These are stories of P.I.s who keep guns in their handbags--or their bras, of crime victims, homeless women, and housewives whose ordinary lives take a brutal, sometimes fatal twist. This collection brings several brilliant international authors to American readers for the first time, including Amel Benaboura, Irina Muravyova, and Helga Anderle. Mystery fans will also enjoy new works by familiar voices Sara Paretsky, Elizabeth George, Amanda Cross, Ruth Rendell, Antonia Fraser, Frances Fyfield, and many more contemporary masters.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.25(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:June 8, 1947
Place of Birth:Ames, Iowa
Education:B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; Ph.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago
Read an Excerpt
Women on the Case is the second in an occasional series of original short stories by women crime writers. The first, A Woman’s Eye, was published in 1991. Since then, women—and men—have continued to think about what it means to speak in a woman’s voice.
There is room for improvement. There is definitely room for hope. For while rape and domestic violence remain appalling problems throughout the world, more women are helping others survive these abuses. Women are helping women start businesses in Bangladesh as well as on the south side of Chicago. And despite the problem of illiteracy, record numbers of women are readers. And writers.
Women have been poets—speakers and writers of the word—since the dawn of recorded speech in ancient Sumer. The line from the Sumerian poet Enheduanna to the American Rita Dove is a narrow one, with many breaks, but it is a persisting line of women struggling to find and maintain a voice.
A few years ago I helped in a literacy program at a Chicago institute that trains poor women for jobs in the skilled trades. Because they needed to be able to read and write to start their job training programs, the eight women in my group—ranging in age from twenty-three to forty-seven—were eagerly but painfully overcoming a lifetime of illiteracy. When I talked to them about the history of women in letters—both their writing and their exclusion from the world of letters—one woman asked why, in so many times and in so many places, we have withheld the written word from women. Another student answered, without missing a beat, without prompting from me, “Because when you can’t read they can control you.”
Women today fight an uphill battle. After two decades of movement toward full partnership in many areas of human endeavor, we are under assault for wanting that partnership. Orthodoxy in Rome, Mecca, and Washington condemns women outside the domestic sphere as destroyers of the family, indeed the destroyers of all peace in society (although, paradoxically, the head of the U.S. Marine Corps during Reagan’s presidency accused working women of softening the spirit of America’s fighting men). But you don’t need to call yourself a feminist to know that the fundamental battle for human freedom begins with the written word.
In the nineteenth century, as European and American women finally found it possible to write publicly under their own names and earn a living doing so, they turned to one another for support. The Americans Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and Harriet Beecher Stowe corresponded with George Eliot and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Barrett Browning, in turn, brought the intensity of a passionate nature to her relations with Italian women poets—as she did to all matters Italian. We would call it networking, but these women knew they needed to support one another’s work if they were going to make it in a world that put many obstacles in their paths.
As Barrett Browning tried to define herself as a poet and a woman, she said she looked for “grandmothers” in the art who could serve as her guide. She could find at best one or two and determined that she herself would have to become the grandmother of future women poets. In the introduction to her fourth collection of poems, in 1844, she regretted that her earlier work had failed “to represent the age” for women and said in the future she would speak out about women’s sufferings and their social position. She added that if women writers did not acknowledge this duty, “they had better use pen no more,” but “subside into slavery and concubinage.”
Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh—about a young poet who turns her back on the Victorian insistence that women be domesticated angels—inspired Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, among many other writers. Alcott and Phelps both frequently wrote about the female artist who is stifled by domestic demands. For them, Aurora’s passionate defense of her art was something they longed for but could not achieve.
Perhaps I am not worthy, as you say,
Of work like this: perhaps a woman’s soul
Aspires, and not creates: yet we aspire,
And yet I’ll try out your perhapses, sir,
And if I fail … why, burn me up my straw
Like other false works—I’ll not ask for grace;
Who love my art, would never wish it lower
To suit my stature. I may love my art,
You’ll grant that even a woman may love art,
Seeing that to waste true love on anything
Is womanly, past question.
Barrett Browning’s face sometimes looks at me out of the mirror, as grandmothers are wont to do, and demands to know what if anything I am doing to acknowledge my duty to other women writers, and to the sufferings of women in my own age. It was her chiding that made me set aside my own work to put together this anthology.
Because—at least in theory—women no longer have to defend themselves as artists, no longer have to fight against a sea of domestic demands to do their work, we no longer feel the Victorians’ passionate response to Aurora Leigh. We’ve benefited so much from the work of these heroic pioneers that we now have the chance to explore more fully what it means to write in a woman’s voice. So part of what we’re offering you in Women on the Case is the chance to hear a wide range of those voices all in one volume.
