Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies
English Language and Literature
Shifting the Genre: Female Hardboiled Detectives
Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: Mgr. Martina Horáková, Ph.D.
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor Mgr. Martina Horáková, Ph.D. for her help, guidance and valuable advice. Furthermore, I would like to thank my family and friends for their endless support and encouragement.
2History of Men’s Hardboiled Detective Fiction 12
2.1 Male Representatives of the Hardboiled Genre: Hammett, Chandler and Parker 15
3History of Women’s Hardboiled Detective Fiction 26
3.1 Female Representatives of the Hardboiled Genre: Muller, Paretsky and Grafton 29
4Comparison of the Female Hardboiled Detectives: Sharon McCone, V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone 37
4.1A Breakdown of the Female Detectives 37
4.2 The Lone Wolfs 54
6Works Cited 70
7Resumé (English) 77
8Resumé (Czech) 79
The detective genre has been around for more than a century and it has become one of the most popular genres, whether in literature or in movies and television. In the last few decades, there has been a significant rise in crime TV shows or movies because they allow the viewers to escape from their lives and to experience something exciting and thrilling. As a matter of fact, the number of female investigators is rising too, whether they are policewomen (Stella Gibson in The Fall, Teresa Lisbon in The Mentalist or Kate Beckett in The Castle) or investigators (Veronica Mars, Miss Congeniality and Gone Girl). These women owe it to authors as Marcia Muller, who was the first woman to create an independent female investigator that was not defined by the achievements of her husband and children, but who put her career and herself first.
The aim of this thesis is to investigate, how the first three female authors of the hardboiled genre adjusted and changed the characteristics of the traditional male hardboiled fiction. The authors in question are Marcia Muller, who is considered to be the mother of the female hardboiled detective fiction, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, who were her close successors and are the most appraised authors of this genre. The analysis focuses on the first novel of each one of them, to show, how they individually tried to adjust the genre. The first question that needs to be asked, is whether it is possible to take this male dominated genre, alter the sex of the hero and still stay true to the conventions. Whether the female authors only try to imitate the male detectives or try to subvert the genre. The second question is, whether the authors went beyond the shift of the gender and tried to tackle some difficult problems, women and feminists were facing every day, such as gender discrimination, sexism or women breaking through the male dominated professions. To put it in other words, whether the authors use this genre to deal with some important feminist issues, or created these novels because they saw an empty spot on a market.
The second chapter is devoted to the evolution of the hardboiled detective fiction. To point out, what the hardboiled subgenre is, there is a need to establish from what and why it has evolved. Therefore, I discuss the main characteristics of the traditional detective, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Auguste C. Dupin, and the conventions of the genre itself. The hardboiled detective fiction was, on one hand, created as a reaction to the classic eccentric genius detective, because the crimes were unrealistic and the stories were overly complicated and absurd and on the other hand, as a response to the Prohibition and the rising violence it had caused. Thus, Dashiell Hammett decided to establish a new type of a detective and in this chapter, I discuss his motivation and influences behind the creation of this new hero. I also analyze the major characteristic of the hardboiled detective, focusing on three major authors of this subgenre – Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. Raymond Chandler is the most popular author of this subgenre and he added a number of crucial features to the hardboiled detective with his investigator Philip Marlowe. Decades later came a renewal of this genre and the most significant author was Robert B. Parker with his detective Spenser. Both of these successors of Hammett are investigated and their additions to the genre examined. It is necessary to point out what the traditional hardboiled detectives were like, to show, how the female authors adjusted the conventions.
In the third chapter, I summarize the history of female detectives, who were written by female authors. Of course, there were female detectives long before Marcia Muller’s detective Sharon McCone and even Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, but not until Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, there were female detectives in their thirties, who were self-sufficient and tough just as any hardboiled male detective and for whom the investigating was the source of their income. Subsequently, in this chapter, I focus on the three female authors, whose books are examined in the analysis – Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton. Each one of them has a specific background and experiences that led them to creation of such strong female characters. I study these authors and their motivation to immerse in a predominantly male world.
The fourth chapter is the analysis of three books: Edwin of the Iron Shoes (1977) by Marcia Muller, Indemnity Only (1982) by Sara Paretsky and “A” is for Alibi (1982) by Sue Grafton. I found that these authors are not as much examined as for their male counterparts, especially Marcia Muller, whose series is not as well established as the series of Paretsky and Grafton. I chose the first novel of every author to examine how they decided to alter the conventions. I study whether they try to uphold the masculinity and toughness of the male detectives or if they try to portray a feminine woman that can make it in a traditionally male profession. I investigate several major themes of the traditional male hardboiled fiction and whether the female authors adjusted them or followed the conventions.