Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Fifty is Just a Number

It seems that congratulations are in order for V.I. Warshawski, as she has just had her 50th birthday.

When Sara Paretsky created her some 30 years ago, V.I. was a new and different kind of female detective. She was a tough, unafraid Polish-American private detective, and most astonishing for that time, a female detective working in a man’s world.

This was during the time when female police officers were just then being allowed to walk the beat along with the men, and many people, including police officer’s wives, were none too happy about it. Those were different times, and over the years of V.I.’s “lifetime”, Sara Paretsky has embroiled her self-reliant and opinionated detective in the politics and social commentaries of the day, while allowing her free reign to whip out her Smith & Wesson, chow down on scads of ethnic food, toss off a sonata on the piano or an aria in the shower, and sip some 4-star vino. What’s not to love?

North of the border, we have our own fine examples of strong, fearless female detectives, some of our best-loved fictional women, like Joanne Kilbourn, Meg Harris, Camilla McPhee, and Belle Palmer, brought to us by Gail Bowen, R.J. Harlick, Mary Jane Maffini, and Lou Allin. We can easily lose ourselves in their adventures, as well as their off-hours bad (good?) habits, running by their sides as they toss sarcasm to the wind, stand up to a nasty element on a dark corner, or schmooze a muscular informant, and without blinking. They pursue cases that affect friends, family and the unprotected in their midst. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the endless energy and individual style that defines those women?

V.I. is forever complaining about the internet changing the business of being a detective, from ranging the streets in search of clues and informants, to trolling websites and on-line public records. How similar this is to the irrevocable changes the web has brought to the world of writing and book publishing, in just the same way. But V.I. and Meg, Camilla and their peers carry-on. These uncrackable female characters are ever inspiring as they change, evolve, and yes, age gracefully the way the rest of us try to do when we get out of bed every morning and meet our daily challenges, be they nefarious politicos or the co-worker in the next cubicle.

On V.I.’s fine example, I raise my chilled glass of pinot grigio, to a fellow aging woman travelling the changing road, with her face set firmly toward the challenges, and political and social uncertainty, giving hope to those who walk along behind, or maybe only sit on the bench and cheer her on.

Happy Birthday, V.I. You go, girl!

Catherine Lee (Cathy) is a college textbook buyer in Ottawa, has been a bookseller and book buyer by trade for most of her life, and is a member of 2 book clubs. She became a book lover on her parents’ knees at story time & by flashlight under the bed sheets. One of her greatest pleasures is sharing great books with friends, of course while sipping wine. Her blogs appear the final Wednesday of each month.

1 comment:

  1. I only recently heard about these amazing books when I was listening to The Book Report and Elaine was reviewing Breakdown, I started reading breakdown but I think I should start right at the beginning.