Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, VI

This has been an exciting month in the Outfit, with Sean Chercover and Marcus Sakey both publishing their first books. That first book brings pleasures that nothing else ever matches-from the first news that someone bought your book, to seeing the actual copies in print. Even though my own first book came out 25 years ago, I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

On January 22, 1982, V I Warshawski was born: Indemnity Only the first book in the series, was published by the Dial Press. V I started small, but she started a revolution in the way women are perceived in fiction. V I broke down walls around detecting women. Neither scheming vamp nor helpless victim, she’s a woman like most of the ones we all know, tackling life’s problems and solving them as best she can.
Nowadays all kinds of women are doing all kinds of things to find their voices, and to be taken seriously as readers and writers, but 25 years ago it was a lonely kind of place to be.
Over the past 25 years, V I has taken on corporate pollution, for-profit medicine, and a dozen other ills. She’s been trapped in a burning building (Burn Marks), left to die in a landfill (Fire Sale), and survived near drowning in the Great Lakes (Deadlock). Yet she soldiers on, aided by her close friends and her Golden Retrievers. Readers in 28 languages now follow her ups and downs.
This winter, V I’s twenty-fifth anniversary is being celebrated in several places. Clues the only scholarly journal that deals with the mystery, is devoting the whole winter issue to essays on V I and Sara. On February 27, Sara will speak at the Library of Congress on V I’s birth and growth.
Now you can join the party. Write a short essay, no more than 150 words, on what V I should do for the next twenty-five years. Enter at The prize for the best entry is a rare copy of the second book in the series, Deadlock. The contest closes on March 31; Sara will make a totally subjective decision on the winner. Let your imagination soar!


ab said...

I wish VI a Happy Birthday - hrm, guess I got VI and her creator mixed up earlier today - but why not, VI:s Birthday marks the birth of success author Sara Paretsky as well, doesn't it? Anyway - skål to many more adventures!

Marcus Sakey said...

Happy birthday VI, and congratulations, Sara! What an accomplishment. Boggles the mind.

Sean Chercover said...

"Neither scheming vamp nor helpless victim, she’s a woman like most of the ones we all know, tackling life’s problems and solving them as best she can."

What an inspiring approach. And one that has inspired many in the 25 years since VI arrived on the scene.

But looking at the last 25 years of American crime fiction, VI isn't only an important female detective. She's an important Chicago detective. And she isn't only an important Chicago detective - she's an important detective, period.

This is not to belittle her importance to the development of the fictional female detective. Rather, we should acknowledge her importance as a feminist character and as an ambassador of Chicago, but then we should also go beyond those designations, and consider her as a peer of Scudder and Robichaux and Walker and Rawlins and Archer and Hammer and Marlow and...

And I suspect that the key to VI's next 25 years is to be found in her identity as a detective, full stop.