At Least It’s PG-ish

Lots of stuff annoys readers—long passages in italics, omitting quotation marks, yada, yada—reported the Washington Post last year. I wrote up these reader pet peeves here and here. One I share with the Post kvetchers is the tendency of authors to describe even the most incidental female character in terms of her cleavage, the size of her bottom, the length of her legs, the sultriness of her glance. That’s mostly a quirk of men writers (and I fear it suggests how they actually see women), though even some women writers have picked it up.

Inspired and irritated, I wrote a short story, published in the Valentine’s Day issue of Yellow Mama (#102). It’s the kind of hard-boiled private eye story—venetian blinds striping the shadows, bottle of bourbon on the desk, dusty inbox—I associate with those sexy descriptions. The new blonde bombshell client, lounging in her skin-tight crimson silk dress against the doorframe of the seedy office, kind of thing.

With one key difference. In my story, the sexy new client is a man and the detective is a woman. I hope readers get the sarcasm. I suspect they will. You can read it here: “Here’s Looking at You.” Artist J. Elliott nicely captured the vibe of that office, too!

By the way, the name of the online zine Yellow Mama comes from the nickname of Alabama’s now-disused electric chair. That transgressive allusion suggests the need for the publication’s guidance for readers, “if you are easily offended or under 18 years of age, please don’t go there!” You’ll find my story is more PG. As for those sexy descriptions, I do set aside my objections for “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window” from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. Makes me laugh every time!

4 thoughts on “At Least It’s PG-ish

  1. Very entertaining. The gender swtich didn’t offend me at atll, but then it wouldn’t. I’d take it for granted that a hard-boiled woman p.i. would take notice of an especially handsome male client. The only part that didn’t quite ring true was her comment about his legs, since I assumed he was wearing long pants of some kind. If it had been a hot day or he’d come from the gym, and was wearing shorts, that bit would have made more sense. But the twist was clever.

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