Walton and Jones place the genre within its aesthetic, social, and economic contexts, reading it as an index of cultural beliefs. Addressing the ways that Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and others work through the conventions of the "hard-boiled" genre made popular by writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane, the authors show how the male hard-boiled tradition has been challenged and transformed. Issues of child, spousal, and sexual abuse are more likely to surface in women's detective novels, the authors show, and female sleuths face many of the same dilemmas as those who read about them—everyday problems with relationships, parenting, and money.
Detective Agency also integrates interviews with authors and publishers, reader surveys, publication data, and analysis of internet discussion groups to present a fascinating picture of the "industry" of women's detective fiction. Authors of these works are powerful players in the publishing system as well as agents of cultural intervention, Walton and Jones claim. They conclude by examining the rise of female detectives in television and film.
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