance to explain, or had anyone in the audience spoken up, I'd have suggested that Mackenzie emphasizes her character's skill with a gun more than do most creators of female protagonists. But maybe that would have got me in more trouble.

Read Jassy Mackenzie's thoughts on firearms as part of this interview, and read her novel Random Violence for Jade de Jong and guns. Best of all, weigh in yourself.

Which female crime-fiction character are especially good shots and especially comfortable using a gun?
© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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31 Comments:

Anonymous Suzanne Arruda said...

My character, Jade del Cameron, is also very comfortable with firearms (a rifle). (also a knife, rope, bow and arrow). Sorry I couldn't make it to this past Bouchercon. I'd have loved to have been on that panel
Suzanne Arruda
www.suzannearruda.com

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. Maybe it's just characters named Jade who like guns.

I wonder if weapons are a much a part of your character's professional identity as they are of Jassy Mackenzie's protagonist's.

I have seen Jade del Cameron's creator wave a toy gun at a Bouchercon panel, if memory serves me well, so I can well believe the character likes guns, too.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

How about Charlie Fox in the Zoe Sharp novels? I know she's a martial arts expert but I think she is also a marksman.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read Zoe Sharp, I'm embarrassed to say, but I did attend a self-defense demonstration she gave at Crimefest this year. If the author can kick butt like that, I well believe the character can, too.

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous Jassy said...

Wonderful to hear about another gun-loving Jade, and looking forward to the wrap-up on the Bouchercon bar conversation, Peter.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jades With Guns sounds like too good a title to pass up.

Thanks for weighing in, though I'm afraid the wrap-up will be more impressionistic than detailed. Hard though I work at Bouchercon, I don't take notes at the bar. But I did greatly enjoy listening and asking the occasional question as you talked with Stan and Michael. I suspect that's an experience not many travelers and would-be travelers have.

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

By the way, it's "Kinsey Millhone," who stars in Sue Grafton's alphabet series. And, yes, she is a good shot.

I think that Sharon McCone in Marcia Muller's stories shoots well, too. And I'd have to check on V.I. Warshawshi, who mixes it up with the best of the bad guys.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Yvette said...

Off the top of my head, some fictional women who can occasionally shoot like they mean it (but only if they have to):
Jane Whitefield in the series by Thomas Perry.
Mary Russell in the series by Laurie R. King.
Kate Martinelli in the series by Laurie R. King.
Clare Fergusson in the series by Julia Spencer Fleming.
There's a series set in Chicago by Linda Barnes in which the cab-driving heroine is a pretty tough cookie.
And what about THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO? Does she pack a gun?

October 18, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Linda Barnes' series features Carlotta Carlyle, a cab driver, who lives in Boston.

I don't think Lizbeth Salander carries a gun. She doles out other types of justice.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Susan said...

Along with the women named above, other strong women who use a gun are: Sigrid Harald in the Margaret Maron series, Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow (particularly well in this series), Detective Kathy Mallory in Carol O'Connell's series (misses only on purpose), Arly Hanks in the Maggody series by Joan Hess (hates firing her gun), and the unforgettable Stephanie Plum in the Janet Evanovich series. That's what I pulled off my shelves in answer to your question! I think there are others - though for me, these ones and VI Warshawski, Jane Whitefield, Carlotta Carlyle, and Kinsey Milhone as well as Sharon Mccone, are the first ones I think of when I think of strong female characters who use guns in mysteries.

October 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

By the way, it's "Kinsey Millhone," who stars in Sue Grafton's alphabet series. And, yes, she is a good shot.

Thanks, Kathy. That was sloppy typing on my part, not ignorance. I knew it was Kinsey Millhone, not Kiney.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yvette, Laurie King was at Bouchercon -- as a guest of honor, in fact. I don't think she was at my panel, though. If she had been, perhaps she'd have spoken up.

I may have to go back and find some passages that exempify what I mean about Jassy Mackenzie's protagonist and guns. Jade de Jong takes shooting more seriously than most male protagonists, even.

October 19, 2010  
Anonymous J. Cadwaller said...

