Hello all! It’s my pleasure to introduce as my guest blogger today the awesome private eye writer, M. Ruth Myers, who’ll be featured as my next guest on the Crime Cafe! Along with posting on my blog, Ruth is giving away two (2) print copies (to readers in the U.S. or Canada) and two (2) ebook copies (to readers in the U.S.) of her book SHAMUS IN A SKIRT.
You see, like myself, Ruth enjoys writing about wise-cracking private eye women. Her protagonist, Maggie Sullivan, is a real contender! Hey, maybe Maggie and Sam could somehow work together in a future mystery. Of course, since Ruth’s mysteries take place in the 1930s, either Maggie would be a pretty old P.I. or time travel would be involved. One never knows, eh? 🙂
In any case, if you’d like to enter the giveaway for Ruth’s book in either format, just send an email to that effect to mruthmyers[dot]words[at]gmail[dot]com. So, without further ado, here’s M. Ruth Myers!
THE LURE OF THE P.I. STORY
The reason I write a series featuring a private eye in 1930s/40s Ohio is that, hands down, P.I. yarns are my favorite thing to read. Four elements in the genre set them apart from other mystery fare and are, I suspect, what attract other readers to this particular type of fiction.
The P.I. exposes wrongdoing and delivers justice when ‘the system’ can’t.
Probably no other genre leaves the reader with such reassurance that good triumphs over evil. I don’t mean happy endings or tripping off into the sunset. I mean schemers exposed and thwarted even when the law can’t touch them. I mean murderers pushed or tricked into slip-ups leading to their arrest months, or even years, after they’ve gotten off Scott free.
The private eye can step outside the laws and boundaries which hamper law enforcement personnel. She can do a discreet bit of lock-picking that points her toward squeaky clean evidence elsewhere that will stand up in court. He can whack a lowlife over the head or persuade them to talk with a gun in their ribs where police can’t.
We finish the story with a satisfying sense there’s someone on the side of the little guy, of the victim, of those whom the system fails.
The P.I. has chosen this type of work because of a strong moral core.
P.I.s, by, choice confront ugliness and deceit on a day-in-day-out basis. They aren’t drawn into helping someone by accident or through friendship, but because they’ve set out to help people who can’t find help anywhere else. They are driven by a strong sense of right and wrong — something which most of us think is in shorter supply than it should be.
Yes, they need to pay their bills, and we love that about them too, for it makes them like us. Some may strike us as more amoral than moral. Yet we know they’re people of integrity. It’s what makes them tick.
The P.I. confronts the kind of evil we know abounds in the world.
A private eye story doesn’t use supernatural beings or vast conspiracies to deliver up villains. It uses ordinary people driven by greed and resentment and jealousy: It acknowledges the evil and pettiness of the human heart.
Police procedurals sometimes deal with similar evil, but they do it, to greater or lesser extent, as a group. Which leads us to …
The P.I. is a loner.
Like cowboy heroes before them, P.I.s are self-contained and self-reliant. Sure, some of the cop detectives we love best are mavericks who flaunt authority and go off on their own when they shouldn’t. Ian Rankin’s John Rebus and J.A. Konrath’s Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels, to name but two. Yet for all their independent ways, those protagonists are constrained by a command structure, turf disputes and the need to have evidence stand up in court. Oh, and let’s not forget the threat of job loss.
P.I.s answer to no one save their own conscience. They have neither the encumbrances of regulations nor the camaraderie of co-workers. At best they have a faithful secretary, or maybe a partner if they’re a two-person agency. There’s no one to watch their backs. They operate without a safety net.
Look closely at most of them and we might characterize them as misfits. But isn’t there something of the misfit in many of us as well? Something in their existential loneliness speaks to us. We like their individualism. We like their refusal to knuckle under to authority or be scared off by violence. In their solitary determination, we see affirmation that one individual can make a difference.
That’s why I like P.I. stories. Why do you?
Ruth Myers received a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Don’t Dare a Dame, the third book in her Maggie Sullivan mysteries series. The series follows a gin-sipping, gam-flashing, gun-toting woman P.I. in Dayton, OH, from the end of the Great Depression through the end of WW2. Shamus in a Skirt is the latest novel in the series, which currently includes four novels and two short stories.
Myers has written more than a dozen books in several genres. A Touch of Magic was condensed in Good Housekeeping magazine and several have been optioned for film. Her dubious skills include playing the Irish concertina and talking to herself without moving her lips, the latter a result of working five years as a ventriloquist.
Thanks, Ruth, for that great post! I couldn’t agree more.