Sunday, July 15, 2012

Men in Skirts

( Though not intentional, this article will be mentioning my novel Fast Love, and therefore might be indirectly promoting it. Also, a novelist J.A. Konrath will be mentioned with comments which might be uncomplimentary, but are  intended only for discussion about the art of writing. Janet Evanovich will also be praised for discussion purposes, with no intention of promoting her best selling books. Richard Flanagan's excellent novel The Unknown Terrorist is also mentioned. )

Usually with a novel, a writer can't help but have some of  themselves in the principle character and hero. This can be particularly the case when the book is done in the first person.

That's why many lady publishing editors will say it's very seldom a man can write a story from a woman's point of view.

In my novel Fast Love I do this, with call girl  / escort Sami Martel. So does JA Konrath in his Jackie Daniels book series. Both are in the first person.

Konrath's books about a woman police detective are really Konrath in skirts. He is Lieutenanat  Daniels, or what he would like to imagine himself to be as the ideal macho woman. Like Konrath in real life, his herorine goes around screaming, telling anyone to get lost if they get in her way. The characters around her, like her sidekick Herb, are ciphers that are expected to do what she wants. If not, they're immediately castigated.  Jackie Daniels has no flaws, no vulnerabilities, at least in the novels I've seen. Her personal life and dysfunctional parents are superficially mentioned in passing.

My impression is that when Konrath's detective series first came out, he was trying to imitate the very successful Janet Evanovich and her heroine Stephanie Plume. I've only read one of Ms Evanovich's novels, but in the future I hope to read more. Unlike Konrath, Ms. Evanovich's characters appear more realistic. Through dialogue, we learn their backgrounds, habits, and foibles. Sometimes this is easy to miss because her stories move so fluidly fast. Unlike her, Konrath's first Daniel's novels seem to grind along, like he's not sure how to play a woman. Probably this is because he never had much close experience with many ladies. Then after the first few novels, he decides to let Jack Daniels be him, the way Joe Konrath would be a woman if he could wear skirts.

For me, I'll be the first to admit that in Fast Love, Sami Martel is Joe Day in skirts, and Joe Day's view of how a woman like Sami would think and react. However unlike Konrath, I've probably had more close relationships with more women, and I would like to think I have a better idea of how they would think.

It's one thing to sit around  in a bar and pay some strip teasers  to talk with you. It's another to be lying down with them intimately, listening to them talk bitterly about a life that's become hopeless, and a future that is bleak. To have some girl call you on the phone telling you how she was raped a week earlier, crying in sobs, and trying gently to explain to her that she has nothing to be ashamed about. That the shame is with those who hurt her.

The reason I expect Konrath hasn't had much experience with women is partly based on what he said a few years ago. He was bragging about how he was finally able to write three pages of love making for a novel, and what the response had been from his wife. First, any guy that's been around doesn't talk about intimate conversations with his spouse. If I did, there'd be hell to pay for the next week. Second, it's really not that hard to write about sex and love making if you've had the experience.

In Fast Love, Sami Martel has sex several times, all with a man that she slowly starts to love. Like Konrath's Jack Daniels, Sami has a big mouth. But unlike Konrath's Jack, my Sami explains why.-

'  "Why don't you cut out the wisecracks, Sami?" Bill sounded more exasperated than ever. 

I couldn't. Because being a wise ass kept me from being scared. Scared stiff. None of these four guys looked like they wanted to party. Neither did Bill, for that matter. But then he’d already shot his cannon. '

Konrath's Jack Daniels way of handling aggressive men is to kick them in the testicles.

With Sami, it's a verbal reply that figuratively emasculates them -

'  "How'd you like to b**e with me." He grinned eagerly. "We can do it upstairs. My dad's got a suite. Even introduce you to dad later. If you like."
"No thanks."
"I got a big one. Even bigger than dad's. Would you like to s**k it?"
"Tell you what, Jimmy." I pinched his cheek until he winched in pain and pulled away. "Why don't you cut it off and mail it to me. And maybe I'll think about it." '

Richard Flanagan solved much of these problems by writing The Unknown Terrorist in the third person. By dialogue and narration, mostly narration, we learn about the sad and tragic life of  "The Doll". The story, the actions, subtly bring out The Doll's dream to be alone and free from the control of men.

It reminds me of recently having pizza with this nineteen year old girl -

"What do you want?"

"Just a little place, away from everybody, where I can be by myself and grow food."

"In other words, you're just tired of people and want to be alone."

"Yeah...I'm tired of being worked to death and people taking advantage of me. I just want to be away from everyone."

She's a smart girl. One day she'll have a enough money to get her wish.


  1. Hello Joseph. Nice to see that I'm mentioned. That was some good pizza and I'm glad to see that you said I was smart. Keep up the work.:D

  2. Thanks. It was a nice afternoon.