At the same time, it is still exceptional for women’s work to stay in print as long as men’s, to be included in the sacred canon of worthwhile fiction, to be awarded major prizes (two women have won the Nobel Prize for literature in the last thirty years). It is still true that the most popular role for women in fiction and in film is as prostitutes and/or victims of horrific mutilations. Just look at the best seller lists and the top-grossing films for any recent year. So a second part of what we’re offering you here is an alternative vision to the anorectic, sex-crazed victim of much contemporary popular culture.
While Alcott, Browning, and Stowe all fought actively against U.S. slavery, they were less active in supporting contemporary African-American writers such as Harriet Jacobs or Angelina Weld Grimké. Similarly, A Woman’s Eye included many of the most important American and English crime writers, but it didn’t have much to say about women of color, women south of the Thirtieth Parallel, or those outside the English-speaking world (with the notable exception of the Catalan Maria Antonia Oliver). So Women on the Case tries to widen the lens with which we look at women’s experience.
We’re pleased to have added some important voices missing from the first collection. Ruth Rendell, perhaps the leading noir writer of our times, is present here. Elizabeth George and Linda Barnes both have contributed stories that demonstrate their keen insight into human passion. We’re delighted to have the return of such skilled storytellers as Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Liza Cody, and Antonia Fraser. We also mourn the passing of Dorothy Hughes, who died not long after A Woman’s Eye appeared.
Women on the Case includes a story by Eleanor Taylor Bland that shows her depth and sensitivity. Nevada Barr, whose Anna Pigeon stories have brought an important new voice to the crime scene, gives us an expanded idea of her range as a storyteller.
While A Woman’s Eye focused on writers who’d already succeeded, Women on the Case showcases some new writers whose talents we’d like to put in front of the public. We are publishing two women for the first time: Andrea Smith and Dicey Scroggins Jackson. With Chicago police officer Ariel Lawrence, Andrea Smith has given us an engaging character we should see more often in the years to come, while Scroggins Jackson widens the range of our knowledge of homeless women.
Four other writers are appearing here in English for the first time. Several years ago, Helga Anderle of Vienna edited a German-language collection of European and Middle Eastern women’s crime fiction called Da Werde die Weibe zu Hyanen (The Women Will Become Hyenas, from a quotation by Schiller). Her own story and those of Myriam Laurini and the Algerian Amel Benaboura are from that anthology. Benaboura’s emotionally charged picture of a girl under assault by her brother will leave you with a deeper understanding of what lies behind some of the back-page paragraphs in the daily paper. Laurini, an Argentinean in exile, gives us a disturbing look at life on the Tex-Mex border. We’re also proud to present the Russian author Irina Muravyova, whose tale “Women on the Edge” shows what powers women may call on in order to survive.
The Berlin writer Pieke Biermann presents us with an apocalyptic vision that will disturb the reader already nervous about the impending millennium. Biermann, a longtime political activist, lives on the front line of the social disruptions caused by the collapse of the G.D.R. and the triumph of capitalism. Her story is less dystopic fantasy than the Realpolitik of “free market meets STASI agents.”
We’ve gone pretty far below the Thirtieth Parallel to find not just Myriam Laurini but also the Australian Susan Geason, whose tale of politics and the environment is especially timely here. Along with this provocative group, Nancy Pickard appears with all her usual dramatic insight; Barbara Wilson once more treads gleefully on sacred corns; Lia Matera takes us on an empathic romp through the avenues of political correctness. P. M. Carlson has written a polished, important piece set among the lynch mobs of nineteenth-century Memphis that turned Ida B. Wells into a crusader for justice. Marcia Muller, one of today’s most skilled artisans, has created a fraught relationship between a writer and a homeless woman that demonstrates just how much effect we can unwittingly have on other people’s lives—and deaths. Susan Dunlap has as wicked a sense of humor about pretension in death as she does in life, while Amanda Cross once more shows that crime and ubrane literateness can go hand in hand. Linda Grant looks at a popular contemporary subject and turns it on its head in an unusual tale, as does the British writer Frances Fyfield, who takes the English village beloved by Agatha Christie and peels back its skin to show us the heart.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There's a nice variety of characters and types of stories here, both American and British. Keeps the mind going.
please stop giving my reviews more stars than i have rated them at.