Jan 8, 2012

{Author Guest Post} Taken ( A Frankie Post Novel) by L.M. Pruitt


Seeing Night Reviews is the next stop for the Taken Blog Tour for L.M. Pruitt's A Frankie Post Novel, with The Bookish Snob Promotions. Don't forget to check out my review: TAKEN

Being a Woman in Noir
If I say “detective story”, what’s the first thing you think of? For the majority of people, it’s going to be a hard, cynical, world weary detective solving a seemingly impossible case. A maledetective. Let’s face it, even with the advent of characters from Stephanie Plum (who’s really supposed to be a bounty hunter but always winds up smack dab in the middle of some crazy case) to Kay Scarpetta, the image of Humphrey Bogart tracking down the person who killed his partner is something etched into our cultural memory. Men in noir, whether the film versions or their precursors, the hard-boiled detective story, are rough, dangerous and just a little sleazy. In other words, pretty damn sexy, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Women? Oh, buddy. Did we ever draw the short end of the straw there.

There have been a number of studies on the gender roles and rules portrayed and perpetuated in noir and crime fiction. I’m not going to rehash them—because by a number, I mean a lot—but I am going to hit a few of the high points. For one, it’s actually pretty interesting, and if you’re like me, you’ll walk away with a new respect for film analysts/critics. For two, it’ll help to understand how different a character Frankie is, and why I’m so proud of that fact.

Crime fiction has been around for almost two hundred years, with the earliest known crime novel being published in 1829 by a Danish author, Steen Steensen (sidenote: why is it the Nordic people adore crime novels? Is it too cold there for anything else? Something to think about). What really launched the genre was the advent and evolution of print mass media, i.e. serials, more specifically newspapers and magazines. People who couldn’t previously buy books, usually for lack of funds, were suddenly able to keep up with the latest literary sensation, since the mass production of these serials made them both cheap and disposable. Crime fiction, among other genres, benefited from this market explosion, splitting into a number of subgenres.

One of those subgenres, the hard boiled school, became the basis for the film noir era of the 1940s and 1950s. These books and movies were distinguished and characterized by their unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex, emphasizing a world-weary, cynical attitude. Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler were among the most prolific writers of the genre, and a number of their books were the inspiration for noir movies.

Noir (which actually refers to the lighting and camera angles just as much as the storyline) films share a number of elements, as one would expect. They usually revolve around a crime, most likely murder, with greed and/or jealousy being frequent motivators. The criminal investigation is the most prevalent story point, although it’s far from being the dominating plot in the genre as a whole. You can expect false suspicions, accusations of crimes, betrayals and double crosses. You’ll probably see the story taking place in either L.A., Chicago, San Francisco or New York, with the characters spending a ton of time in bars, lounges, nightclubs and gambling dens.

Speaking of characters, expect to see the hard-boiled detective (of course), the femme fatale, a jealous husband, a claims adjuster (really? Where did this come from?), and a down and out writer. And don’t be surprised if you see them all smoking. A lot.

Actually, scratch that—according to the National Film Registry, in only four noir films is the star a private eye. And actually, the majority of films don’t feature a femme fatale, either.

It’s been postulated that with few exceptions, women in noir films fall into one of three categories: the femme fatale, the nurturing woman, and the “marrying type”. The femme fatale will try and seduce you, maybe kill you. The nurturing woman, usually a “good” girl, is dull, boring, featureless, conventional—the type of woman women of the 40s and 50s were expected to be according to society. The “marrying type” somehow managed to be a blend of both, in the worst way possible—she’d trick you, all right—straight into marriage.

In other words, being a woman in noir means either being super dangerous and dying, or being good and boring. Wow—way to make one of the most exciting genres trite and boring.

So the birth of Frankie, previously discussed on my blog, is something remarkable. She embodies the good and bad characteristics of both gender roles, while still managing to be her own person. When she interacts with males, she doesn’t need to emasculate them—in fact, they tend to be more masculine through their interactions, while Frankie herself is still able to stand her ground. Her sexuality isn’t based on others perception of her or their expectations—it’s based on her own wants and needs and her desire to see them realized. Her brains are her own, her feelings are her own, and she takes responsibility for her actions.

For once, it’s good to be a woman in noir.


L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. Titles written include New Moon Rising, Shades of Gray, the first novel in the Jude Magdalyn series, as well as Hole in the Wall, a Jude Magdalyn short. She is currently at work on Taken. She makes her home in Florida with one two cats—one smart, the other an idiot.
Personal Blog: www.lmpruitt.blogspot.com | Facebook: L.M. Pruitt Twitter: @lmpruitt

The next blog stop: January 9 – Book Savvy Babe http://booksavvybabe.blogspot.com/

3 comments:

  1. Fun and interesting post. Can't wait to read this book. Thanks for the blog tour.

    e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

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  2. I haven't read much noir fiction but I've been told that it's really good stuff. As far as television goes...I've watched Breaking Bad and been educated in how this is a perfect example of Noir. So I'm pretty thin on my education with noir and am looking to expand. I'll definitely check this title out as I'd like to be well balanced in my exploration of this gritty genre.

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  3. Thanks so much for having me on the blog today, Kristen! Michael, I haven't watched Breaking Bad, but if it's got a great noir vibe, I'll have to check it out. Happy reading everyone!

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