Thursday, August 16, 2012
YEAR 1982: V.I. WARSHAWSKI
Though there had been tough lady detectives in earlier eras, ranging from Bertha Cool in the 1930s to Honey West in the 1950s, many sources credit Sara Paretsky's V.I. (for "Victoria Iphigeia") Warshawski as the first truly feminist detective.
I confess I've only read a smattering of the Paretsky books. I liked the debut adventure, INDEMNITY ONLY, which selectively rewrote the myth of Persephone in feminist terms. Later entries like BURN MARKS and TUNNEL VISION proved less interesting.
Nevertheless, Warshawski-- adept with karate and with a sem-automatic pistol-- certainly qualifies as a "femme formidable." Her style of feminine toughness implicitly stands as a literary response to all the tough-as-nails male private eyes that defined the genre from Sam Spade to Mike Hammer and onward.
The character had one movie adaptation that will discussed separately. Personally, I'd think she'd do better in television, but that's just me.