Never mind guns, what happened to the Crimespree awards? Not a word about them anywhere.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Susan, I like Stephanie Plum based on the four Janet Evanovich novels I've read. She's unforgettable, all right, but not for her dedication to and proficiency at shooting. It sounds as if Kathy Mallory may be closer to Jassy Mackenzie's protagonist when it comes to firearms.

I don't necessarily equate strength with willingness to shoot, but that's another discussion.

Thanks for the comment, and Happy Thanksgiving.

October 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

J., I can't find an announcement, either, but I was at the ceremony, and I can assure everyone that the Crimespree Awards were presented. The winners I remember were "On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan for best short story and "Even" by Andrew Grant for favorite first book.

October 19, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Strength and ability to shoot may not be equatable. Maybe women writers think that women protagonists, especially cops and detectives have to prove their mettle and show that they are courageous and tough and won't back down from a confrontation.

There's probably truth to this in the real world, but that is a different discussion.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or maybe women who write police and private-eye stories with female protagonists are simply giving their characters the tools they need to do their jobs.

I've never discussed the subject, but I do know a number of female authors who talk about having their female characters do things, act in certain ways, or fill roles that women generally do not in crime fiction. They have never mentioned guns in their discussions.

October 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Today, women protagonists do things that were not traditionally done by women years ago.

When I started reading mysteries, there were books by Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers. No women characters carried guns, except perhaps villains.

But in the U.S., since there have been books featuring women private detectives and women cops, that has changed.

Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky have tough characters; they do a lot of things women characters did not do years ago. They are brave, accept hard cases and the challenges that go with them, and they don't back down from confrontations, when needed.

And there are so many other women detectives and cops now here and in Europe, Australia and elsewhere. And they certainly have pushed the envelope beyond what I was reading in high school, or what was even available and published.

I say: Cheers for that. It's enhanced my and many other readers' horizons. And it's so enjoyable to read about these characters.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, Marcia Muller is from the San Francisco area, and I think she attended this Bouchercon. I have not read her work, but her name came often at the convention. I had not realized the extent to which she is regarded as a pioneer.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

J.C., here's more news about the Crimespree Awards.

October 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, Marcia Muller is a pioneer, has written scads of books about her detective Sharon McCone and just won a prize for "Locked-In."

Of course, we know about Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, you're right. Of course we know about Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, but I'm not sure Marcia Muller is as well known, at least the more dedicated crime-fiction community. I think someone even called her a trail blazer for Grafton.

I don't know how old the two are or when they started writing.

October 20, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Marcia Muller is 66; Sharon McCone first appeared in 1977 in "Edwin of the Iron Shoes."

Sara Paretsky, who is 63, first published "Indemnity Only," featuring V.I. Warshawski in 1982.

"A is for Alibi," starring Kinsey Millhone, and written by Sue Grafton, was published in 1983; Grafton is 70.

October 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Kathy. Marcia Muller could have inspired Paretsky and Grafton, then.

"Edwin of the Iron Shoes" came up a couple of times during one panel, I think the session in which reviewers were asked to talk about their favorite books.

October 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I have all of Muller's earlier books in paperback. They were good, and then I got hooked on V.I. Warshawski, and bought them.

Those were the days when I'd gobble up paperbacks and keep them. They were relatively inexpensive.

October 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like someone I should add to my list for when I take a busman's holiday from international crime fiction.

October 21, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

"Locked-In," by Muller, for which she just won in award, is one of her best books.

Once I read Sara Paretsky's books, I switched alliances, but still read Muller's and enjoy them, as well as Grafton's.

October 22, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Errata: Read that "I switched allegiances."

October 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm tempted to begin any reading of Marcia Muller with "Edwin of the Iron Shoes" because it's such a cool title.

October 22, 2010  
Anonymous Hecate said...

Stephanie Plum isn't too keen on her gun (she keeps it in her cookie jar), but she is a dab hand with a taser. I didn't think it was possible to be funny about guns, but there's a scene where two guys try to mug Stephanie and her pals in Atlantic City and find themselves looking at serious firepower, all fished out of the gals' purses. Followed by much banter re how size matters. It's a classic.

November 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hecate, I don't know that scene, but I well believe that Stephanie Plum could wring laughs out of anything (just as Ken Bruen and Jason Starr wring laughs out a dead body being smuggled out of an apartment).

November 03, 2010  

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