I have a friend whose favorite author is James Lee Burke. He also likes Michael Connelly and James Patterson. My favorites include Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, and Janet Evanovich. What’s the difference? The obvious difference, at least on the surface, is that my friend prefers male authors while I prefer female authors.
Does that make us sexist? Perhaps, but is it really that simple? If I examine why I like mystery fiction, not as a writer, but as a reader, it’s because I like to escape. I want to step into someone else’s life and figure out who did it.
Burke is an outstanding author, but somehow my imagination isn’t strong enough to channel Cajun male detective Dave Robicheaux. I can do Sharon McCone, however. She’s a protagonist who draws me in, even when she’s in a coma. Give me Tess Monaghan, Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, Arly Hanks, or Sunny Randall any day.
Did you catch the irony? Sunny Randall was written by the late Robert B. Parker, a male author. Sunny Randall may not be as well known as his other series protagonists, Jesse Stone and Spenser, but I like her. I like strong female protagonists, whether they’re written by a male or a female. The fictional women I named are sometimes hilarious, often kick ass, and are always intelligent.
My favorite mystery fiction has strong female protagonists, and while I can enjoy any well-written mystery, I lean towards those where a woman saves the day. Is it any wonder that my first mystery features psychology professor amateur detective Veronica Raven? After all, we women have to stick together.