Compiled by Jennifer Tuttle
Sat Aug 6 05:52:34 PDT 2011
Back to Lists of Books and Course Materials
* * * Louisa May Alcott's blood-and-thunder tales Nevada Barr (all of her novels are set in national parks--they make great reads when you're traveling to a park) Eleanor Taylor Bland’s series featuring African American detective Marti McAlister, a widow with two children, and a police officer near Chicago Rita Mae Brown's "Sneaky Pie Brown" mysteries Karen Rose Cercone’s series set in late-nineteenth-century Pittsburgh, consists of three books: Coal Bones, Blood Tracks, Steel Ashes Joanne Dobson’s series on English professor Karen Pelletier “would be wonderfully apropos for a course that includes recovered works of women writers. Her detective is a college prof (single mother from a working class background) working on 19c women writers. Try either The Northbury Papers -- on a scorned/rediscovered writer, or Quieter than Sleep, with a Dickinson angle.” “ Dobson's _The Northbury Papers_ could pair well with _The Hidden Hand_ or perhaps another, shorter Southworth text. I believe Southworth is in the background of Dobson's scorned recovered woman writer.” From Joanne: “Southworth is very much the inspiration for Mrs. Northbury. I'd just visited her great granddaughter on Marthas Vineyard when I began the novel.” Mary Wilkins Freeman's "The Long Arm" Kathleen George who does police procedurals Charlotte Perkins Gilman, UNPUNISHED (written in 1929 but not published in her lifetime; this book anticipates MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS in a very interesting way!) Martha Grimes Sue Grafton’s her alphabetized series, especially "A" is for Alibi, "C" is for Corpse, "I" is for Innocent, "M" is for Malice, and "P" is for Peril, is “socially conscious, intelligent women's detective fiction.” Pauline E. Hopkins, "Talma Gordon" and _Hagar's Daughter_ Laurie R. King has two series: the Kate Martinelli series, set in contemporary San Francisco. Kate is a homicide detective whose lesbian personal partner is disabled (maybe after the first book in the series); and the Mary Russell series, about the woman who's Sherlock Holmes's apprentice, colleague, and then wife Margaret Maron Miriam Grace Monfredo, SENECA FALLS INHERITANCE and other historical mysteries Marcia Muller Barbara Neely, BLANCHE ON THE LAM, BLANCHE AMONG THE TALENTED TENTH, BLANCH CLEANS UP , BLANCHE PASSES GO: “Lots of interesting stuff in there about how white people act like their African-American servants are invisible--hence helping Blanche solve mysteries (a twist on the old-women-are-invisible theme that Christie used with Miss Marple)! Neely weaves politics pretty seamlessly into her novels, not an easy thing to do.” “BLANCHE ON THE LAM was great for raising issues about emotional work. Looking at it in a course on detective stories would allow for exploring why those issues themselves require detection.” “BLANCHE CLEANS UP treats environmental justice issues (among other race/class/gender themes) in Massachusetts.” Abigail Padgett, CHILD OF SILENCE and others Sara Paretsky (especially Fire Sale, Burn Marks, and her riveting 2009 novel Hardball, with its depiction of racial prejudice in a fictional Chicago police force). (VI Warshawski is a great detective--watching her age and deal with issues of aging has been good.) Elizabeth Peters's series featuring the late 19th to early 20thC Briton Amelia Peabody and her fictionally famous archeologist husband Emerson, with their amusing adventures in Egypt and their precocious son Ramses Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Circular Staircase (1908) and The Case of Jennie Brice (1913). Both of these novels feature older (unmarried) women who becom e crime solvers when faced with dangerous, mysterious situatiHarriet Prescott Spofford , "In a Cellar," among other stories. She was “the first woman to create a serial detective in Mr. Furbush (‘In the Maguerriwock’ (sp?) in the Bendixen coll., and ‘Mr. Furbush’ in Harper's M. 1865); these stories, moreover, address social issues, and her detective grapples with moral dilemmas of detecting as intrusion etc.” Dana Stabenow, BLOOD WILL TELL and others (her sleuth, Kate Shugak, is an Alaska Native) Victoria Thompson’s series is set in late-nineteenth-century Pittsburgh. The thirteenth book in her Gaslight series just came out. Valerie Wilson Wesley, series featuring Tamara Hayle, an African American ex-cop and single mother who works as a private investigator in Newark. Kate Wilhelm Barbara Wilson, MURDER IN THE COLLECTIVE and other lesbian-feminist detective stories featuring Pam Nilson: “they're interesting case studies in blending the mystery genre and pretty explicit politics”; GAUDI AFTERNOON (a personal favorite) and others featuring Cassandra Reilly Secondary sources: CLUES: A Journal of Detection John Cullen Gruesser A Century of Detection: Twenty Great Mystery Stories, 1841-1940 helpful as a secondary/primary source text. The introduction provides a history of detection fiction and discusses gender and race. Bobbie Ann Mason, The Girl Sleuth, about the Nancy Drew books and their like. Written in the hangover of graduate school, while watching the Watergate hearings! Catherine Ross Nickerson's _The Web of Iniquity: Early Detective Fiction by American Women_ (Duke UP, 1998). Paige Sanderson Prindle’s dissertation, which has a couple of very good chapters on Alcott, Metta Victor, Anna Katherine Green, and other early women writers of mystery/detection. The diss. is titled Publishing, Property, and Problematic Heiresses: Representations of Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century American Women's Popoular Fiction (UC San Diego 2009). Erin Smith's Hard-Boiled: Working Class Readers and Pulp Magazines (2000) Films: MOTHERS OF MYSTERY (CA Center for the Book) See comments on Cynthia Kuhn’s blog: http://inktopia.blogspot.com/search/label/mystery ALSO: “there's been so much interesting discussion of Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's millenium trilogy--whether she's a feminist heroine, whether the novels successfully critique violence against women (Larsson's stated intent) or fall into reveling in it etc.” Mostly I read detective stories for fun but I love teaching American lit as stories of detection or failed detection--Benito Cereno by Melville works really well in that way. Because the British 'cozy' has dominated the detective genre, I find writers like Elizabeth George interesting: she is an American but writing in a British context with British characters. (I've most recently been reading the contemporary British writer Jacqueline Winspear whose writing, for me, evokes the grand dame Dorothy L. Sayers--I love Gaudy Night...a lot. But this takes us well off the beaten track.).