26 January 2019

Not another Freaking Neurotic Narrator (and other books....)


by Melodie Campbell (reaches for the gun in her stocking, and yes that is me and a Derringer)

I'm tired of downer books.  I don't want to be depressed after reading for three hours.  Bear with me: I'll explain.

The problem is, most of the downer elements of grim books involve women who are victims.  Either victims of crime, or victims of a patriarchal society.  Scandinavian Noir is full of the first.  In fact, most noir novels involve a female who is murdered and often hideously mutilated.  That's so much fun for women to read.

So here goes:

I don't want to read any more books about women who are abused or downtrodden.  I know there are several good books out there right now featuring such women.  Some are historical.  Some are current day.  It's not that they aren't good.  It's just that I don't want to read any more of them.  I've read plenty.

Imagine, men, if most of the books you had read involved men who had been victimized or relegated to second class status by another gender.  One or a few might be interesting to read.  But a steady diet of these?  Would you not find it depressing?  Not to mention, discouraging?

I don't want to read any more books about neurotic women, or women who can't get it together.  I dread more 'unreliable narrators.'  Particularly, I don't want to read a book ALL THE WAY THROUGH, and then find out at the very end that the protagonist has been lying to me.  (Are you listening, Kate Atkinson? *throws book across room*)  Who wants to be tricked by the author?  But there's something even worse about it:

Did you notice that most (okay, every single one I can think of) unreliable narrators on the bestseller lists recently are women?  Does that say something to you about how society views women? (reaches for gun in stocking...)  It does to me.  No more 'girl' books. (BLAM!...that felt good.)

I don't want to read any more books this year with female protagonists that are written by men.  Yes, this means some of the bestselling crime novels out there.  They may be very well written.  But these rarely sound like women's stories to me.  They aren't written with the same lens.

What I want:  books with intelligent female protagonists written by women.  I want more women's stories.  Books I can be proud to hand on to my daughters, and say, see what is possible?  She isn't a victim!  She's someone like you.

Trouble is, I can't FIND many books like that.  The bestseller lists today are filled with protagonists who are unstable, neurotic women.  Let me be clear:  a lot of people enjoy these books.  They may be very well written.  They wouldn't be on bestseller lists otherwise.

But I'm tired of them.  I want a ripping good story with a female protagonist, written by a woman.  Hell, I want to *be* the protagonist for a few hours.

And not come away feeling downtrodden.

Speaking of which...if you're looking for a female protagonist with wit and brains, this mob goddaughter rocks the crime scene in a very different way:
The Goddaughter Does Vegas - out this week from Orca Book Publishers!  
Book 6 in the multi-award winning caper series.
 On AMAZON

10 comments:

Eve Fisher said...

I'm with you 100%! This is why I don't watch Criminal Minds or SVU or any of that other crap that regularly shows some woman cowering in fear, usually scantily clad and tied up. Let the Goddaughter reign!

Melodie Campbell said...

Eve, you have me smiling. What the poop has happened with Criminal Minds? Every single episode it seems... Yes we need more heroines like yours and mine. Let me know when your next one is out! I need her.

Barb Goffman said...

Hey, Mel. I have a story coming out in the spring that may meet your needs. The woman's priorities are a little off, but she makes things happen.

Anyway, I wanted you to know I'm thinking of you and am sending good thoughts.

Melodie Campbell said...

Thanks, Barb. I will look forward to that story, for sure! I love your short stories.

R.T. Lawton said...

Melodie, go back in time about 20 years and see if you can find some of Kathleen Taylor's books in a series about an everyday waitress in a small South Dakota town. The books are humorous, but then Kathleen worked in the State Mental Hospital for several years. She does have a standalone set in a mental hospital, but that's not the one you want to read.

The waitress protagonist is just trying to get by in life, but ends up working on a murder mystery in each novel. I don't consider these to be cozies. Victims are both male and female and the murders happen off scene, so no B T K like the guy in Wichita. Read the books in order if you can, to follow the protagonist's lifeline and story arc. When you get done with one book, you'll want to start the next one to see what happens to her next. I don't read many female authors unless they are what I consider to be strong writers like Eve Fisher, Kathleen Taylor, Barb Goffman, (I'm getting to you and the Goddaughter books in my reading pile), and a very few other female authors. And, oh yeah, as chief judge for the Best Novel category a few years ago, I did pick Lori Rader Day for the Edgar. I don't think I'm biased against female authors, but I do prefer to read male authors first because they tend to write the stories I like. And no, I don't read the bondage, torture killing ones. There's too much of that in real life.

When I worked the streets in Kansas City and the first female Special Agents came on, the supervisors didn't know what to do with them, so they protected those female agents like they were their daughters, which made it tough for them to do their job. Granted, there are strengths and weaknesses between the sexes. On those times that we made an entry, I personally did not want a female in the lead position, nor some of our weaker male agents. To take down the door, you wanted the Gronk you let out of the cage and fed raw meat. Any delays on the door gave the other side time to find their guns or to destroy evidence. But, when I went into a scene undercover, give me a female agent every time. Just a female being there usually lightened the bad guys' paranoia, made things appear more natural. And, many of those female agents could shoot as good as any male agent. One of those female agents eventually worked her way up to head the agency. Bottom line, females can make strong protagonists in their own story. They just need a strong author.

Melodie Campbell said...

RT, thank you for this comment! Very very interesting. I will definitely look up those books. I was thinking I should have added another paragraph, which I think I will write a separate blog about. And that is, I like mysteries. Classic whodunits where the murder is personal - revenge, money, love. I like the challenge of a bang-up clever mystery. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not into thrillers, although some may say I write more like thrillers. Interesting, that.

Leigh Lundin said...

And dream sequences. I hate spending chapters finding out something is a dream. Horrible, horrible waste of time. Was that how the series Lost ended?

One super-famous male novelist started writing a new series from a female point of view. Its popularity surprised me because it didn't ring true to my ear. His way of communicating 'femaleness' was to stop the story for a fashion statement. I didn't get it, Melodie.

One factoid that will provide little comfort: In the sadly real world, 7 out of 9 murder victims are male. It's in the realm of fiction the slaughter takes place.

Melodie Campbell said...

Now, that would be an interesting study, Leigh. Definitely we know that in real life, males are more likely victims of murder. And yet, in the fantasy world of fiction, Most victims are female. That would be a terrific thesis topic, wouldn't it?
I also can relate to the fashion statement 'stop the story'. I know one Canadian male writer who does that with his female protagonist. I've seen reviews on Amazon which point to exactly that, how it drives readers crazy.

Eve Fisher said...

I'd say that more men are slaughtered in fiction as well - but they're mostly killed and everyone moves on to solve it (or not). But when the victim is female, often the gaze lingers and it turns into (soft core or hard core) torture porn. Certainly our President seems to enjoy telling us - repeatedly - about duct-taped women, brought to be raped and murdered.

Don Coffin said...

I agree with you completely.

But I have read at least 1 book this year with an unreliable male narrator--Anthony Horowitz's Moriarty. Granted, it's a sample of one, and, true, I try to avoid unreliable narrators...